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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).
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.
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!
OK, I’m not going to sugarcoat it, my idea for today’s blog post did not work out. I was going to write about Gothic mascots—a perfectly serviceable mashup of two favorite Ferrebeekeeper tags—but, when I got home from work and started researching gothic mascots the pickings turned out to be exceedingly slim—a Simpsons gag (the Montreal vampire), a bunch of troubling Lolita cartoons, and those godawful “Capital One” barbarians who are trying to sell you some sort of credit card (are they even Visigoths? Is “Capital One” even really a real credit card?). Apparently nobody wants any sort of gothic mascots except for predatory lenders.
Oh no!–what if Capital One destroys my credit rating for making fun of them? [collapses laughing]
So I ended up looking with increasing desperation at past mascots for anything of any interest and this line of inquiry lead me back to that Simpson’s joke about the Montreal vampire. Montreal is a francophone city—beautiful and evocative—yet prone to making choices which are different from the market-driven choices of other places. What was the mascot of the 1976 Montreal Olympics? And, Bingo! suddenly I had today’s blog post.
This is Amik the beaver. Amik means beaver in Algonquin—so this character (which looks like it was designed by somebody who just spilled an entire bottle of India ink) is really named “Beaver the beaver.” Anik appears with a red stripe with the Montreal Games logo on it or sometimes with a pre (?) pride rainbow strip.
I am making fun of poor Anik because I don’t think beavers lack faces. Nor are they the unsettling pure black of absolute oblivion. Maybe I found my Gothic mascot after all—in the most unlikely of places—Montreal, 1976! I will write a better post tomorrow. In the meantime enjoy the strange juxtaposition of nihilism and naivete which was seventies design.
Ahh mascots…It has been too long since we peaked into the strange representational world of symbolic characters. A mascot is meant to bring good luck…and what could be luckier than a pigeon (which, after all, live virtually everywhere and tend to be in robust health). When it comes to living in a city, no mascot (except maybe the rat or Joan Rivers) could be more appropriate. Therefore here is a little gallery of pigeon mascots. Sadly Samsung has not mastered iridescent monitor technology so you will have to use your imagination to add the glossy feathers and cooing.
This one is by Jamie Sale, who will design a mascot for you if you find him on the internet and properly incentivize him (look the pigeon is drawing mascots!)
I don’t know if it counts, but here is a stunning Louis Lejeune Hood Ornament.
Some of these guys look a little bit like they came from a really dirty episode of “Family Guy”or maybe escaped from mascot jail… but urban birds are a bit gritty so perhaps that is as it should be. At least they gloriously encapsulate pigeon pride
Hunter/Jumper (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink)
I don’t know what happened but the drawings in my little book seem to have a country/horsey theme lately. Above is an equestrian jumping over some weird antiques in the middle of a nebula.
Provincial (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink)
Here are some down-home characters (maybe corporate mascots?) annoying a hard-working farm woman and a quail.
The Gate (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, colored pencil and ink)
This is a vignette sketch of the eminent bar in Park Slope.
Dawn Horse, Culture Vulture, Doughnut Man, & Princess (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, Colored Pencil and ink)
I guess this is about unwholesome sugary treats maybe? Frankly I have no idea–I am as surprised and perplexed as the vulture, however I like the expressions on the animals. The dawn horse looks so pleased. They usually look scared.
Horse Treats (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, Colored Pencil and Ink)
This horse just looks pleased to be presented with such an array of treats. I think that gray block is a salt lick. I need to draw more horses. They are pretty but they are not an easy subject!
There is disappointing aesthetic news from the internet today: The People’s Republic of China is trying to reign in weird architecture. A CNN article provides the basic facts, “A statement from China’s State Council Sunday, says new guidelines on urban planning will forbid the construction of ‘bizarre’ and ‘odd-shaped’ buildings that are devoid of character or cultural heritage. Instead, the directive calls for buildings that are ‘economic, green and beautiful’.”
Based on this language, one might hope for a future of soaring super pagodas covered with solar cells and hydroponic forests, however I think it is much more likely that we will see lots of boring giant rectangles designed by committees (like the new World Trade Center…or Freedom Tower…or whatever it ended up being called). Communist China had its own history of creating dull monoliths. This was interrupted by a spate of crazy fun building projects, but it seems like the party is cracking down on the architectural effervescence (probably as a symptom of the vast market correction now under way).
