Monday, December 19, 2011

MONGREL MONDAY MEOWS MENACINGLY: Introducing the Towering Tiger of Sumatra

Happy Mongrel Monday!

It looks to be another glorious week in the land of Earth - so filled with a myriad of mongrels! Today brings the distinct pleasure of presenting the next featured wild thing... The Sumatran Tiger!

"Striped Stalker Slinks Silently: The Sumatran Tiger En Route." Panthera tigris sumatrae. 2011. Marker.
Trained to Tread
Though the dainty devourers of deer and tapir are deemed the smallest of the bunch, these Indonesian island cats certainly live up to the reputation of power and strength that humans have bestowed upon this brilliant beast for centuries. Ablaze in the water yet camouflaged in the open, tigers are masters of the stalking in stalks. Once that pair of bejeweled irises sets its sights on you, it is likely wise to change your afternoon plans. And this specific subspecies has certain swimming strengths seldom seen in its mainland counterparts; With webbed toes, the treadworthy tiger prefers to take its predominantly land-based prey out to lunch on the water, on the predator's dime.

Friday, December 16, 2011

FEROCIOUS FRIDAY TAKES FLIGHT: Introducing The Haughty Hornbill

Happy Ferocious Friday!

This inaugural event is the first in a series of posts I plan to publish, tracking my latest painting projects as they progress! Currently, this so happens to be a series of animal portraits showcasing the Species of South East Asia. With many more to come (in the form of tri-weekly trackings), I present to you the first mongrel of the bunch...

Featuring Our Frolicking Feathered Friend, The Red-Knobbed Hornbill, Aceros cassidix.
"High On His Haunches: The Haughty Hornbill Reigns Supreme." Aceros cassidix. 2011. Marker.

Only walks in certain woods shall find such feathered frugivores;
Tis only South East Asian forests where the mighty hornbill soars.

Flying high above Indonesia's dense canopies
This crimson-crowned king loves to gaze upon the seas.

For stretching round in all four direction
Lie the oceans in deep blue perfection.

Bonding for life in a mated pair,
Hornbills live a life many species don't dare.

While the female holes up in a tree to egg-lay,
The male departs, off on a familial fruit foray.

Though berries may elude him he presses on,
Ending his search only once the sunset has gone.

But bright colored sunsets barely hold a candle
To this well-adorned bird's big bold mantle!

Hornbill fun fact: These casqued crooners have long lovely eyelashes that are actually modified feathers!  That sets me all aflutter. 
(This nibble of knowledge brought to you by the San Diego Zoo!) 

Be back Monday for the next equatorially-excellent species in the series.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

In Want of Water

Water. The source of all life on Earth, while gracious in its giving, is not always fair in its sharing. As some are flooded with its fortune, others are desiccated in its denial.  (But not the Nile)

"Vying for Vertical Growth: The Tall Tale of the Bromeliad."  Billbergia sp. 2011. Watercolor on Board.

Bathed in liquid life, the bromeliad is in a class all its own. In striving to become closer to its dihydrogenously oxygenated deity, it has forsaken the familiar forest floor and lives a nomadic existence up in the canopies of the jungle. It throws its green arms open wide to welcome the near constant rain. And what the bromeliad receives, it likes to pay forward; the water it retains in its cup of tightly-weaved waxy leaves acts as a micropond way up high for arboreal amphibians and arthropods to lay their eggs in. Safe and secure swathed in the fortified fronds, tenacious tadpoles and irresistible mosquito larvae grow big and strong.  Then metamorphosize to grow big and strong all over again. 

"A Stickler For Dunes: Carrying Capacity Of A Crotchety Cactus." Parodia mammulosa. 2011. Watercolor on Board.

In stark contrast to the jungle's decadent display of liquid lavishness, the desert is of the more humble tumbleweed type.  The charismatic cactus is the star of stark & starved soils. It is a sad sort of succulent, forever trapped in sway to the withholding ways of water. Expanding and contracting like an accordion, the cactus plays its melancholy tunes of the water blues.  Yet in times of plenty, cacti celebrate the bounty of water with symbols of beauty - unleashing bold yet delicate flowers upon the landscape, canvassing the country in rich sights, smells, and styles.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hornbills on the Horizon...

