Sunday, July 20, 2014

When Nature Calls: Outhouse Ornithology Observations

“ occurred that the birds, whose twitters and repeated songs sounded so pretty and affirming of nature and the coming day, might actually, in a code known only to other birds," be the birds each saying 'Get away' or 'This branch is mine!' or 'This tree is mine! I'll kill you! Kill, kill!' Or any manner of dark, brutal, or self-protective stuff--they might be listening to war cries. The thought came from nowhere and made his spirits dip from some reason.”- David Foster Wallace, The Pale King
   One of the more special moments one gets to experience when living without running water are the many, many instances throughout the course of an average day spent sitting outside listening to the woods fill with summer song. It’s a matter of simply being outside enough – results may vary depending on one’s dietary habits - and observant enough to identify the multitude of species that inhabit the dense forest surrounding our cabin. Aside from the omnipresent, incessant whine of mosquitoes there are discernable movements (no pun intended) in accordance with the time of day, each passage with its own associated species.

Later evening: Usually treated to the liquid burble of a Hermit thrush, and if I’m lucky, either the resident Boreal owl or Sharpshinned hawk will be out hunting. The wheedle-deedling of our crop of Chickadees begins to subside.
Early in the AM: the daily pandemonium of Ravens, interspersed with the sweet warbling of White winged Crossbills high atop the spruce; plus our pair of Gray Jays start the day’s debate inbetween the Sandhilll crane commuting conversations as they wing their way from the pondside roost en route to grazing at Creamer’s Field. All-too soon the territorial pissings will break out amongst the neighborhood Red squirrel clans. At times this cacophony in our neck of the woods sounds almost too noisy, there are so many busy denizens at work or play.
"In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence." - Robert Lynd
   But that’s until the background din of civilization begins to permeate the air as the waking city comes to life, and the distant hum of traffic plateaus into to a dull, homogenous din. Fortunately it’s far enough away so as to not blanket us with the omnipresent white noise of, say, anyplace closer to the edge of urbanized space, so we remain at “ear’s-length” distance. Too often in close proximity with others of our own species we forget the first true loss of habitat: aural intrusion, when the integrity of individual airspace itself becomes a casualty of a socially shared environment. More often than not we have no choice but to have to listen to an unending roar from a river of noise that surrounds us, envelops us in constant din from engines, air traffic, advertising, speech and so forth. Soon we lose this rarified sense of awareness, sometimes resorting to marking our spatial territory by establishing zones of personally chosen noise, as in a car radio. Or more increasingly adopt a habit of retreat by plugging in headphones and earbuds, further insulating ourselves from the flood of sound + fury. This aesthetic anesthesia and disconnect with our surroundings, and the natural world, is never more apparent than noticing the loss of birdsong, from, say, downtown or amidst any forest of buildings and streams of concrete. It is just as poignant, even sad, to actually hear the call of an animal so out of place, as it tries to be heard above the noise we have created and can no longer really hear ourselves. Assuming anyone is listening.

   As with the roster of birds heard from the outhouse, from a distance, one can just as easily attribute occupations, intent, and perhaps even project personality on the respective automotive calls: emergency vehicles and other alarming outbursts; rednecks who couldn’t care any less how annoying and rude they are; the guttural construction of new “nests” which in themselves represent in turn even more loss of habitat. Mostly it’s the monotonous, inexorable daily flow of our own kind, vast flocking herds of individuals each ensconced within their own bubble of sound, and collectively creating a place without the connection of a call.
“Like a bird on the wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free.” - Leonard Cohen

Saturday, July 19, 2014


A decidedly non-Alaskan gag: personally I share the sentiment of the dwarf as far as the proclivity of folks sharing their annoying selfies. Or maybe I'm just jealous because I can never seem to line anything up when I try to take one.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Purje's "You Might Be An Artist If..."

Via Hyperallergic (hat-tip Jeff Pert for the repost): visit Laurn Puje's website End of the Line for more of her work. 
"Combining a graphic vision as macabre as that of Edward Gorey with formidable painterly gifts, Lauren Purje is a uniquely gifted young contender in the contemporary art scene whose progress will be well worth following, not only in future gallery exhibitions, but on her constantly evolving web site as well." - Ed McCormack, Editor, Gallery&Studio Magazine

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"Lesson Plan: Bake Sale"

The first step in building any future is evidently to dig a hole.
Let’s see: $110 million for the Engineering building (funding still incomplete); $4 million for renovating the Akasofu building; $28 million for expanding the Wood Center; $88 million for the Life Science building; $245 million for a new power plant… etc. etc.

