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Saturday (January 28th, 2017) was Chinese New Year! It’s now year 4714, the year of the fire rooster! Holy smokes, that sounds like an intense animal. Ferrebeekeeper is going to celebrate the spring festival with a whole week devoted to chickens (especially roosters). I write a lot about other animals, but I owe a truly inconceivable debt to chickens, since chicken and rice are my staple foods. Indeed, I eat so many chickens that, I am probably going to get to the afterlife and find hundreds of thousands of angry spirit chickens waiting for me with flame eyes and needle sharp ghost beaks. A week of pro-chicken posts can only help when that day comes.
Tomorrow we will talk about the ancestral wild chickens—the red junglefowl of the subcontinent—and how they became humankind’s favorite bird (if you look at the scale of chicken farming, I think you will agree that no mighty eagle, or super-intelligent pet parrot can compare in our collective esteem). We have some other observations to make about chickens as domestic animals and some rooster anecdotes. A brain-damaged rooster was the animal sidekick in Disney’s latest (amazing) princess film. My parents have an ugly multicolor rooster who is somehow endearing himself to them. Before then though, so I have something on this first workday of, uh, 4714, I would like to present these 4 chicken themed flounders.
The one at the top is a fairly straightforward rooster, greeting the dawn from the back of a turbot which is swimming between classical urns and stars which look like flowers. We will talk more later about the second flounder/chicken hybrid (which not only evokes the lost world of zoomorphs, but also speaks to my roommate’s latest creative/spiritual/magical pursuits (?). This leaves the third flatfish (in glowing green), a clear allegory of the serpent tempting humankind to taste chickens (as various mythical animals and imps excluded from creation look on from beyond the charmed circle).
Finally, there is a contortionist aiming her bow at a target beyond this world as a glowing multicolor cock stares her beadily in the eye. The sable flounder is surrounded by bats in the crepuscular sky as well as an armadillo and a horny toad. We will talk more about chickens tomorrow, but these images should give you plenty to think about as you start off the new year.
It’s Friday the 13th today and I made a little show of unlucky flounder drawings to celebrate the occasion…unfortunately (or perhaps predictably) after I handed them over to my gallerist, I realized that I had accidentally erased the digital photographs I made. I only have pictures of the three drawings I photographed for Instagram. Gah! this is sad and frustratind, but it is 12:30 AM here, and I am not going to have time to conceive a whole new blog post (not if I want to be able to comprehend infernally over-complicated transactional spreadsheets with any degree of comprehension tomorrow). So, here are three of the thirteen thirteen-themed flounder.
With its engraving-style lines and elaborate ornamentation (and its green color) the first flounder 9at the top) evokes currency. the title is “Banknote Flounder” and I already sold it! Yet if you look closely at the ornate margins, you will see they are filled with little parasites and scavengers. The Latin phrase means (roughly) “fishing using a golden hook” (which is funny considering that I immediately sold this picture…which looks like money).
The second picture features a lovely leopard gecko and thirteen colorful dots. It has thirteen translated into other mathematical notations (hexidecimal and binary). the flounder’s back is covered with various spirals, fractal patterns, and chaos scribbles which also denote different systems of order. Here is a second phot of it in different light.
Finally, just for fun, there is a “Luckyduck Flounder” with a cartoon cat, a good-hearted duck, and a shepherds primitic tally for thirteen. the flounder is attractively mottled and seems broadly happy.
Of course there are ten more thirteen themed flounder out there, but you will just have to imagine what they are like until I get my act together and learn to save images to the cloud right away. Although…come to think of it, there is another Friday 13th in October this year [spooky floundery music plays].
My art theme this year has been flatfish, and I have made quite a lot of them. I think the results are very strong, but the slightly ludicrous subject leaves me at a disadvantage when I am trying to explain my work via the unforgiving medium of tweet or elevator pitch. Nothing vexes a group of high-fashion socialites quite like blurting out “I mostly paint elaborate symbolic flatfish!” The most obvious quick explanation is to make a joke about how I have been floundering (which is certainly true in many ways), however there is a lot more to this favorite subject than that.
The Pleuronectiformes (flatfish) are indeed flat–like paintings and drawings–which makes them an ideal medium for compositions. They are a favorite prey for humankind–which perfectly suits my theme of hooks, lures, traps, and beguilements (which seem to be taking over ever more in human society as we proliferate and jockey for resources). Flatfish also provides an immediate environmental theme–for they are quickly being fished into extinction (like almost all of the ray-finned fishes). Yet flatfish are no innocents. Like many large fish, these animals are all highly sophisticated predators. In order to succeed they make use of their own subterfuges. Flatfish blend in. They can literally change colors like chameleons. I sort of think of them as the middle class of the biome, squeezed between the little shrimpkins, copepods, and minnows they gobble up and the rapacious pelicans, dolphins, humans and suchlike superpredators who in turn hunt them with beaked hooks, sonar, and cruel nets.
