Oct 23 2011

#176 “Ride the Wind”

From Ashlee in Nine Miles Falls, Washington

Voiceless it cries
Wingless flutters
Toothless bites
Mouthless mutters

For those of you that are somewhat Tolkien-savvy, I’m sure you recognize this riddle as being printed in a little book called The Hobbit. The answer to this puzzle, of course, is the wind.

In many ways, the wind is just as mysterious and enigmatic as the wolf itself. It is powerful yet peaceful. It has the capability to change at the drop of a hat. It can calm and soothe us or it can drive us to seek shelter from it cruel blasts. Indeed, it is truly a fickle mistress. More than this, though, it is all around us all the time. It is a part of us. Its existence is as closely tied to our lives as the air that we breathe, and in fact, it is a part of that as well.

I don’t know how the wind works, where it comes from or where it goes. And similarly, I face the same riddles when I set my mind on the beautiful and majestic wolf. All that I know is that the creature exists and is a part of this blessed Mother Earth that contains so many more mysteries than our minds are ever capable of comprehending. In the end, I suppose that I don’t need to understand the wolf in order to appreciate it, just as I don’t necessarily need to understand the wind in order to treasure a cool breeze on a warm day. Efforts of comprehension leave room for error, but love transcends misunderstandings.

The wind. A wolf. They seem like ordinary ideas on the surface, and yet Ashlee has combined them here in a triumph of art that shatters the ordinary. In honor of you, Ashlee, I have posted the video below. The song is called “Windfall,” and it is performed by the alt/country group Son Volt. If you’ll notice, the hook in the song repeats the words, “May the wind take your troubles away.”

This is the wish that I have for you, Ashlee. Thanks for the awesome picture.


Aug 26 2011

#118 “Poker Face”

From D.S. in Chattanooga, Tennessee

When I first began to examine these illustrations, my eye was instantly drawn to the picture in the upper right hand corner that displays the four symbols which mark the suits of a deck of playing cards (spades, diamonds, clubs and hearts). I found this to an interesting addition to the illustration, but I did not immediately associate any importance with it or see how it was related to the other illustrations by D.S. Over time, however, the interlocking theme of all of these illustrations became clear to me.

It’s not just the one illustration that displays this “card playing” concept; this idea runs through all of the illustrations. While the illustration in the upper right may be the only one with any overt reference to card games, all of the other illustrations present concepts that are highly applicable as well. Follow along with me as I briefly examine them individually.

Upper Left: The drooling wolf perched carnivorously over the dead rabbit is clearly a metaphorical reference to the predator/prey aspect of card games, especially poker. The competition in most poker games is extremely fierce, and the natural order of dominance and survival of the fittest is clearly emphasized. Also, as a minor side note, the act of continuing to play out a hand after the winner has already been determined is called “rabbit chasing.”

Upper Right: The inclusion of the traditional card suits is clear enough, but I also encourage you to notice the hectic nature of the illustration. Can you see how all of the elements appear to be thrown together in a whirlwind of confusion? This obviously reflects the unpredictable nature of the game and the fact that although we can play the odds, the cards will ultimately do as they please. We are at their mercy as they blow us back and forth on the winds of fortune.

Lower Left: This illustration is small, but it speaks volumes about the necessity of a solid poker face. You literally have to be speaking out of both sides of your mouth. You must become two people in one.

Lower Right: I believe the suave style of dress presented in this picture is representative of the fact that poker has long been considered a gentlemen’s game, but the head which appears to be on fire pays homage to the fact that even game of skill and class is also emotional and  dramatic. The game is elegant but dangerous, stylish yet treacherous.

So, in conclusion, deal ‘em out and let the chips fall where they may!


Aug 16 2011

#108 “Name Game”

From Grace in Anchorage, Alaska

The idea of names has always been intriguing to me. I understand why objects have names, of course; everything needs a label with which it may be identified. More specifically, I have always taken an active interest in the meaning of names and whether or not objects or people truly reflect the meaning (or even the feeling) of the name that they possess.

One of my favorite mental pastimes to engage in whenever I read a new book or watch a piece of cinema is to examine the implications of characters’ names. Over the years, a couple of my favorite “tricky” names include Truman from the movie “The Truman Show” (he certainly is the only “true man”) and Willy Loman from “Death of a Salesman” (Willy definitely is about as “low” of a man as you can get).

Whether we will admit to it or not, we all come to preemptive conclusions about people before we even meet them, and we often do this based solely on the person’s name. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself these questions: As a man, would you rather go on a blind date with Gretchin or Candy? As a woman, would you rather go on a blind date with Milhouse or Jacob?

All of this leads me to the wonderful piece of artwork that is on display today. My first thought when I looked at this illustration was how physically and temperamentally different all of these wolves seemed. I began to speculate which wolves were friendly and which were mean, which were reclusive and which were social, which were refined and which were crude, and so on and so forth. You can see how this logically led me to create names for each one of them, and that is exactly what I did. These names are listed below. But the real question is, can you guess which name I assigned to which wolf?

Take your best shot. Here are the names:

Lo Lo

Butch

Marvin

Arthur

Octavious

Melvin

Canaan

Oh yes, I almost forgot! No discussion of names would be complete without a brief mentioning of the name of this wonderful contributor. Grace, your name certainly serves you well, and I thank you tremendously for your “gracious” contribution to WBS.


Jul 26 2011

#87 “Freki”

From Heather

In some ways I have always felt that one of the prerequisites for living in this world is the belief in another world of pure fantasy. For no matter how exciting or how dreary this tangible world may be that we all reside in together, it seems that most of us are pulled to create in our minds an alternate sphere of existence in which everything that we wish was possible actually is possible. I’ve never been much of a role player myself (the closest I ever came was with the Lone Wolf book series as a child), but I have always been intrigued by the concept of such things. WarHammer, Dungeons and Dragons, WOW… They are all fascinating and wondrous in their own unique ways, and I think they can teach us a little something about human nature and the need for freedom, escape, creative outlets and imagination.

As a child I had a cousin (his name is David), who was very active in these fantasy circles. I have vague and distant memory of sitting with him at a family gathering and watching in wonder as he showed me all of the books and devices that accompanied the game that was his latest obsession. Specifically, I was enamored with some multi-sided dice that my brain had never before imagined.  I can’t for the life of me remember now what this specific game or series was, but I do remember that David offered to draw a character for me, an avatar, if you will. I was speechless, breathless with anticipation; David has always been a talented artist. The question was… What would I choose? An elf? A dwarf? A barbarian warrior? A wizened wizard? In the end I can’t even remember what form I decided upon, and I have no idea where that illustration is today, but I still remember the wonder associated with that idea of creating a character and residing in a whole new universe that is outside of our own. It’s quite an amazing feeling.

This brings us to the fantastic artwork that is on display today by Heather Sheppard. After seeing the Project Spotlight onCreaturemag.com, Heather emailed this picture and some accompanying information about this interesting wolven creature named Freki. As it turns out, Heather just happens to be an avid player of a roleplaying game called Changeling: The Lost (which just happens to be published by White Wolf, Inc.), and Freki is a Beast Kith character of hers.

The background that Heather offered for this amazing creature was very interesting and instantly drew me into this wonderful world of pure fantasy, but what I feel is even more amazing is the skill with which Heather was able to create this painting. There is a sense of drama that is present in this picture which shines through triumphantly, creating a work of art that is exciting and moving. You can almost hear Freki’s howl as she stands defiantly in the soft glow of the moonlight.

Incidentally, Heather has a number of other fantastic pieces which you can access at her website. Check out more of her work at dinobotillustration.com and prepare to be amazed.