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Monday, January 15, 2018

Fox Art

Frogs for Breakfast--Red Fox, Bonnie Marris
Vulpes, Danny
In painting wildlife, there are several directions an artist may go. There is, of course, the natural, wild environment demanding a realistic rendering (above). On the other end of the scale is the symbolic, in which the artist strives only to capture the "essence" of the animal, usually with as few strokes as possible strategically placed to merely "sug-gest" the animal being depicted (below). Expressionistic renderings (right) have much the same qualities. All of this is especially true when that animal, though wild, is as familiar to viewers as a domestic canine lounging on the couch. It's easy to forget that such a beautiful dog-like creature as the red or silver fox is, in fact, a vicious predator, albeit one unlikely to be a threat to humans. A hungry fox, particularly one with up to a half-dozen pups to feed, can be as lethal to smaller animals as a hungry lion would be to us. Moreover, a fox will eat about anything from frogs to other canines, felines, or asinine rodents--with the exception of skunks, virtually anything smaller than it is.
Fiery Fox, Apofiss
In between these two extremes are any number of degrees of realism, expressionism, even abstraction (right). In large part these make up the greater part of the artist's "style." Add to that the differences in techniques and effects of var-ious painting media and you quickly realize all the variables which slice across the entire realm of modern-day painting, but seem es-pecially not-able with regard to wildlife art. The fox, being the highly intelligent (sly) yet exquis-itely grace-ful creature it is, makes it a highly desirable subject worthy of the painted image.

Mr. Fox, Yhodle
of Yhodesign

Eluding the Fox, Bruno Lilejfors
The fox is a very social creature which lives a very flexible life. They are found all over the world—in North America, Europe, Asia and North Africa—and utilize a wide range of terrains as home. As much as we tend to stereotype wild animals, the fox is one which defies the practice. Most foxes are around the same size as a mid-sized dog. Yet, since foxes are smaller mammals, they are also quite light. They can weigh as little as 1.5 lbs. and as much as 24 lbs. The fennec fox is the smallest living fox and doesn't get any bigger than the common housecat. It weighs in at about 2.2 to 3.3 lbs. Other species can grow to 34 inches from their head to their flanks. Their trademark bushy tails can add an additional 12 to 22 inches to their length.

Culpeo Fox gives us a lesson not so much in how to
draw foxes, but how to think of them.
Given the penchant artists and others possess for gravitating toward babies of virtually all animals (well, not so much flies, perhaps), it should be noted that unlike many wild mammals, even those which have been domesticated, raising fox pups is a family affair. Foxes are usually monogamous, having only one mate for life. Strangely, they also sometimes take on nannies to help with their pups. The nannies are female foxes that are not breeders. Sometimes, a male fox will have several female mates. Females that have the same male mate are known to live in the same den together--apparently the foxy ladies are not the jealous type. Divorce is rare and alimony is unheard of.

The Chase is on--Red Fox, Pat Pauley.
Foxes can run up to thirty miles per hour.
After mating, females make a nest of leaves inside their burrow upon which to birth their pups. This special room in the burrow, called a nesting chamber, has a fairly short period of preparation in that the pregnant female only carries her pups for about 53 days. It must also be rather roomy since the mother fox may have a litter of from two to seven pups. Add to that the fact that both the mother and father share the care of pups. Even older siblings (from the year before) will help take care of their younger brother and sisters by bringing them food.

Full House, Fox Family, Carl Brenders
In the wild, foxes live surprisingly short lives. They often survive only about three years. In captivity, they can live much longer, as many as ten to twelve years. Carl Brender's Full House, Fox Family (above), was obviously not drawn from life, nor even from a photo. Fox puppies are never that cooperative. And like most mothers, Mrs. Fox is overly protective of her brood. Despite an excellent sense of hearing (they can hear the low-frequency sounds of rodents digging underground), in the wild, fox cubs can easily fall prey to eagles, coyotes, gray wolves, bears and mountain lions.

Silent Grace, Tim Donovan. Like humans, foxes can identify each other's voices. Despite the title of the painting, the red fox has 28 different vocalizations consisting of various yips, growls, and howls.
For the benefit of artists, coloration of red foxes ranges from pale yellowish red to deep reddish brown on the upper parts and white, ashy or slate gray on the underside. The lower part of the legs is usually black and the tail usually has a white or black tip. Two color variants commonly occur. Cross foxes have reddish brown fur with a black stripe down the back and another across the shoulders. Silver foxes range from strong silver to nearly black and are the most prized by furriers.

