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I love spring. Whoever designed the garden behind the Brooklyn townhouse I live in felt the same way. This unknown benefactor from the past planted three beautiful flowering trees which come into blossom at the same time (um, and a holly, but we’ll talk about that another time). The king of these trees (and maybe of all flowering trees is the Kwanzan flowering cherry (which I have celebrated in spring of years past, but there is also a dogwood and a purple crabapple.
I have been trying to plant flowers which come into blossom at the same time as the trees so as to have a perfect week of flowers. The tulips which I have found that work best are Leen Van Der Mark and Don Quichotte. Miami Sunset also unexpectedly bloomed at the same time (as did some white jonquils, which I rescued from a neighbor’s garden when it was replaced with turf).
This year the bleeding hearts (a perfect Brooklyn flower) also bloomed at the same time as the tree. There are also some primroses, hellebores, violas, and pansies in there too, but being a different scale, it is hard to see them. The April blossom garden is a success, but May should have some delights too, in the form of the iris, the peonies, and the azalea. Hopefully my Hydrangea was not nipped by the March blizzard to the point it will have no blossoms, this year. I guess we’ll find out. In the mean time enjoy the flowers!
For years my most popular blog post was about leprechauns…so I need to make some Saint Patrick’s art pronto! However before we get there, here are some weird green flounder artworks to lead up to the holiday. Spring is almost here, even if the thermometer says otherwise. Some kelly green artwork should remind us of that fact (even if flatfish are not traditionally spring green).
I’m off traveling until Monday, but here is a flounder image to tide you over until then (and to celebrate the first day of autumn). It has a certain September winsomeness, especially in New York (where this is the social season when all of the millionaires come back from their summer estates). Also there is an own, a tunnel and a big full barrell of some enigmatic but delightful product. Cheers!
I have been working on a flatfish themed art project! There will be more to announce soon and great fanfare: I promise. However, for now, to tease the wonders that are to come, here are a number of small flatfish artworks that I have been making at lunch and on the train and during similar spare moments. Wordpress hates me with undying vehemence (which is to say, if I label a picture with its name, their program drags it off-center and makes it look ugly), so I am going to write the name in the body of the tex beneath each little fish, and write a short blurb. Please, please let me know what you think, even if it is a one word assessment and I will keep working on my big presentation! Oh–the picture at the top is: Bongo Flounder (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink on paper) it depicts a bongo turning into a flounder through the auspices of the horned god. A baffled yokel hunter watches in astonishment. Morphing animals are a big problem for me (sigh), so this image has deep personal meaning.
Baterpillar fluke (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink on paper): A Sumerian walking at night sees a mystical fluke surrounded by nocturnal garden creatures.
Arcane Flounder (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink on paper): An Armenian mystic walking at night contemplates the intricacies of a magical flatfish surrounded by arcane creatures.
BustaFlounder (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink on paper): a flounder parties too hard and is forced to re-live the disgraces of the 1980s New York art scene. A chained mastiff and disappointed prawn look on with weary resignation.
Flatfish in the Night Garden (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink on paper): through the intercession of various ancient deities, a hive of bees is allowed to plleneate at night. The relentless geometrical shape on the shimmering dab’s back indicates that such a work ethic may have inscrutible consequences.
Gnome City Flatfish (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink on paper): A small colorful city is overtaken by a fungal outbreak as winged beings fly by.
Hopefully you have enjoyed this little flounderful gallery. Like I said, get ready for some exciting news (hint, hint: the launch of an ancillary site for Ferrebeekeeper). keep on commenting and i will keep on floundering. Thanks!
The Blossom Monster Sculpture (last year, after I had just made it)
Last year, for a cherry blossom viewing party, I laboriously built a human sized blossom monster out of papier-mâché. But what does one do with a blossom monster when the party is over and the blossoms have fallen? I really meant to throw him away. Yet, somehow, whenever I went to discard him, something else always came up. He was lurking in a different part of the garden..or it was not garbage day. There was always and excuse to save the fluorescent monster, no matter how threadbare he got.
But winter was not kind to him: he had sunk to the ground and his legs were coming off. One of his glitter lantern eyes was gone. It really was time for him to go (plus I made a new group of blossom monsters to celebrate this year’s cherry blossoms). So I had to toss the poor art creature (a fate which will seem instantly familiar to arts professionals).
However, once I threw him in the garbage he gained his creative fulfillment. Indeed the pathos of the discarded monster was quite moving. His last act was his finest and now I will forever think of him like the maimed protagonist of a Caravaggio religious painting, with divine light shining on his fallen countenance.
I’m sorry I didn’t write a post last Thursday or Friday: I was away from Brooklyn on a whirlwind family trip to see the farmstead and visit my parents and grandparents. Now I love Brooklyn with all of my heart, but it was a great relief to be away from it for a little while. It was lovely to feed the thousand gentle farm creatures, to assess the growth of the plums, apples & nut trees in the orchard, and to walk back through the soybean fields into the true forest.
