First print of the year…

(Finished in first week of January, but belated posting)

January 15, 2012

For a folio exchange called Everything Eleven (and some A/P ones will be used for my Bestiary), this one’s called:

Eleven Polish Posing

Reduction linocut of White Crested Black Polish, cock

'Eleven Polish Posing' • 3 color reduction linocut with some hand-coloring on Rives Lightweight • 14in x 4in • January 2012

(more than) 11 polish drying

He’s a White Crested Black, cockerel (under 1 year old), all grown up (he is one of my summer 2011 chicks). Quite the beauty, and not too mean as far as these fellows go. I have a bunch of young polish cocks in the barn pen, separate from the coop. When it came time to decide which polish would migrate to the coop (all the pullets and some of the cockerels), this guy was a no-brainer. Although he has about 6 or so other equally handsome brothers of the same breed, when I went to gather up some of “his” girls to take to the coop, he swooped down and tried to grab them (literally) out of my hands. He didn’t try to attack me, but rather tried to grab his girls back. I knew then that I had a good caretaker, mate for those girls, so I swooped him up too. At the very least he would look out for them and not let any of the bigger chickens pick on his girls.

(click any image to enlarge)

Work on The Bestiary continues (Sue goes medieval)

Finished another page in the Bestiary (Bestiary/Study guide to animal taxonomy and behavior… being created for my MFA show in May, 2011). Detailed printing info follows (below). This is part of the chicken section/signature of the book (there is also a pig section, dog, turkey, cat, deer, and so forth….). All the sections in my book will have a medieval bestiary page (like this) near the front, and on this page, the text is the actual text from MS Bodley 764, a mid thirteenth century Bestiary. The images are my own creation (style closely modeled after the late Gothic style, with gold), with me taking center stage. Here I go medieval, about to axe one of my roosters:

illustration of person about to axe a chicken, done in late gothic style

Page dimensions: 14in x 14in, hand-colored (with acrylic, including the gold) lithograph (all text and black on this page is litho). Click image to enlarge.

closeup of late gothic scene of chicken about to be axed

And a closeup of the image: 8in x 6in.

Text: a gothic font face I found that was as close to the “MS Bodley 764 bestiary” font as I could get. The text sections were then printed out (with laser printer) onto Pronto Plates. Then those plates (and the murder scene, done in Sharpie on another Pronto Plate) were inked up with litho inks and printed onto good papers (Somerset, Arches…) on the Takach Press. Finally, the scene (and the drop caps) were hand-colored with Golden acrylics–gold and other colors. Pretty 21st century for a 13th center knock-off, huh?

Pigs, 1st day

Picked up our feeder pigs yesterday from a wonderful farm, Monson Showpigs up in Richland Center. They sell show pigs and more, almost year-round. Absolutely beautiful animals, and the pigs are really people-friendly. You can tell they’ve been handled from the beginning and are used to people. The Monson’s Hampshire boar, Pioneer was the model for Some Pig.

Here are our 4 little pigs on their first day out on pasture–sleeping in their pig hut in the morn, and then adventuring out in the brush later in day. The red one is a purebred Duroc gilt. The 2 black ones are Hampshire/Duroc barrows. The white one is a Yorkshire/Hampshire barrow.

4 pigs sleep in a row

These feeder pigs were born 1st week in March, so they're about 3 months old here. They weigh about 50lbs each.

Reddish brown pig looks out from bush

This is the lone female in the bunch. A Duroc gilt. Click photo to enlarge--a total cutie.

Color litho “Sus scrofa” finished…

Sus scrofa, color litho of fat wild hybrid hog

"Sus scrofa" • color lithograph • 18" x 18" • editioned

First color litho done. This is the first in the Bestiary: A Study Guide to Animal Taxonomy.

This fat little guy was the lone male in my group of 8 pigs I raised 2 summers ago. He and 3 of his sisters were from a herd of a wild-type hybrids bred by a neighboring farmer. The farmer breeds these hogs to survive out on a huge pasture, with little supplemental corn. They’re typically very thin, lean, and survive on whatever they can find out on pasture. Well, when we brought them home to our little pasture to be raised with 4 little pink piglets (typical, white, hybrid–probably Yorkshire, Landrace, Hampshire crosses), they made themselves at home. Since they were older, they quickly showed the little pink piglets how to cool off in the mudhole, where to find the waterer, where to bed down, etc. They were great older siblings to the pinkies.

One thing drastically changed for these wild guys when they moved to our place–they suddenly had free-choice hog feed (corn and soybean mix) from a huge feeder, open 24/7. They ate ravenously. Never before had they had access to this type/quantity of food. They began to swell as the weeks went by. They didn’t really grow up, but rather, out. They became enormously fat, and this guy here in the litho, swelled up like a watermelon. I thought he would burst. the little pink piglets however, grew like typical, white, yorkshire-cross hybrid American hogs–up and long and lean. They grew to enormous proportions–long, gently arching backs–looking like walking mountains from the side.