New ideas are taking flight in the Land of Jess... with upcoming projects in the works, and older pieces to storytell, there is likely to be a flurry of flora and fauna gracing these audacious archives any time now.
Sound the Horn: Bright Birds Boldly Beckon.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Boring Hide

Everything and everyone has two sides. Star Wars knows this, as do the zen teachings of yin and yang, as does the story of the great Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde; and all reveal to us the nature of those two sides. A light side and a dark side. An inside and an outside (obviously the inside is the dark side, since light can't pass through flesh and bone). To get to know someone, you must understand them fully - to the core, the marrow, whatever you'd like to call it. This is the relationship I have developed with a good friend of mine: the ever stellar Steller Sea Lion.
Sure she's plain on the outside, with a drab brown coating of fur and fins streamlined for moving through the water like a torpedo of blubber. But there is so much more to this marine mammal than a boring hide. What hides under this hulking beast's rippling layers of fat and tissue is not one but two inner layers of innards. Lurking beneath the surface lie the muscles and the bone.

"Tan Your Own Hide, Steller Sea Lion Skin Layer." Eumetopias jubatus. 2011. Colored pencil on film.

Were I to arm wrestle my friend the sea lion, I would surely be defeated simply because of the sheer volume of this beast's muscle fibers. Not to mention how slippery their flippery are. Plus, they are related to bears. Massive pectoral and dorsal muscles work in concert with the shoulder to power through the ocean's depths. And the construction of that actin action and myosin movement are informed by the form and function of the deepest layer of this deepwater creature.

"More Fun Than A Bundle of Sinew, Steller Sea Lion Muscle Layer." Eumetopias jubatus. 2011. Colored pencil on film.

The skeleton is an ossified masterpiece of evolutionary ingenuity. A jigsaw puzzle of calcified fortification enables these paradoxically amphibious mammals to be free in the sea and yet stand on land. Massive scapula bones provide excellent attachment sites for plenty of muscles to do their flexing and extending for swimming in water and hobbling about on shore.

"Baring the Load-Bearing Bars of the Bear Cousin, Steller Sea Lion Skeleton Layer." Eumetopias jubatus. 2011. Colored pencil & gouache on film.

Taken on its own, each piece of this sea-worthy vessel is a beauty to behold. But in concert, the cogs fall into place and turn in unison, keeping time with the pace of life. And from this symphony emerges the necessity of inner and outer sides. The requisite existence of both light and dark is revealed.

"Sea-Through Lion Layers, Steller Sea Lion 3-Layer Composite." Eumetopias jubatus. 2011. Colored pencil & gouache on film.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An Acute Arboreal Affliction

In light of the recent works completed for my science illustration classes, it is safe to say that I have developed an interest in the world held high up in the treetops. In a life devoted to swinging through the canopy, furry mammals have adapted quite beautifully to such lofty lifestyles. Maybe I am jealous of their tree climbing prowess. Or perhaps I am just smitten with the idea of going out on a limb, taking a leap, and reaching for your dreams? The world may never know.*

SLOTH: A Deadly Sin? Or Synonym for Deadly?

The three-toed sloth. An arboreal stealth creature that ever so slowly creeps through dense forest foliage. Lurking. Waiting. Watching.

"Slow Twitchin': The Saga of the Sloth." Bradypus variegatus. 2011. Scratchboard.

Don't be fooled by this agile beast; it may grow moss in its fur but this is only to help it secure its title as one of the jungle's most dangerous leaf assassins. The chlorophyll-filled canopy is made all the more perilous by the peerless peresozo. These sleeper cells spend their days sleeping and silently stalking cellulose stalks: ever so patiently sneaking up on their leafy prey before cramming clawfuls of the unsuspecting Cecropiaceae into their gaping maw.

ORANGUTANGO: Dance of the Gods

Behold the rhythmic swaying of the branches, the tender touch when paw meets vine, the gentle swishing of leaves and breaking of branches as hundreds of pounds of primate crash through canopy. It can signal nothing other than the sweet music and dance of the Orangutango.

"OranguTangled: Monkeying Around On High." Pongo pygmaeus. 2011. Watercolor on board.