Above all, flatfish are asymmetric–which means I can draw both of their expressive eyes without being forced to contemplate a lot of elaborate piscine bending. Their asymmetry also makes them stand out among all of the vertebrates. The universe has twisted them at adolescence–but it has given them an indefinable topological advantage as well. Also look at their little irregular paisley eyes.
Of course Meg Miller thinks I have gone crazy, and perhaps she is right. But after a while staring in the windows, “outsider artist” is the only card left to play. You never know, I could still leap out of the substrate and start gobbling shrimp any day now. Kindly check out my flatfish on Instagram and write me about your thoughts on the subject. Flounders are sad, but they are comical too (which is unusual in visual art) so everyone has an opinion. Please let me know how these flatfish make you feel!
Happy Halloween! This year, I have been working on a new series of artworks centered on flatfish. I suppose flatfish have supplanted toruses as the primary focus of my art. People seem to like flounder better than donuts (the asymmetric fish have more personality…or at least they have faces), however the universe is not shaped like a flatfish (according to current models), so it raises the question of what the flounder means symbolically. Flatfish are regarded as a delicious prey animal by humans, however they are excellent predators in their own right: they are sort of the middle-class of the oceans. Like the middle class, the pleurectiformes are experts at blending in, and they change their color and pattern to match their circumstances. Today’s circumstances, however, are not merely muddy sand flats—the whole world is filled with wild eclectic ambiguity which is hard for anyone to follow (much less a bottom-dwelling fish). My full flounder series thus explore the larger human and natural ecosystems of the late Holocene and early Anthropocene world. Each one lives in a little predatory microcosm where it is hunting and hunted.
The bizarre asymmetry of the flatfish also appeals to me. Since my artwork seemingly concerns topology, this may be significant—although a classical knot theorist would blithely observe that a flatfish is homeomorphic with a torus (assuming one regards the digestive tract as a continuous tube). At any rate it is currently Halloween and the flounder need to blend in with the monsters, goblins, witches, and mummies of the scary season! I made three black and white pen and ink flounders to use as Halloween coloring pages. These are supposed to print out at 8.5 inches x 11 inches, but who knows how wordpress will format them for your device? Let me know if you want me to send you a JPEG.
The top flounder is a classical Halloween artwork of haunted houses bats, witches, pumpkins, and mummies. In the center, mortality and the devil grasp for the human soul. The mood of the second artwork is more elusive and elegiac: dark fungi grow upon the sole as an underling hauls a dead gladiator away in the depths. Serpent monsters fill up the sky and our lady of the flowers blesses a corpse. The final pen and ink drawing is unfinished (so you can add your own monster) but it centers around a haunted jack-in-the-box and a ruined windmill. A bog monster, scarecrow and lady ghost haunt the doomed landscape.
I also threw in three little colored Halloween flounder at the bottom–as a teaser for my Instagram page. You should check it out for your daily flounder (free of commentary and text, as is increasingly the way of our digital age). I hope you enjoy these colorful treats and have a wonderful holiday!
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!
Last week I blogged about flatfish. These fascinating benthic predators can be found in oceans worldwide…however my interest in the asymmetric masters of blending in transcends pure ichthyology. I have been busy drawing a series of intricate pen and ink drawings of flatfish for a project. I will show you some of these large drawings one of these days, but I have also been drawing a series of small humorous and surreal flatfish in spare moments…during the commute or lunch break. I am putting these whimsical, comical, and absurd flounders in brightly colored frames for fun.
Here is some of the series:
This flounder seems to have an industrial refinery in Kazakhstan on his belly. In accordance with his landlocked status, strange mythical beasts of Central Asia gambol in the twilight skies around him.
This flounder has Greco-Roman objects around him. The chameleon above his back reminds the viewer of the true nature of flatfish. The strange quadripeds on his back betoken a different age of agrarian labor.
This flounder is at home in the ocean (where he is joined by apparitions and animals which look curiously like molecules or primordial forces. Indeed, Gauss’ Law for electrical fields reminds us of the subtle but ineluctable flux which pervades interactions at all levels.
I have been trying to garner greater commercial interest in flatfish-themed art, and what is of greater commercial interest (and general prurient interest) than pop-superstar Miley Cyrus? The famous singer coos atop a stolid turbot in the midst of an exotic and sensuous garden. A musically literate person can play the musical phrase above the singer for a true multimedia experience. Miley’s cowgirl footwear hint at the true nature of this artwork.
Trailing streamers of ragged blue plasma, a wild eyed flatfish covered in squirming parasites rides a beam of yellow energy over an elongated pink woodchuck ghost. What could be more straightforward?