Say What?, Isaiah Stevens,
the silver fox.

As with most "how to draw" charts this one renders a stereotypical, symmetrical front view, which is rather static for a hyperactive creature like a fox.
There are two typical errors artist sometimes make in drawing wild animals such as a fox. They center on posing and composition. If working from a photo taken in the wild, neither are likely to be a problem. But when working from memory or other sources, the temptation is to treat the fox like any other canine, even to the point of posing a long-nosed dog such as a collie then attempting to convert the dog to a fox. In fact, any head-and-shoulders pose takes on a posed, artificial quality removing it one step from its true nature as a wild animal. Marcia Baldwin's Red Fox Head Study (below), with its natural background coloration, three-quarter pose, and avoidance of eye-contact is about as good as it gets, allowing for the limitations of a close-up study.

Red Fox Head Study, 2009, Marcia Baldwin

Cute, captivating, yet natural.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Josh Harker--3D Printing

Crania Somothrace, Josh Harker

It takes one Burning Man, some steampunk, and one pioneering artist to set new limits of what it means to be one of the best 3D printing designers in the world. As an instigator of the #1 most funded sculpture project in the history of Kickstarter, Joshua Harker is the proud owner of this title that comes with the artistic ownership of an impressive high-tech skull sculpture located in the fields of the uber-cool festival, and, at the same time, an aggressive evidence of the possibilities of art in tech.
MIT Lotusbrain, Josh Harker
For artistic explorers, the time of 3D printing is ripe with potential. By accumulating more than a 20-year experience in the area, Josh Harker has been immersed in exploring the skills with the idea of letting the world know just how tangible 3D sculptures can be. His groundbreaking tech art is a way of showing how 3D printing work can be subtle and sublime as a technology, yet aggressive and complex in the message.
3-D printing artist, Josh Harker
Harker was born in 1970, an apt time for growing up in a post-hippy childhood, learning software and testing the mix of a formal art education with individual learning dedicated to materials engineering and 3D tech. His formal education includes the Kansas City Art Institute, the School of Representational Art in Chicago, the Evanston Art Center and Northwestern University, as well as several other prominent art schools in the country. As a lecturer, advisor and consultant, Josh Harker has been active for more than 25 years on a worldwide level, including teaching and speaking events in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Paris, London and Vancouver, BC. He authored more than 60 exhibitions and a dozen public art and large-scale installations, including the one in Black Rock City for the 2017 Burning Man.

3-D Transcendental Permutation or not, it's
something you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley.
The Tangle collection is a culmination of the public recognition for his efforts invested during a quarter of a century of testing the possibilities of 3D printers. He was learning software and fabricating filigree-fit materials that can be turned into the amazing world of 3D sculptures glowing in full glory only at a place such as the Burning Man--full of three-dimensional skulls, buffalo horns, desert winds and eagle wings.

Some of Harker's best works.
Joshua started his landmark skull sculpture work with a Kickstarter campaign, proving that he is not only a talented sculptor, but also a motivated entrepreneur. Having a good start in the tech industry in the nineties, where he was surrounded by innovative tech companies helped Josh make the decisive move toward experimenting with 3D printing. While he was enjoying the CEO position as late as 2008, the fascination with art took over and he turned to 3D printed sculptures. You can find more about Josh Harker final transitioning process from business to art in the video below:
Making the Unmakeable - The 3D Industrial Revolution: Joshua Harker at TedX Binghamton University

Digital sculpting enables complex dimensionality, one that can not be attained with traditional methods. Nowhere else can an artist work with dynamic 2D and 3D media, using image mapping and sculpture animation to bring the fourth dimension of time, as he can in 3D sculptures. And he is right--the journeying with static and kinetic sculptures that change over time offers unique stories to the captivated audience.

