Posts Tagged ‘sketchbook’


Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

My summer goal is to develop a parallel exploration into “diggers”, the movers and shapers of my environment, large and small. The large ones are the big construction machines at work on University Avenue making way for the new Central Corridor Light Rail. The small ones are the earthworms, ants, millipedes, and other creatures who are constantly renewing the soil in my garden, occasionally disturbed by my shovel or my son’s toy trucks. I’m drawing them with my son by my side, and as you can see in my Flickr set “diggers”, he’s been making as many marks on the drawings as I am.

Yellow dump truck sketch

Collaborative drawing by me and my son, age 2


Loving my enemies, including animal pests

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Debbie Blue made this comment on the theological aspect of my efforts to visualize the relationship between me, the rabbits, and the apple tree: “I mean if we are going to try to love our enemies (or try to understand them as something other than enemies), it seems like we will need to spend some time in that process. And I sure think that should include animals and plants and not just humans.”

Twins With Beasts, 8x6", woodcut, 2006.

I have been thinking about this idea for a while. This is a print I made in 2006. I used the woodblock of this nude figure to explore relationships between humans and animals and thinking about that through mythic and spiritual terms. The figure on the right I call “Saint Annelida” based on the phylum that includes earthworms and other segmented worms. She developed out of my other work with knitted worms, and here wears them as a garment just as a monastic person might wear a hair shirt for penitence and humility. I usually don’t think of earthworms as pests or enemies, but as an important link with cycles of life and death and the fertility of the earth. However, some kinds of earthworms are an invasive species here in MN, so in that way they are a part of human damage to our environment, so an extension of our enmity with nature.

The figure on the left I think of as a female John the Baptist figure, a prophet of judgment and repentance. John the Baptist ate locusts in the wilderness. Locusts are one of the plagues in the Exodus story. When I read about the origin of locusts, I was surprised to find out that they are a kind of ordinarily solitary desert grasshopper. When desert rains produce concentrated pockets of vegetation, the grasshoppers cluster together, and the stimulation of their bodies touching triggers the change into swarming locusts, which then migrate and plague farmlands. I find it interesting that in some prophetic literature, rains in the desert are considered a sign of God’s blessing and renewal, while a plague of locusts is considered a sign of God’s judgment. What does this mean, then, that desert rains produce locust swarms? How is our theology affected by our perception of nature as for or against us?

I am still wrestling with visualizing some aspect of this in my rabbit and apple tree print, and I haven’t decided whether a depiction of a rabbit eating the tree is simplest and best, or whether I should try and show more of what is going on inside the layers of the tree and rabbit, or to show more of the past and future of the tree. I would appreciate any suggestions based on the sketches in my last post.

I took a break from working on that composition to sketch some squirrels near a friend’s house. They are mostly quick gesture drawings, trying to capture fleeting poses from very active creatures. My friend wants to grow a vegetable garden this year, but is concerned about losing everything to the squirrels. Another pest to struggle against?

One idea I have, maybe instead of the apple tree rabbit print, is to simply carve some pest portraits of rabbits and squirrels and print them along with some blocks I have already carved, such as one of baby mice and the one of the locust featured in the print above. Maybe gathering several animal pests together would create more of a conversation about what these creatures mean to us, as competitors with our food supply and as organisms who share our urban and agrarian ecosystems. This might also be a good idea for a book, with one pest per page. But I need to do a larger print first, as I have committed to a print exchange of a certain size. (And I have approximately 6 weeks to finish it before the baby is due! I need to decide quickly and get to work!) Can you picture this? Would this be more meaningful than the apple tree and rabbit alone? Are there other pests you would include?

Rabbit food sketches

Friday, March 12th, 2010

We’ve cut down the girdled apple tree, the snow is melting and exposing other food choices for the rabbits, and now I have started sketching ideas for a print.

First sketch: I started with a more direct narrative, showing a rabbit eating the bark and pooping. I never saw this happen. I see rabbits, I see rabbit turds and footprints, and I see the damaged plants they’ve eaten, but I never see them eat. This probably happens at night. I wonder if it should be a night scene dominated by deep blue snow shadows and yellow street-lamp light.

The second sketch is trying to show a little more of the unseen, how the connection between the roots and branches is broken when the vascular tissue of the inner bark is eaten, and also how the rabbit scat I see in the yard are mostly made up of bark from meals like this one. I was thinking about making a circular kind of composition, showing the scat returning to the soil near the roots. The rabbit is part of the arc of material, more of an idea than a documentation of an actual rabbit eating. I’m still wondering if and how I should include the concept of my expectation of spring flowers and summer fruit cut short by this winter hunger. Here’s one thought, maybe a circular composition could occur inside an apple or apple blossom.

The third sketch takes another view, showing the green living tissue in cross sections of the tree, and showing the rabbit digesting and using the energy and nutrients from this green life.

So, does anyone have any thoughts about these different ways of showing this relationship? What do these images communicate to you? What might make them stronger visually, or more nuanced conceptually?