Unfortunately there wasn’t much in the way of writing time (and there isn’t much internet access in West Virginia and southeastern Ohio anyway). However I have a few little drawings which I doodled while I was home. My favorite is at the top of the page—it is a view of the soybean fields as the viewer emerges from the forest and is struck by the dazzling deep green of the plants. Soybeans are a critical crop in numerous ways, but I never really noticed them as a child–perhaps because I didn’t yet love edamame, or maybe because I hadn’t become used to living in a world of asphalt and bricks. Anyway, I will write a post about soybeans, but I wanted to share a quick impression of their overwhelming glowing greenness. The second picture is a drawing from the road of Parkersburg, West Virginia. The town is actually both much prettier and much uglier than the sketch—there are numerous picturesque Romanesque and “Jacobethan” churches and buildings, but there also some truly dispiriting strip malls along the outskirts (which I represented with a Kia dealership). Still the town has been improving incrementally for decades—perhaps thanks to my parents’ lovely yarn shop and quilting shop (which you should totally visit if you are ever in the Midwest/Appalachian region).
Speaking of quilting, I also drew a purely abstract picture of paisleys after I became fascinated by the printed patterns of the bolts of quilting cloth. Ever since the age of the Mughals, paisley has regularly come into fashion and then fallen out of it. Yet the concept seems to be much more ancient than the Scottish textile makers of the early industrial revolution or the Mughals. Paisley is another subject I need to blog about—because I think it is tremendously beautiful.
Finally there is a little drawing of the goose pond. I sketched it quickly (and from a distance) just before we drove off to the airport, but you can still see a few little pilgrim geese swimming about on it. My parents’ flock of these creatures has succeeded beyond all measure and now it is like their farm is infested with miniature dinosaurs. Everywhere you look there are geese busily gnawing on grass, biting each other’s tails, or jumping sadly (with expectant open beaks) beneath tantalizing green apples. I am sorry I didn’t do a sketch that really does justice to the lovable avine miscreants, however I am afraid that if I had stood among them long enough to draw them, they would have begun to nibble on me like a big ear of corn (which is their affectionate way of gently reminding visitors that geese get hungry for corn and lovely for attention). Thanks for looking at my drawings—now that I am back from my trip and my mind is refreshed I will try to blog about some of these new subjects!
OK…today features two more wacky sketches from my little book. I promise I will have a different topic tomorrow and not keep putting up these oddities! Here is a children’s soccer game which I drew in a park in Chinatown in spring. I wish I had captured the NY Chinatown flavor of the afternoon better—there was a very strange older lady loudly singing idiosyncratic songs in Chinese and passing out leaflets while two older gentlemen accompanied her on traditional musical instruments. However whenever I chanced to look in their direction, they certainly noticed, and sketching them was out of the question. Don’t worry, I gave them a few coins for the serenade and they seemed delighted!
I also drew the peculiar chemical factory innards of a mysterious shamanistic beast. Unfortunately I don’t really know what else to say about the surreal little pastiche…but it certainly features a jaunty-looking squid (although my favorite part is the magenta sky filled with ephemera).
We’ll get back to history, crowns, and/or furry beasts tomorrow!
This year, I have been carrying a small sketchbook and some colored pencils around with me and doodling in it. Here are three small drawings/sketches that I made when I was doing other things. I sketched the mountains with the giant, the fountain, and the goblin on the subway (although I colored some of it in at my desk afterwards). The picture of lower Manhattan comes from the picture window on the 9th floor of the Brooklyn courthouse from my day of jury duty (don’t worry I wasn’t skiving from my civic duty–but there was a lot of downtime). I sketched the donut baby while I was talking to a friend about stickers and Philistines (Biblical and otherwise) so it may have been influenced by that peculiar conversation.
Kindly let me know what you think! I’m afraid have been running around trying to figure out my new job, so please forgive me for my tardy responses to comments during the past week. I love comments & I promise I will answer everybody. Just give me a moment to figure out how everything works!
Today’s post touches on larger aesthetic and moral issues, but first let’s showcase some weird art! This is “Blossom Monster” a 3 foot by 7 foot chimerical monster which I made to celebrate the annual reappearance of the cherry blossoms. It is a sort of cross between a deep sea fish, a scorpion, and a horse. The creature is crafted from paper mache (or papier-mâché?) and has LED-light up eyes and fluorescent pink skin which glows faintly in the dark. I initially placed it beside the tulip bed, but then I realized it was on top of the iris, so now the creature has been shuffling aimlessly around the garden looking for a permanent display spot. “Blossom Monster” is made of discount glue which I bought in bulk from the 99 cent store, so, as soon as it rains, the sculpture will probably dissolve into a heap of gelatinous ooze and that will be that.
