Nov 16 2011

#200 “Fear and Loathing in Diablo”

From Christina in Diablo, California

Words like wild, weird, and trippy just aren’t enough to sum up this mind-bending illustration from Christina. It’s like Day of the Dead meets Journey to the Center of the Earth or perhaps like visiting your local zoo while trapped in the grip of some twistedly violent drug. There’s a part of me that wishes that this illustration was in color so that the full effect of its bizarre nature could be realized, but at the same time there’s another part of me that is not sure if my brain could handle so much stimulation. At the same, time, though, when we realize that this illustration was the work of a 13-year-old artist, the mind switches instantly from an association with acid trips and spirit guides to a sense of wonder at the uninhibited imagination of a child. Willy Wonka and Dr. Seuss have nothing on Christina; she is in a wild and wonderful class all of her own here.

One of the first things that I noticed when I received this picture was that it reminded me of one of those  optical illusions that distort your vision when stare at them for a few seconds. I quickly brought one up on youtube and then examined this illustration while my perspective was altered. I can’t accurately describe exactly what happened, but it was akin to some sort of out of body experience that completely lucid at the same time.

I have posted the illusion below so that you may experience this fascinating head change for yourself, but be warned, only those with a high level of mental resistance and a strong psychological fortitude can attempt this without being violently ushered into insanity. Try it for yourself, but don’t say you weren’t warned!

Nov 14 2011

#198 “Puff Puff Pass”

From Evan in Chattanooga, Tennessee

First of all, please allow me to qualify this post by saying that I do not intend to insinuate that Evan, the fine artist behind this picture, is a drug user. Secondly, I would like to point out that I am not a drug user myself. Thirdly, I am not meaning to imply that this illustration is necessarily about drug use; I was simply led to this idea based upon the fact that the pictured wolf seems to be flying through the air and passing by a smiling moon while smoking some unknown substance.

Ok, now that all of that is out of the way, let us begin:

For decades a sinister gateway drug has held the minds of this nation’s youth hostage. It has led its victims down paths of unspeakable destruction and guided them into states of twisted depravity beyond description. It has caused parents to carry out lives of constant fear and worry that young Jimmy or Sally might fall victim to its dreaded grasp.

Marijuana, you say? Don’t make me laugh. This powerful potion is none other than the very spirit of the wolf, itself. Harder than any drug, more addictive than any chemical, more potent than any poison, the spirit of the wolf crawls into its victim’s veins and courses through the bloodstream with a growling passion. One hit and you’re hooked. One drag and you’ll be howling for more. Wolves: nature’s most dangerous narcotic.

Ok… so wolves technically aren’t a real drug, but a love for the lobo can be highly addictive. So addictive, in fact, that even drawing a picture of one seems to have the power to open the floodgates for a whole variety of drug-themed wolf artwork.

But what can we gather from so much lupine art with inebriation-inspired themes that has been collected since the inception of this project? And more specifically, what can we conclude about the artists of these works based on their somewhat disturbing focus? In other words, if an individual draws a picture of a wolf smoking a joint, does it mean that the artist himself is a drug user? I think the answer is not necessarily in the affirmative, but this option also shouldn’t totally be ruled out.

In many ways the fact that the Wolves by Strangers project initially gained popularity with subculture-seeking college students might naturally lend itself to an association with drug use. Also, on a slightly related note, this project focuses on a creature that in many ways exists on the fringe of society. The wolf is a misunderstood and lonesome animal and is widely viewed as a loner and outcast. In the end, I suppose these particular artists might view the depiction of drugs as a way to showcase this notion. For many who make up today’s jaded youth, drugs function as a mild form of rebellion and a chance to escape a society whose expectations are continually on the rise. So in the end, the fact that young drug users are drawn to WBS and would picture drug use in their artwork just makes good sense. But it also doesn’t necessarily have to be true… It’s just a theory.

But whether all of these conjectures hit the mark dead on or don’t even come close, wolves like this one are still, like, totally awesome, man…

Oct 18 2011

#171 “What a Smile!”

From Arantxa in Santa Marta, Colombia

When I was in high school, my circle of friends just happened to also be friends with a man in his mid-30s by the name of Jeff. Because of extensive drug use during his own high school years, Jeff had sustained some serious and permanent brain damage and was forced to take a number of medications in order to keep his moods regulated and his brain functioning somewhat properly. It was actually a very sad story, and in the end it served as a great lesson for all of us to simply leave drugs alone. We had a painfully vivid first-hand account of what they could do to you if things got out of control.

