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.

The Dogs of Penland

I like to think this is part I, with more dogs to come, but at this point, I’m just relieved to have finally finished hand-coloring them!

Last summer I was very fortunate to be able to attend a class at Penland School of Arts and Crafts, thanks to their generous scholarship program. I took a printmaking course in intaglio, woodcut, letterpress by Belgian artist, printmaker Goedele Peeters. She was a wonderful instructor and it was a thrill to see her work up close (and to see her make new work). At Penland, I noticed there were a number of really terrific dogs, and that their owners loved to talk about their companions. I decided to make a short book The Dogs of Penland featuring some of these pets. I have to say that these were some of the funniest, nicest people/artists I’ve ever met, and I never would have gotten to know them if it weren’t for their wonderful, awesome dogs. One thing I noticed is that whenever anyone came near to talk to the artist or their companion, everyone ended up smiling. There is something about these animals that brings out the best in people and it continues to delight and amaze me. I know the joy these critters emitted was in no small part due to the fact that they had great owners who really cared about their pets health, well-being and happiness. And they were extremely well socialized dogs, which is no small feat. That said, here are a  few small portraits of some of them, that make up volume 1 of The Dogs of Penland:

Roscoe, owned by Anne:
intaglio of mastiff dog's head

Roscoe the Ginormous • 3 1/2 ” x 5″ • hand-colored intaglio
Roscoe is a mastiff…. Climbing up and out of the car, he looked like a small, lanky horse emerging from what seemed to be an impossibly small car for a beast so big. He then proceeded to walk up to the cafe (where Annie works), with his own leash in his mouth—leading himself up the hill for his photoshoot. He is a beautiful, quiet, gentle giant, and a great model (he holds very still!).

Lilly, owned by Edwina Bringle:
corgi smiles up at viewer

Lilly Strikes a Pose • 5″ x 3 1/2″ • hand-colored intaglio
On the other end of the size spectrum, there is Lilly. When I first met her, she was walking quickly to go greet her friends at the store…and smiling. She was always smiling, and it was catching! Lilly, when I asked her to, quickly struck a pose, flashed a winning glance my way , and then quickly pattered on to her visit. Things to do,… people to meet!

Wyatt, owned by Nathan and Angela:
white dog with black spots looks goofy and smiles

Wyatt, Class Clown,
3 1/2″ x 5″ • hand-colored intaglio
Wyatt is a complete goofball—he seems to live to amuse. When I would watch him chase a ball, or look lovingly, goofily up at Angela, he just made me laugh. There was nothing really regal or poised about him (though a very beautiful dog)—he seemed to live to play and to bring out the good humor of those around him.

Patsy Jo, owned by David Chatt
white and brown terrier relaxes in man's arms

Patsy Jo Does Cleopatra
3 1/2″ x 5″ • hand-colored intaglio
Patsy Jo will do anything her companion David asks of her. She’ll model as a “handbag” (David holds her by the feet, upside down, and Patsy Jo just hangs there, calmly, looking at everybody upside down as if it was the most normal thing in the world). I could not believe how calm she was…and she’s a terrier! When David holds her, she is completely relaxed (as you see here)–totally trusting, and kind of just letting everything hang out. She is utterly devoted to “her guy,” and a great poser.

Pinkerton, owned by Thor Bueno:
Little JRT plays dead

“Bang Pinkerton! Bang! Bang!! 4″ x 7″, hand-colored intaglio
Pinkerton is just like a little circus dog. She dances on her hind legs, plays dead when Thor yells “Bang Pinkerton!… Bang!!” Even her eyes rolled up into her head and sort of glassed over–she played the part perfectly. A classic terrier/drama queen.