A radiant orange flounder with the sun in his belly soars above some sort of pumping station or acetylene factory. In the sky above him, an overly eager gundam has fired an air-to-air missile at an endangered crane. Oh no! What will happen next?
A long faced flounder made of stitched together toruses looks down upon a futuristic city of arcologies and bioengineered structures.
Mechanical innovation and the aristocratic southern lifestyle begin to seem increasingly at odds. Predatory animals stock the riverine boundaries. A flying machine whirrs through the heavens.
The flounder at the top of the post–which features fanciful animals gathering around an elegant flounder with a brittle star on its belly is my personal favorite since I drew it with a dip pen–a style of drawing which generally results in the total destruction of the piece with the final stroke of the pen (as a huge blot of ink falls out), however in this rare case that did not happen so you can see some of the linear elegance of the medium. All of these flatfish are created with ink and (generally) colored pencil, by yours truly Wayne Ferrebee in this year 2016 AD. I’ll put up the second batch next week. Thanks for looking and kindly leave any comments!
Flatfishes are an order (Pleuronectiformes) of predatory fish found in oceans worldwide. There are over 700 distinct species in 11 separate (and sometimes very distinct) families. Familiar flatfish include flounder, turbot, plaice, sole, and tonguefish (to name only a few).
Flatfish undergo two great changes. First they hatch out of an egg and become transparent tiny fry living among the zooplankton. These baby flounder have an eye on each side of their heads–like all the other vertebrates. Then, when they reach adolescence, they change a second time in a bizarre way. One eye migrates over the young fish’s forehead. Half of their body becomes pale and smooth. To reach adulthood they abandon the vertebrate’s familiar symmetry and become strange asymmetric monsters.
(An Adolescent Flounder, as its eyes migrate and it becomes opaque)
Very few animals have asymmetry of any sort (wrybills, hermit crabs) and even fewer are asymmetric in a systemic way (sponges). Flatfish give up their symmetry on adulthood: they lose their ability to swim smoothly and see all around them…but, in turn, they gain prowess as lurkers. This helps them to hide in an ocean full of strife and peril. Equally importantly, it helps them to hunt.
Flatfish are exceedingly gifted predators. They thrive by eating unsuspecting fish, mollusks, arthropods, and worms which are scampering (or crawling… or propulsing?…or whatever) along the ocean bottom. Pleuronectiformes are powerful, quick, agile, and invisible. The horrifying hunting strategy of the flatfish is to lie perfectly still on the ocean bottom and gradually change color to match the substrate (they can match sand and pebbles and ripples and even chessboards). Then, when a happy little shrimp minces endearingly along the ocean floor, suddenly the land itself opens a huge maw and SNAP! delicious shrimp supper for the stealthy flatfish.
For all of their gifts as predators, flounders are hardly the apex predators of their watery ecosystems. They live in a world of super-predators: diving birds, grabby cephalopods, sharks, bigger fish, and cunning marine mammals. And that is to say nothing of all-consuming humankind: fisherfolk hunt for flounder with spears, traps, hooks, and nets.
The flatfish, like most teleosts, are being fished to oblivion (even as their habitats rapidly change due to thermal fluctuation, invasive species, pollution, and acidification). This troubles me for all sorts of reasons. It represents the growing doom in the world ocean, from whence came all Earth life and upon which all life depends. We evolved from teleosts. Flounder are distant cousins. Also I think they are beautiful in a bizarre way. Their asymmetry strikes me as amazing and alien, yet somehow completely appropriate, practical, and compelling.
Also, um, I like to eat flounder.
Anyway, I mention all of this because lately flatfish have supplanted doughnuts as the central fixation of my art. They represent life to me…and so I have been drawing them by the dozen (and I am working on a book of intricate pen and ink flounder). Here is a teaser flounder. More next week!
Benevolent Flounder (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, color pencil and ink)
Crystal Owls (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink)
Here are some more images of beauty, depravity, whimsy , and the mundane from my little sketchbook. The first picture above shows crystal owls flying through a jeweled night.
Flounder and Doughnut (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink)
This is an artificial tribal world of doughnuts, flounders, and jittery totems. It is a dual world of dark teal and apricot.
Friend’s Backyard (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink)
This is a sketch of my friend Reis’ backyard in Park Slope at dusk. I particularly like the Serbian spruce in the center.
Backyard in Spring (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink)
This is a whimsical interpretation of my backyard in early spring as seen by Max Fleischer in a bad dream. Look at my chiminea walking around talking to the plants!
Tropical Dancer (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink)
This was a lot prettier in the real world. It is a beautiful tropical dance recital with people checking their programs.
Untitled (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink)
Whim-etery (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink)
I love paisleys and I have been trying to incorporate them into little landscapes with animals and scenery. Thanks for looking. As always, your comments are greatly appreciated!