The Red Ape of Indonesia holds a near and dear place in my heart, with her curved phalanges, bright shock of hair, and the air of indifference as she sails through the air with greatest of ease. This smart simian knows where life's at: living on an island nation in the balmy South Pacific in one of the last great rainforests still complete with its own elephants, rhinos, and even the occasional tiger. Talk about living life on the edge! But it certainly helps to gain some perspective on prospective predators by hanging out up near the sky. Tangled vines and gnarled bark prove no match for this ape's lanky limbs and opposable digits on both hands and feet. Who needs a prehensile tail when you can open fruit with your feet?

*Does the world know that it is an oyster? Let alone that it is your oyster? It's quite the bipolar bivalve, that Earth is.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I have a deep respect for my elders. This respect applies to my evolutionary counterparts as well as rad grandpas. Alligators and sharks are the first that come to mind as being the ultimate crotchety old gents. I see the shark as a brackish curmudgeon, keeping to his hermit ways and stoic tendencies. The alligator is more gregarious; he's the old cad hanging around town fraternizing with the pretty little birdies and flashing his toothy smile. This snaggletooth lounging around the watering hole on the bayou has more layers than meets the eye. Aside from his hard-skinned outer appearances, he's also got a softer side, with far more ligament attachments. And then he has a deep, robust foundation that moors all his sinews. Most people would call these his muscle layer and skeletal profile, respectively, but what can I say - I'm a romantic. And I like to see the best in other creatures' anatomy.


"Bare Bones, Alligator mississippiensis Preliminary Tracing." (2011), pencil.


"Check Out Them Chompers, Alligator mississippiensis Preliminary Tracings: Jaw Muscle Attachment & Layering." (2011), colored pencil.


"Defense & Sunscreen, Alligator mississippiensis Preliminary Tracing." (2011), pencil.


"Smiling With Your Eyes, Muscles, & Pearly Whites, Alligator mississippiensis Preliminary Composite." (2011) pencil & CS5 Adobe Illustrator.

This last one is an idea of what the final project will look like once I combine the lovely layers of the alligator's alluring personality. (But finishing the final is where the dillydallying comes into play). With connections like this, it is no wonder the American Alligator has been able to chomp down and hold onto its place in history for so long! May he enjoy spending his retirement cruising around the marshes, in the Happy Ever (After) Glades.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Technicolor Technicalities

The Ant and I are friends, but only one of us has antennae. (And it is not I) Mrs. Myrmex & Homo sapi-Me share many things in life: a high degree of sociality, joy in the act of building houses, living in cities -- but, above all, we share a fondness for picnics. The perennial plethora of platters perused while planted on your posterior in the park adds an element of fresh air fun to any food fiesta. And that scented sky helps to direct legions of Formicidae to the checkered blanket by way of following pheromones with those specialized antennae! (Scent trails always stymie stealthy summer snacking)

Antenna are pretty sensational sense organs and they come in all different shapes and sizes! For one of my final introductory illustrations, I looked at the antennae of the Chinese Golden Stag Beetle. He rocks the club style, which perhaps alludes to Mr. Massive Mandible's penchant for dancing, or maybe he just thoroughly enjoys a bubbly fizz to his unflavored soda.

"Chinese Golden Stag Beetle, Eye+Antennae Close Up" (2010), pen & ink

But there is so much more to this great exoskeletonized arthropod than meeting his eye... behold the almost-imperceptibly iridescent inflections of ivy, iris, and iron emanating from that insect’s encasement! The contrasting and complementary colors abound, taking flight in the final test of technique: technicolor temperature tweaks. Since cold colors apparently recede and warm colors rise to the forefront in the human eye, this cold-blooded beast acted as the 2D canvas on which I was to play my 3D Prismacolor games.

"Chinese Golden Stag Beetle, Final Rendering" (2010), colored pencil on film

While it is true that I am jealous of the Ant and Beetle’s affixed antennae and pheromone-ferreting finesse, I rest easier at night by remembering that I wield the power of something just as awe-inspiring and painstakingly evolved to fight the battles thrown at me by the natural world: Color Vision. I am armed to perceive any and all rainbows cast in my skies, and I can appreciate every sunset that spills over my picnic blanket. Or the prisms that may pierce my pears...

"Pear Color Study, Temperature" (2010), colored pencil

Plus, if all other defenses fail, my highly dexterous fingers let me use ant-proof containers to keep all my tasty picnic food to myself. Thanks, evolution!