The China Central Television building in Beijing, designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren.
Sheraton in Huzhou
During the last quarter century China has seen outrageous economic growth. Along with this boom, strange giant edifices popped up all along the Chinese coast like weird mushrooms from outer space. I have put pictures of some of my favorites in this article. I particularly like the Shanghai World Financial Center (which has always reminded me of a broken off piece of some cool mystery awl) and of course the many torus buildings. However the Olympic “Bird’s Nest” Stadium and the Shanghai Tower and the “Giant Pants” and the huge teakettle were all good too. There were some less famous but more charming sculpture buildings at a local level which I have also included here.
Rendering of the Shanghai World Financial Center with the Jin Mao Building at right
I did not realize how much I liked these buildings until I read the news today and found out they now belong to the past. These buildings went hand in hand with eye-popping double digit growth percentages for the Chinese GDP. I wonder if, now that the buildings are going to stop going up, the stupendous growth will cease too. Mandarins from all cultures have a way of forgetting that just as art reflects society, society reflects art too.
Earth Spirit (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, color pencil and ink)
Here are some more little sketches from my little moleskine sketchbook. The first one is probably my favorite–it shows an angry Tibetan protective spirit surging up from the fecund Earth. Various actinomycetes and spores dance within the rainbow between his hands. The worms, slime mold, and fungi cavort on the ground he springs from.
Art (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, color pencil and ink)
Industry (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, color pencil and ink)
Art and Industry are self explanatory–though I wish I had drawn “Art” more beautifully and I wish i had worked harder on “Industry” (particularly that unhappy pig).
NJ Freeway (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, color pencil and ink)
This is a quick pencil sketch of the freeway in New Jersey which leads to the Lincoln Tunnel. I went out to visit friends in Montclair and had a million problems with the buses. On the way back, I was sitting right behind the driver and looking out the huge picture window he looks through. I could see a whole constellation of cars rushing along ahead of us into the city. I wish this sketch gave a full impression of the scene–but there are a lot of things going on on New Jersey’s highways and they happen pretty fast.
Characters in Space (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, color pencil and ink)
This is a study for a giant Sumerian space flounder I am drawing in my studio. There is not enough space art, so I am trying to draw more in 2016 (more space art and more in general). Ironically I like the simplified flounder the least of all in this picture, but the simplified mammalian dolphin is ok. As always, thanks for looking and let me know what you think!
I carry around a little Moleskine sketchbook and a tin of pencils and I doodle whimsical little scenes on the train and at lunch. Here are some scenes from the last fortnight!
After writing my Halloween-time post about the Moche and their bat-theme pottery I was not done with their exhilarating & scary style. This is a cartoony-yet somehow intense and impressive picture of spirit beings from the long-lost world of the Moche, brought to life again after all of these years by the magic of art. The decapitator is there in the right. Various night creatures and spirit folk surround the great murderous sea god…his claws twitch open, hungry for necks to cut….
For Halloween I was Don Quixote. I carried a little model windmill around so I could say “Forsooth! I caught this baby monster!” I made the windmill myself out of detritus I found in the recycling pile—in the same style as my unpublished book of toy vehicles. This was the preliminary sketch for my toy windmill, but I colored it in and added little autumn figures around it.
Speaking of Halloween, here are some revelers at a costume party I attended: it was a party for a theatre-troupe “One Year Lease” which puts on thought-provoking (or otherwise provocative) plays in Manhattan and Greece. The woman with the goat legs was dressed as some sort of androgynous Welsh nature spirit—she had one of the best outfits I have ever seen. The person dancing in the middle was supposed to be a time traveler from the future world of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” His suit lit up and made loud futuristic rock-and-roll noises.
Also with a fantastic bent, here is a drawing of a giant mechanized hippopotamus surrounded by fairy folk and oddballs. There is a bear with pantaloons, a composer, and two sentient hot-dogs (?). A willow tree buds in front of the dazzling sun. What does it all mean?
Finally here is a woman with pink accessories riding the train. She was completely lost in her cell phone and never once looked up at the crazy spectacles in the train car. Fortunately I was there to sketch it all down in my little book.