Mazzo di Fiori 16, Josh Harker
The experiential installations of this visionary sculptor go way over 3D printing basics and well into radical contemporary art, with a hint of abstract new-surrealism. The discernible filigree twists are combined with the experience collected with his beginnings in 2D automation and resemble (in his own words) the work of ”André Masson and practiced notably by Miró, Breton, Dalí, Arp, and Picasso.” The depth of his work is not only due to the lyrical aesthetics of the printed filigree and the homage to the great masters of painting, but also due to the one-of-a-kind polarity provided by the wireframe construction and the dynamics of time.
Serpente Anatomica, Josh Harker
Josh Harker is, without doubt, an artist of the future. There is nothing like a personal artist’s statement to tell the story of his revolutionary tech art. In Josh’s own words, this is his vision:
 “Bolstered by the advent of organic modeling software, 3D printing technologies and material engineering, my visions are now able to be realized sculpturally in archival materials. Never before have forms of this organic complexity been able to be created. This boon of technology is a revolutionary time for the arts and one which will be boldly marked in history. I am honored to be considered one the pioneers in the medium.”
Quixotic Divinity Headdress
 --3D printed polyamide, Josh Harker

Till Death Do Us Part,
Josh Harker

Monday, January 1, 2018

John Wagner and Maxine

Meet John Wagner's crabby Maxine.
Tis the season for New Year's resolutions. I'm as guilty as anyone of making and breaking such promises to myself. This year, my New Year's resolution is to write less and paint more.
That is, starting today, Monday, January 1, 2018, I'll be posting new items here only once a week on Mondays. For once, that's a resolution I think I can keep. I've made that decision with the advice and consent of a friend of my wife's, John Wagner's Maxine. She's my spouse's favorite cartoon character, probably because they have so much in common. They're even starting to look alike. Don't worry, it's safe to say that--my wife never reads what I write. She thinks I only write about art. Of course, today, momentous as it is, I continue writing about art, just not as often. Today we take a look at Hallmark Greetings' favorite artist, John Wagner--not to be confused with the British writer by the same name who write's (but does not draw) the adventures of Judge Dredd.
Meet John Wagner, Maxine's creator, whom she refers to as "Arty-Boy."
Maxine takes on any issue fearlessly, from New Year's resolutions, to work and driving. “How long will my New Year's, resolutions last? Got a stop-watch?” and, “I’m willing to put in longer hours at work, as long as they’re lunch hours,” and “Caffeine is for people who feel they aren’t irritable enough on their own,” are a few examples of John Wagner’s clever sense of humor through Maxine. Wag-ner created Maxine in 1986 as a new character line for Hallmark's Shoebox Greet-ings™ card division. He came up with a brazen older woman with a stooped back, a mop of curly gray hair, and most of all an abrasive personality little short of sandpaper. He patterned her after his mother, grandmother, and an unmarried aunt, who provide inspiration for his comic creation.

John Wagner has always been a cartoonist at heart, even as a young child. He remembers doodling as a preschooler. As he got older, Wagner was encouraged by his mother and grandmother to be artistic. His grandmother bought him art lessons when his skills developed beyond grade school art classes. Later, he attended the Vesper George School of Art in Boston, Massachusetts, then began work as part of a new Hallmark artists’ group following graduation. (The Vesper George School of Art closed in 1983.) Since her inception some thirty years ago, Maxine has become a bit of a celebrity. She (and John) have been the subject of media stories, including People, USA Today, Good Morning Amer-ica, The Wall Street Journal, St. Petersburg (Florida) Times, and Las Vegas Journal-Review, and they have been included in a major Associated Press story.

It was the birth of the humorous Shoebox Greetings (a tiny little division of Hallmark) in 1986 that added a new dimension to John's professional life. The Shoebox way of seeing the world unleashed the talents, of John Wagner, spurring the creation of Maxine. She took on an individuality of her own, taking sheer delight in making high-spirited, crabby remarks about almost everything. Though she was truly funny, the character had the staff at Hallmark™ concerned. A spokeswoman for the company noted that, when Maxine first came out, they were worried that older people might be offended. It turned out to be just the opposite; they loved her.

Some of Wagner's worldly wise wit and witticisms of Maxine (no last name).
Wagner points out that, "Cartoonists are sensitive to the insanities of the world while trying to humanize them. If Maxine can get a laugh out of someone who feels lonely or someone who is getting older and hates the thought of another birthday, or if she can make someone chuckle about stressful interpersonal relationships, then I'm happy. Putting a smile on someone's face is what it's all about." The character was so popular with card-buying customers that Maxine jumped from greeting cards into comics syndication in the 1990s through Universal Press Syndicate, a first in cartooning. It’s usually the other way around, the comic first and then the greeting cards. The strip, titled Crabby Road, was soon published in over 100 newspapers across the United States. It was withdrawn in 2002. Though no longer in syndication, fans can still chuckle at the character’s acidic wit, now featured in five books of cartoons.