So over the past year UAF has spent almost half a billion dollars building stuff, and now have to slash $12 million from their budget. Near as I can tell the only financially sound career UAF is advancing these days (or practically investing in) is in construction.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

"The Toe of God"

Did this panel as a classroom demo, and during the drafting of the caption quite the discussion ensued: how, if at all, would God swear? Presumably taking one's own name wouldn't be necessarily in vain. I'm sure there were much more provocative firsthand reactions during the 7.9 quake off the Aleutian Islands that occurred on June 23rd - one of the largest ever recorded in U.S. history.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Comics Alternative + David Wasting Paper

A quick couple of additions to the blog roll and Cartoon Resources menu: Derek Royals and Andy Kunka's The Comics Alternative: "Two Guys With PhD's Talking About Comics" (also on Facebook here): and David Paccia's David Wasting Paper (Facebook link here). Just as much as discovering new books at the Comic Shop I love finding previously unknown online resources like these!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Beaver Moon

Up until now I'd never actually known about the Algonquin "beaver moon," but via Alaska Dispatch it appears to be a grounds for a new seasonal celebration:
Full Beaver Moon – November This was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Full Beaver Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now actively preparing for winter.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

"Space Bar"

So here's one that rose unbidden from the depths of consciousness, or in this case arguably unconsciousness. Sometimes that's a part of the natural process: there's no rhyme or reason for an concept to flow from the point of a pen, it just happens. This as opposed to any number of catalysts or inspirations, idea-generating exercises, writing prompts - the "work" part of the word "artwork" - occasionally in the middle of the workflow one just simply and inexplicably appears as if by magic. It happens often right before falling asleep, on on a long commute, or in this case when opening up the sketchbook to a blank page when one hasn't had anywhere near enough coffee yet. But it lends credence to the old adage about 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration being the key to any creative undertaking, as random asides will begin to naturally evolve alongside the conscious, deliberate efforts. In other words, shit happens. When you put on a pair of prescription glasses and begin to focus on particular aspects of things, then pretty soon you'll begin to look at everything differently, and start to see material everywhere. This immersion is a challenge to maintain amidst the logistical demands of normal, everyday life, as a job, family etc. will interrupt the flow, constantly throwing up speedbumps, or completely hamstring any rhythm and routine that fosters creativity. Times like those is when its advantageous - or crucial to maintaining sanity if not happiness - to have a disciplined approach, a physical and mental place to return to and keep the ball rolling.

These several samples are also another example of the debatable merits of each comparable stage of a work-in-progress. There's arguments to be made as to the relative qualities of the initial doodle (Sharpie + ballpoint pen) versus the black & white line art (pen + ink on Bristol), versus the digitally colored (both the CMYK and the grayscale print versions) or the original w/ color wash. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, and some people have their strong personal preferences. I'm happy with 'em all, like if the newspaper decides to run the grayscale version instead of the color one (posted side-by-side below). In fact the black + white variation is what I "had in mind," what I "saw" the end result being. But it's always fun to play around, maybe push things a little bit in a new or different direction just to see what happens. Freelance commissions isn't the time or place to pull weird stunts like this, but in the end it will come back around and get added to the virtual toolbox of skills and experience.
When making French toast the other day, it occurred to me that there's an analogy with every slice being different from each other. Some will be bigger or smaller, thicker or thinner, maybe slightly burnt on one or both sides. What's important is that it's a delivery system for maple syrup is that it's all nourishment, it's all good. Art is a meal that not only sustains, it should be shared, so make enough to pass around. Maybe you're meat-and-potatoes person, or will skip straight to the dessert. Okay enough with flogging the dam metaphors, back to the drawing table.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fairbanks: Going Nowhere... FASTER

It's been a peripheral amusement to read of the latest calamity eclipsing our community: that of converting one of our local thoroughfares from a four-lane road into a three-lane one (two lanes + a center turning lane + expanded accommodation for bicyclists). The sound + fury editorials and back & forth on comment threads has been a source of no small amount of "pole-vaulting over a moose turd" insofar as an objective perspective on this traumatic issue. Meaning that most folks really know how to put the "my" in myopic, since regardless of one's position on the earth-shattering degree of change coming down the proverbial turnpike, this is all over a 3.8 mile stretch of road one can easily traverse in less than ten minutes.

“If you are in a hurry you will never get there” - Chinese Proverb

In fact, if one is really, really in a Big Hurry, Important People can always take our version of an expressway, which will shave anywhere from one to three minutes off precious commute time. Not to mention one surefire way to piss people off in this town is to actually drive the posted speed limit on College Road, the majority of which is 35mph. Heaven forbid folks will have to slow down a little, or even wait a moment for someone else in life who commits the unpardonable sin of getting in their goddamned way.

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” - Winnie the Pooh

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Nyeah Nyeah Nyeah

Somewhat reminiscent of an earlier image taken from the same POV of a muskox skull, this one adorned the walls of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. During a field trip for reference sketching, I was able to get up close and personal for this portrait. Disclaimer: there is minor, subtle Photoshopping.