There is nothing more beautiful than cherry blossoms, so why did I make a weird ugly fluorescent monster to go with them? I have a story to answer that question: every year the Brooklyn Botanic garden has a famous cherry blossom festival which is attended by tens of thousands of people (at the least). Although I think the tree in my garden is prettier than any individual specimen they have, the Botanic Garden has orchards full of Kwanzan cherry trees along with hawthorns, quinces, magnolias, plums, horse-chestnuts, and other splendid flowering trees. The effect is truly ineffable—like the Jade Emperor’s heavenly court in Chinese mythology. Yet over the years people became bored with the otherworldly beauty of trees in full flower, so the Botanic Garden was forced to augment their festival by adding odd drum performances, strange post-modern theater, and K-pop music. They also invited cosplayers–so now the blossom festival is filled with space robots, ronin, mutant turtles, and provocatively attired cat-people (in addition to the already heterogeneous citizenry of Brooklyn).
Adding layers of kitsch, tragic drama, manga, and human aspirations (of all sorts) has greatly augmented the peerless beauty of the blossoms. The prettiness of the garden has been elevated into high-art by the plastic hats, spandex, and makeup. The blossom festival now has a fascinating human element of ever-changing desire, aspiration, and drama which the blossoms lacked by themselves (except maybe to gardeners, who know exactly how hard it is to get perfect flowers to grow).
Of course the shifting annual particulars of novelty do not match the timeless beauty of the cherry trees. In a few years we will all hate princesses, k-pop, and furries which will seem like hopelessly outdated concepts from the ‘teens. The blossom festivals of tomorrow will be attended by future people wearing neo-puritan garb, or hazmat suits, or nothing! Who knows? The allure of the cherry blossoms will never change, but the whims of the crowd beneath will always make the blossoms seem new.
Novelty has always struck me as weak sauce, but it is, by nature, a new sauce. It needs to be drizzled on things to make them appealing (even if they are already the best things—like cherry blossoms). This is a monstrous truth behind all fads, tastes, and art movements. I have represented it in paper mache and fluorescent paint! Once my monster dissolves I will have to come up with a new act for next year.
So, over the holidays I gave some coloring books to my friends’ daughter. It was gratifying to see how the coloring books, by grace of being the last presents of Christmas Day, stole her attention from the electronic doodads and the flying fairy which could actually fly (although, as a toymaker, I am still thinking about that particular toy). In gift-giving, as in gymnastics, going last is a position of strength! The little girl, who is four, graciously let me color one of the illustrations–a sacred elephant which was composed of magical spirit beings from Thai mythology–which I colored in fantastical fluorescent hues (while she colored her way through a collection of amazing animals from around the world). As we were coloring, the adults at the party made various observations about coloring—about who colored inside the lines and what it indicated about their personality and so forth.
I think my elephant turned out pretty well (although since, I failed to take a picture, you’ll just have to believe me). Also I think my friend’s daughter was inspired to try some new techniques—like darkening the edges of objects. It also seemed like she tried to pay more attention to the lines.
The experience took me back to my own childhood when I loved to color coloring books, especially with grandma or mom (both of whom had a real aptitude for precise coloring). However I was also reminded of being deeply frustrated by the books on several levels as a child. First of all, I was exasperated by my traitorous hands which would not color with the beautiful precision and depth that the adults could master. I always saved the best picture in coloring books for later when I was grown up and could color it as beautifully as I wanted it to be colored. As far as I know, these pictures all remain uncolored—somewhere out there is that 1978 Star Trek coloring book picture with all the crazy aliens, just waiting for me to come back with my Prismacolor pencils and nimble adult fingers and finally make it look good…
Most importantly, I was frustrated that the most amazing pictures—the ones that were exactly as I wanted them to be–were not in the coloring books at all. You have to make up the ones you really want and draw them yourself.
Aesthetics have gone wrong—it has been taken over by charlatans who cannot think up good pictures. Instead today’s marquis artists are obsessed only with provocatively going outside the lines. Like the kid in first grade who always did what he thought would be shocking, this quickly becomes tiresome. Additionally, I think we all discovered that the “shock value” kid was easily manipulated. So too are today’s famous artists who all end up serving Louis Vuitton (I’m looking at you, Takashi Murakami) or other slimy corporate masters who simply want free marketing. Art and aesthetics should be more than ugly clickbait! Our conception of beauty shapes are moral conception of society and the world. Therefore my New Year’s resolution is to be a better painter… and to explain myself better. Next year I promise to write more movingly about beauty, meaning, and humankind’s place in the natural world (which I have finally realized is the theme of my artworks). Avaricious marketers and art school hacks are not the only people who can take to the internet to explain themselves!
And of course there will be lots of amazing animals and magnificent trees and exquisite colors and crazy stories from history (and we will always keep one eye on outer space). The list of categories over there to the left is becoming restrictive! It’s time to bust out and write about all sorts of new things! Happy New Year! 2015 is going to be great! Enjoy your New Year’s celebrations and I’ll see you back here next year!