These wild guys ate very messily, food flying everywhere as they would grab a mouthful of feed, then whip their head out to look for predators–that part of their behavior stayed the same–they were always looking out for potential danger. When they whipped their heads up and out of the feeder, the grain literally flew out of their mouths and through the air as they munched with mouths open (as pigs will do).

Well, fall came, and they went off to the butcher. When we got the meat back, the white hogs’ meat was lean, and huge cuts (porkchops the size of dinner plates and all that), while the wild hybrid’s meat was heavily marbled and the cuts were tiny. The porkchops were actually cute–tiny little things–looking like baby porkchops. The bacon was the opposite of what you’d want in bacon–it was white, with a light marbling of meat!

So, they aren’t the best hogs to raise when you have free-choice feed available if you want lots of meat. But, if it’s lard you want, these are the hogs for you!

The series is inspired by my Zoology 335 class (Animal/Human Behavior with Patricia McConnell). More in this Animal Taxonomy series will be produced throughout the rest of this year, and then printed in artist’s book form (the Bestiary) as well as separate, framed prints.

New litho series

A Bestiary or “Study Guide to Animal Taxonomy” (not sure of title of series/folio). But here’s the first drawing on the first stone in the series, Sus scrofa:

wild-type domestic hog with taxonomy text surrounding it on litho stone

Lots of litho crayon (#4) work, water tusches, etc. This will be a color reduction print, but first doing some black-inked ones. The stone is about 20″ across x 16″ high.

Here’s from the first batch of black-inked images. This one on Rives BFK tan:

print of hog on tan paper

And a detail, showing the reticulation in the water-mixed tusche:

intricate detail of grain of stone with wash on top

Thanks to Jack, the etching of the stone and the detail captured is amazing.

New work (Gallus…)

Gallus americanus obesus
7 1/2 ft x 6 1/2 ft
mixed media

chicken, white, broiler, obese, printmaking, acrylic, feed sacks, mixed media

Now on view at 15 seconds, at the Art Lofts.

This big guy is modeled after one of my broiler chickens. For those unfamiliar with chicken breeds, there are different types of chickens for different purposes. All hens will lay eggs, and you can eat the meat of any chicken, but some breeds are made to excel in different ways. The Broilers, or Cornish-Cross, or Jumbo Broilers are bred to have big breasts and lots of meat. They grow quicker than other breeds, sometimes (as with the Jumbo) freakishly so. Unless you restrict their food intake, the Jumbos can have major leg problems (legs facing other directions or legs unable to withstand the weight of the chicken’s body… Yes, it can be horrific). After one season of raising these Jumbos, I swore “never again.” I still grow chickens for meat, and usually I do get chicks that are Cornish-Cross, or Broilers, but not the Jumbos. If managed carefully, they can grow up without leg problems.

But they still grow amazingly fast. And huge. I’ve got some 14 lb. broilers in the freezer (that’s 14lbs. dressed). I grow them because I’m a lazy cook. I like to be able to take one chicken and make literally weeks worth of meals out of the one bird (freezing dishes for later, etc). I also love the taste of fat chicken–the fat is what makes the meat (and the dishes) have so much flavor. Granted, moderation in eating this type of food is key, but I’d much rather eat a small amount of fat chicken than a “normal” or large portion of lean.

This said, I must say that there is something freakish about these birds, and stereotypically American about them. Supersized. In contrast, the French have these petite little 5lb Crevecoeurs, Mottled Houdans and the 6-7lb Faverolles. Those are their utility birds–for eggs and table. We have Jumbo Broilers. In 6-8 weeks they can weigh 4lbs and can be butchered then (or at the other extreme, wait till the end of summer and butcher at 20 lbs.). They are huge, white, obese things and to me, mirror the current culture and our struggle against human obesity. There’s no mystery here though–their genetics are such that they are always hungry and will eat continuously. Who wouldn’t be obese with those kinds of genetics? Also, these are sedentary birds. I raise them on pasture, but the extent of their exercise is to waddle out in the morning and plunk themselves down in front of the feeders and start scarfing down. This is what they are bred for–their genetics make them always hungry and thus they just pack on the pounds almost literally overnight. I have to take the feeders away during the day so that they don’t have leg problems, or keel over from heart attacks when scared (this did happen that year with the Jumbos…. I’d have to softly talk when I approached the barn in the morn to open up, otherwise, if I opened the door and they didn’t see/hear me coming they would startle. A couple of times, a broiler was so startled it just fell to the ground and died–perfectly healthy the night before).

So, this piece sort of encapsulates the essence of the American broiler chicken, taken to extremes (and allowed to grow older than the typical processing age of 6-8wks)–huge, obese, sort of freakish, a bit scary, wider than tall, good eatin’….