Category Archives: Art

A Passing Bird

Stuffed male passenger pigeon.

On March 24th 1900 a boy in Ohio shot the last recorded Passenger Pigeon. The last captive Passenger Pigeon died in her cage at Cincinnati Zoo 14 years later.


Passenger Pigeons were once so numerous there were stories of flocks millions or even billions of birds big that would darken the sky for a day as they passed.


When Europeans came to the Americas, 40% of all the birds in North America were Passenger Pigeons. Their range spread from Canada through to the Northeastern and Midwestern US down to the Southern states. It’s estimated they might have been the most common bird in the entire world.


John James Audubon (who shot many many birds for his portraits) described a flock in 1933 that was a mile wide and blocked the sun for three days.

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Vampires and Elephants

Today would have been the birthday or author/illustrator Edward Gorey.

I first registered Gorey as the illustrator for a children’s mystery series that I liked and a little later as the creator of the wonderful openings of PBS’s old Masterpiece Mystery! series. (As an adult, his illustrations aged much better than the books themselves.)​

I remember the back of my Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats with his illustrations described Gorey as someone people assumed was English and dead, and that at that point he was neither. His work is both hard to describe and amazingly recognizable. Very small illustrations with lots of obelisks and sort of Victorian/Edwardian men, improbably architecture, and even more improbable creatures, all meticulously rendered in fine ink.

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Erte’s Emeralds

Since it’s the last day of May and emerald birthstones, have some emerald art by Erte. He certainly seems to have been taken by this gem!


Emerald, part of Erte’s Precious Stones series.


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Some Untidy Spot

Landscape with fall of Icarus

Musee des Beaux Arts

W. H. Auden


About suffering they were never wrong,

The old Masters: how well they understood

Its human position: how it takes place

While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;

How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting

For the miraculous birth, there always must be

Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating

On a pond at the edge of the wood:

They never forgot

That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course

Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot

Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse

Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.



In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may

Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,

But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone

As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green

Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen

Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,

Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

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Brilliant Strokes of Madness

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters. One of Los Caprichos by Goya, the concept still feels contemporary.

“The fact is that genius and madness are intertwined functions of the brain. A work of art is the result of two mental processes and his illness: acquiring the visual impression and elaboration of the latter to transform it into a work of art.” Felisati and Sperati


Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes and Vincent van Gogh were born on the same day over a century apart. Both men are renowned for the expressiveness of their work and the hint of madness that at times seemed to fuel it.

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The Thing With Feathers


Puerto Rico Amazons by Pia Ravenari


Mostly sneaking back by to give a brief shout out to a kickstarter. I’d spoken about it on here before and it didn’t run, this time its going and they’re at reach goals now.


The project is called Losing Altitude. It’s a collaborative art book featuring threatened and endangered bird species from allover the world, illustrated by over fifty artists, also from all over the world. Arras, who is spearheading this, will be researching each species, so this should be an awesome mix of art and information. I’m excited to be getting my copy next year!


I don’t have the requisite illustrative skills, so I’m contributing some key and tree pendants towards the kickstarter incentives.


Bird's nest ringThough, since it is a bird themed entry, a quick look at a very WIP project: an adjustable bird’s nest wire wrapped ring. This one is antiqued copper, bright copper and freshwater pearls.


Front view bird's nest ringA friend sent me a link to a bird nest pendant tutorial. I’ve seen plenty of the pendants, and make enough other styles, but most of the rings I’d seen involved a wire nest glued to a base. Since I don’t have the setup for soldering I decided to try to make the nest and ring from the same wire. It’s a bit bulky, I found the thickness of wire that makes a stronger ring shank makes for a large nest, but as said, work in progress.

And now for gratuitous Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –


And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –


I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

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The Worm at the Heart of the Rose

Songs of innocence and of experienceAs I’ve confessed before, William Blake tends to wax a bit too metaphysical for me. I do appreciate their very visual nature. After all, who reads The Tyger without fantastic images filling their mind?


Even if it’s the images of others and not his own that come to mind first!


I think perhaps one of the Flemish floral still life paintings would suit this poem more than his own illustration.

I suppose they are big, enveloping pieces too large for a small poem, but the textures and fine details seem to fit it better.


Take his poem,


“The Sick Rose”


O Rose thou art sick.

The invisible worm,

That flies in the night

In the howling storm:


Has found out thy bed

Of crimson joy:

And his dark secret love

Does thy life destroy.



In the case of still life painting during the Northern Renaissance they might even have shared a certain metaphysical/metaphorical point of view.


Hans Gillisz. Bollongier. Floral Piece. The most expensive bloom was normally placed at the top. In this it is a Semper Augustus tulip, the most expensive bulb of its time. This unique pattern was caused by a particular form of mosaic virus and died out with the last of the affected bulbs.

Hans Gillisz Bollongier. Floral Piece.

Flowers in still life painting were popular because they were a way to show off detail, and also the wealth of the individual. Often the flowers were rare, a tulip bulb could cost more than a painting!


The most expensive bloom was normally placed at the top of the bouquet. In the painting to the right it is a Semper Augustus tulip, the most expensive bulb of its time. According to some records it was worth 100x the average working man’s yearly salary! Its unique pattern was caused by a particular form of mosaic virus, so the only way to get it was in offsets of the original bulb. It no longer exists.


Sometimes they would be collections of flowers from different continents, or that bloomed at different times of the year. An artist might use a reference book for the flowers and/or insects-something similar to what Maria Sibylla Merian would be creating a century or so later.


Besides being prestigious, they could also act as a subtle vanitas painting- after all, flowers very beautiful but don’t live very long!



Roelant Savery. Still Life. It includes 44 different animal and 63 floral species.

On a tour the guide told us that in some of the paintings the flowers are slightly overblown and that the insects were symbols of the coming decay. So there was a hint of mortality about overindulgence tucked into some of the paintings.


The worm at the heart of the rose, if you will.

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Filed under Art, Historical Facts and Trivia, Poetry