Petey, owned by Cristina Cordova:
maned dog walks away from camera
Petey, the Lion Dog •  3 1/2″ x 5″ •  hand-colored woodcut
When I first saw Petey, I exclaimed “What the hell is that?” It was a very large, orange-brown creature, with a lion’s mane and lion’s tail (body/main part of tail shaved so that it looked like a lion). It was the weirdest thing to see this hybrid creature–I had to keep reminding myself that this was a dog–but it was really a great look. Only an artist would think of turning a dog into a lion…

Peter Singer on Colbert

So, we (Zoology 335: Animal Human Behavior class) get this totally awesome link from one of our classmates about one of the philosophers we are studying in Patricia McConnell’s class. Not that I’m a convert (still raising hogs/pork), but OMG what a great way to remember this guy–Peter Singer–for the next exam!! Humor. Man, if only we had this sort of media for every scientist or philosopher we had to learn, I would totally ace the class….

Peter Singer on ColbertNation

Favorite line:
Colbert: “But if we shouldn’t eat them,… why are they so delicious?”

Perceptive Zuzu

This afternoon, I called J (down at his shop) on cellphone to say I had to take a 20 min nap, and was bringing Ivan in to keep him from barking (I’ve been burning the candle at both ends trying to get work done for M.A. show in May, along with classes, work, farm…. Short naps enable me to function.) I hung up the phone, turned around, looking for dogs (nowhere to be seen), headed toward the stairs, and there was Zuzu 1/2 way up the stairs, waiting for me to come up to bed. Man, she is quick! And perceptive. They listen when I talk on the phone?!? –Said nothing about naps to them ahead of time… She overheard the magic word and rushed to the steps…. She loves her beauty rest.

The Stalking of the Great White Pyrenees

S.V. Medaris' 2-part print of little terriers stalking a Great Pyrenees

The Stalking of the Great White Pyrenees
10″ x 24″ each panel
Hand-colored linocut

New Work
Originally created for a folio exchange organized by Melanie Yazzie of University of Colorado, Boulder, called “Los Animales Cute.” Each print measures (image size) 24″ x 10″ So, x 2 = 48″ long total prints. For the folio exchange, the parameters were: 24″ x 10″ print, folded down to 10″ x 8″ so I printed both sides–part one and two of “Stalking….”

For future print editions, I’ve printed each panel separately, and will mat/frame each. So hanging side by side, framed they should look sweet. Framing some up within the week….

The subject matter–dogs, here, on this farm–they’re a laugh-a-minute. Soooo serious, calculating, predictable, and utterly unique even though they’re the same species. So…with subject matter like this, and totally “braggin’ on” my muses, the blocks practically carved themselves.

S.V. Medaris relief print of little terriers stalking

Dexter (top) is in stalking mode, focused 100% on Ivan. If you were to call him now, he wouldn’t hear you. He’s getting ready to charge. Zuzu (foreground) is excited and upset. She’s barking and digging in snow and knows what Dexter is going to do and doesn’t like it. She will eventually jump on Dexter (after he attacks Ivan), dominating him, to make him stop.

Each 10″ x 24″ (Two-part print)

S.V. Medaris relief print of huge, mountainous Great Pyrenees

Ivan is smiling. He loves it when he is chased. He turns into a big, goofy, bouncing target. Leaps into the air and runs and runs and laughs, while Dexter growls and bites and throws himself at him. Ivan is anticipating the chase here–knowing that Dexter is getting ready to charge. He weighs over 100 lbs, so with the “littles” at 14lbs each, he really has nothing to fear–thus the smile and the fun of being chased.

Thought about it for months. Took about a week in terms of planning, drawing, cutting, printing…. Printing: a 3-6 hours for each side of 20 or so prints. Hand-coloring of all happened in another night. “Night” translates to about an 8 hr stretch that sometimes happens in day (2p-10p), or 10p-4a or just whenever I can fit it in around a full-load of classes (including 2 academics–yikes!), 1/2 time day job (web designer/illustrator for The Why Files), farm life, making prints/art for benefits and own business…. Not sleeping much these days (2 hrs each, 2 nights in a row…yuk!!!!…paying for it now, but took a nap and now I’m functioning again).

Time to study and sketch and study….

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’….