Dec 10 2011

#224 “Happeh”

From Dreya in Maryland

Happiness is not a response or a destination. It is a decision, a choice.

This is a lesson that I am continually learning, and it’s young artists like Dreya who are often my teachers. In the body of work Dreya sent to me, happiness is a clear theme. It seems that almost all of her wolves are smiling. They are all basking in the glory of a life filled with contentment and tranquility. They trot, they dance, they howl peacefully, they make friends with heart-shaped butterflies. Simply put, they seem to love life. Even the name of this work itself (which was chosen by Dreya) conveys the happiness that fills this young artist’s heart and flows out into her creations.

A few days ago someone posted a piece of scripture on the Wolves by Strangers facebook page. The verse was Isaiah 11:6, and it reads, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” I’m not calling Dreya a child, nor am I assigning any real supernatural powers of Biblical magnitude to her or her artwork, but at the same time I can’t help but to be lead to a more holy place of inner peace when I experience her works of innocence, purity and happiness. In a world that often chooses to focus on negativity and a society that sometimes seems to focus exclusively on entitlement and self-pity, it is artwork like Dreya’s that has the power to work small modern miracles.

Thanks, Dreya. If there’s anything I can say about this illustration, it’s that it truly did make me happy.

To see more of Dreya’s work, check out her dA page here.

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.

Aug 22 2011

#114 “Funny Wolf”

From Melydia in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Our cultural associations with wolves as being fierce and savage (or at least serious) creatures is so strongly rooted into our collective consciousness that it often becomes difficult to picture them in any other way. However, by treating the lupine as an animal that can only be one dimensional in interpretation, we diminish its value and strip it of other qualities that serve to make the wolf a creature that is all things to all people.

So, in an effort examine a different side of the wonderful wolf and in honor of the funny funny wolf that is on display today, here is some good clean wolf humor to make you chuckle. Enjoy!

Q: Why did the wolf cross the road?
A: He was chasing the chicken

Q: What did one hungry wolf say to the other?
A: Let’s go catch some fast food.

Q: What do you call a lost wolf?
A: A Where-Wolf

Q: How Do wolves eat their food?
A: The wolf it down

Q: What do you call a lumberjack wolf?
A: A “Timber” Wolf

Q: Where does a wolf sit in a movie theater?
A: Anywhere it wants!


May 11 2011

#11 “Cheshire Wolf”

From a stranger in Chicago, Illinois.

I have always been intrigued by the concept of genuinely fearing something while simultaneously enjoying it. Some people would argue that this is inherently impossible, but I would beg to differ. Otherwise, how would one explain the continued success of writers like Stephen King or any form of entertainment labeled as “horror”? Most people who are patrons of this type of art genuinely enjoy it. They actually like the fact that these things are creepy and scary, and the truth is that there is a little bit of this within all of us. I don’t know why this is (I suppose it has something to do with catharsis), but I do know that it is true.

I also remember my first experience with this complex combination of emotions. I was a child, and I was watching the animated Disney film Alice in Wonderland. No single image in the entire movie stood out to me quite as much as the Cheshire Cat: the insane toothy grin, the floating and disappearing appendages, the darkly wild color combination of purples, reds and those yellow eyes. Then, after I took in the creature visually, it spoke in that ominously playful tone, and it said, “Why, we’re all mad here.”

At that young age, I honestly could not decipher whether this creature was something out of my wildest dreams or my most terrifying nightmares. I was dumbfounded. I loved that cat, but it scared the crap out of me. When I look at this particular wolf image on display above, I’m transported back to that childhood experience. I’m not sure why this is, really. I don’t find the this picture particularly frightening, but it somehow encapsulates an element of the surreal that is difficult to grasp but is also genuinely appealing and certainly imaginative; and in the end, that was the appeal of the Cheshire Cat all along.