Anyway, as my friends and I grew to know Jeff, one of the most entertaining features of our relationship was the fact that he would share with us stories of his high school sexual escapades and extensive drug use. Many of these stories were wildly improbable and completely depraved, and the simple-minded delivery that Jeff would employ was often just as hilariously astounding as the actual details of the stories themselves. Of course, these anecdotes were entirely inappropriate for us to be listening to, but this fact made them all the more attractive. Also, I know that your Spidey Senses might start tingling when you think about a man almost 20 years older than us telling us stories about sex and drugs, but what you have to realize is that intellectually and socially, Jeff was actually on about the same level as we were. We practically viewed him as a peer, and I am fully convinced that we were never in danger in any way when we were with him. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, his stories often served as a very effective warning for us.

Also, even though Jeff’s stories about his own high school experiences were raunchy and completely immoral, as an adult he was more calm, gentle and caring than any man I had ever met. I never heard him say one cross word to or about another living being, and he was always respectful in the extreme. In fact, when urged to speak about girls or women that he thought were attractive, Jeff would always say the same thing: “She was a real pretty smile.” That was it. After all of his wild adventures, mild-altering trips and sexual conquests, that was all that Jeff had to say about women.

I can still remember being completely shocked but also very impressed by this. There was a simple truth in that statement about a pretty smile that rang true to me, even as a self-asborded teenager. I know it sounds strange, but in a small way Jeff actually taught me a greater respect for women and he instilled within in me the idea that the beauty of a smile was perhaps the most valuable feature that a person could have. Now, as an adult I look around at this materialistic and over sexualized culture that we live in today, and I believe it’s important to return to that simplistic appreciation for a kind and caring smiling.

In the end the reason why I have said all of this is because this beautiful illustration by Arantxa takes me back to that wonderful, youthful appreciation for the smile. Thank you, Arantxa, for the reminder. You could have drawn just about anything: a sexy wolf in lingerie, a savage wolf feeding on a human feast. But no, you chose to focus on a subject of beauty, innocence and kindness, and that is truly what the world needs now.

Never stop smiling, Arantxa. After all, when you get ready to start your day, a smile is the most important thing you can put on.

Oct 12 2011

#165 “Half Baked”

From J.S. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Have you ever met a man whose three favorite things were wolves, marijuana, and Sponge Bob Square Pants? Well, I can’t say for sure, but I think you have now. His name is J.S. and he lives in Philadelphia. Why J.S. would choose such an unusual focus for his WBS submission is beyond by limited powers of comprehension, but I can only assume that he has a special affinity for these specific items.

I realize that I clearly cannot serve as judge and jury of the normality of this man’s interests. After all, I do collect pictures of wolves drawn by strangers from all other the world, and some would say that it doesn’t get a whole lot weirder than that. But this still doesn’t make the motives behind J.S.’s work any clearer. I suppose there is a part of me that believes that this unusual piece of art might be the result of mere whimsy and randomness. Perhaps it is simply meant to keep us all guessing. But then there’s the drug reference. Could this possibly mean that the artist himself was under the influence when he designed this piece? And if so, is there any way that we will ever be able to interpret its true meaning? Then again, maybe the drug reference is both the inspiration for the picture and the key to interpreting it. Maybe only a mind that is equally as inebriated as that of the artist would be able to shed light on the meaning of this work…

Oct 11 2011

#164 “Trippy”

From Laura in Everett, Washington

As a whole, this picture is difficult to describe, but at the same time, the longer I look at it, the more ideas for strange analyses and interesting interpretations come into my head. Every time I examine it, I notice something new, something more gripping than what I saw before. Ultimately, in an effort to try to put my feelings into words, I guess I would have to say that this piece is a kaleidoscopic rorschach of symmetrical ooze, breathing forth creative energy from every square inch. It bubbles with animated vitality and possesses a musicality that I have witnessed in very few other pieces. The smooth lines and effervescent shapes are soothing, but the barrage of color and shape combinations is also overwhelming, producing in the viewer a unique feeling of peacefulness and disquietude. It is mind-boggling different but strangely familiar. It is an elaborate depiction of a mirrored seraphim-inspired wolf, floating independently from time and space on the craziest ring of Saturn.

As I stare at the wonder that is this piece of artwork, I can’t help but here music in my head. As a result, I have decided to post for you three of my favorite music videos that I believe would serve as a fitting accompaniment for this unique piece of artwork, both in terms of the mood and feel of the music as well as in the uniqueness of their visual components.

#1:  MGMT  ”Electric Feel”
#2:  Julian Casablancas  ”11th Dimension”
#3:  Tommy Sparks  ”She’s Got Me Dancing”