My art: Spirit userpic WIP

My art: Spirit userpic WIP

spiritpic_wip

I’m working on a new user picture. I may make a series of similar images based on the five elements – if I do so, this one would be called “Spirit” because it has violet tones.

Artist profile: Maria Sibylla Merian

Artist profile: Maria Sibylla Merian

Remember the insects and plants Shin Saimdang painted in Korea? Around a hundred years later, in Germany, lived another excellent woman painter of insect and botanical life, Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717).

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Unlike many scientists of the day, Merian drew and painted from live bugs, some of which she raised herself. From a young age, she was fascinated by the then-unknown process of how caterpillars become butterflies. She learned the skills of an artist alongside the male students of her stepfather, a painter, in his studio. He left Merian and her mother when the girl was twelve, however, so Merian then started drawing insects and presumably sold her artworks to have an income.

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At sixteen or eighteen, she married one of her stepfather’s former students, Johann Andreas Graff. Both their children, Johanna Helena Herolt and Dorothea Maria Graff, grew up to be artists who studied the world of plants and insects like their mother.

In 1675, the couple and their first baby were living in Nuremburg. Merian had her first collected work, volume I of The New Book of Flowers, published that year by her husband’s press. She intended this volume, and the two that followed it, to be a reference for craftspeople when they painted, embroidered, and carved floral decorations. Virtually all surviving copies of these books are damaged from heavy use. She also trained young women to embroider during her time in Nuremberg.

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Merian’s second published work was the two-volume Der Raupen wunderbarer Verwandlung (The Wondrous Transformation of Caterpillars), in which she painted and described in words each stage of metamorphosis of moths and butterflies. She included the plants upon which the insects feasted and made their cocoons – a far more holistic presentation of the process than other scientists of her time, who just showed the insects alone. It was also far more accurate, as scientists believed that insects “spontaneously generated” from inert material like rotten fruit and meat.

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In the 1680s, Merian took her two daughters and mother to live in the Labadist religious community and refused to return to her husband. He eventually gave up trying to get her back, but she soon tired of the strict rules and joyless life of the Labadists and took her family to Amersterdam.

In this metropolis, she formed a studio with her daughters to produce and sell scientific and decorative paintings, made business connections, and trained apprentices, including super-famous still-life painter Rachel Ruysch.

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When she was fifty-two, Merian and her youngest daughter Dorthea trekked to the Dutch colony of Suriname in South America to document the insect life there. Among the many life forms Merian encountered was a goliath bird-eating spider, the largest tarantula in the world. Although it rarely eats birds, it is named “bird-eating” because her iconic engraving depicts it eating a hummingbird.

Merian intended to stay in Suriname for five years, but she  returned to Amsterdam after only two to recover from a tropical sickness – something she intensely regretted. She had owned slaves in Suriname, and took back with her an indigenous woman who helped with the details of Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (The Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname), Merian’s most famous book.

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Part of the reason why this book is her most famous is because it was published in Latin – Latin being the scientific language of the day. Its images are reproduced from Merian’s vibrant, minutely-detailed watercolors. I found a life-size, full-color English and Dutch edition, based on the original 1705 printing held by the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands) available to buy. (Click on the link to see the videos – I love the last one by Emmy Storm that animates the bugs!)

Merian continued to paint and publish until her death in 1717 at age 69. Her work was widely known and praised, and it is said that Tsar Peter the Great bought her watercolors the day of her funeral. The German poet Goethe was enamored of how she struck the perfect balance “between art and science, between nature observation and artistic intention.”

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Her daughters continued her legacy and their own scientific-artistic careers: Johanna Helena had joined her merchant husband to live in Suriname in 1711, and Dorothea Maria moved to St. Petersburg in 1718 to paint specimens from the Tsar’s collection; the Russian Academy of Sciences hired her to give museum tours, their first female employee.

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I would like to note that Merian’s work has been attacked over the centuries for being scientifically inaccurate, but the vast majority of mistakes were actually errors added to subsequent editions of her work after her death. Additionally, in several cases, what appeared to be mistakes were later proven correct: these include the sphinx moth’s split tongue, tarantulas eating birds, and ants crawling over each other to form bridges.

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Links for Maria Sibylla Merian:

Tarot Feature: Tarot Nova

Tarot Feature: Tarot Nova

(crossposted at Ridley the Fool)

You may be surprised to know that Tarot Nova* is the only deck I actually own, despite all my Tarot Features. My mom bought it for me many years ago, and at first I didn’t like Julie Paschkis‘s simple, Medieval woodblock style. But it’s really grown on me and now I like it quite a bit. It’s whimsical and fantastic – just looking at the Knights, you’ll see that three of them have pretty non-traditional mounts.

The Knight of Pentacles rides a turtle, the Knight of Cups rides a dolphin, the Knight of Wands rides a horse, and the Knight of Swords rides a bald-headed eagle.

The cards are small – good for small hands, and almost square. The corners are rounded (love it) and color-coded: purple for Major Arcana, red for wands, yellow for swords, blue for cups, and green for pentacles. On the downside, they are too thick and smooth to shuffle normally, and their shininess makes them hard to photograph.

I would also not recommend the Tarot Nova for beginners, as its imagery departs somewhat from Rider-Waite-Smith and can be confusing. For example, the IV of Swords represents rest, but Tarot Nova’s boxed-in person projects a feeling of confinement and being trapped and uncomfortable. So sometimes I ignore the imagery altogether, but other times it can help.

In general, though, Tarot Nova is a charming deck and great for petite-handed readers.

*It’s not actually called Tarot Nova – it’s sold in several (?) versions: I’ve seen a super-tiny deck, a “Fortune Telling Kit”, and a “Tarot: the Complete Kit” (the one I have).

My art: sea turtle

My art: sea turtle

seaturtle

This is a colored pencil sea turtle based on the one in Stephanie Pui-Mun Law‘s Queen of Cups watercolor. It was supposed to be a gift, but then I accidentally sprayed it with adhesive instead of fixative… yep. It is Artist Trading Card sized, 2.5 by 3.5 inches.

Art Discovery: Sailor Moon Cosmos Arc

Art Discovery: Sailor Moon Cosmos Arc

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So this is interesting: the Sailor Moon Cosmos Arc, a fan manga (doujinshi) made by digitally altering Naoko Takeuchi’s original manga images. The fan artist is OhtoriArt (formerly Vivian exMoon), who is also an avid cosplayer.

(I suggest not reading it unless you’ve read/seen all the Sailor Moon stories to avoid spoilers. Also, read it right-to-left.)

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I think even the goal of this doujinshi is impressive – first, you have to have a story idea, plot it out, write it, and storyboard it. Then, among the many volumes of Sailor Moon, you have to search for the closest original image that you can work with. Then you have to alter it the way you want and match the alterations’ visual quality to the source material.

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Original on the left, modified version on the right
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Original on the left, modified version on the right

Here are some more examples of just how extensive the modifications can be. I have a little retouching experience – it’s hard! It takes a lot of Photoshop layers, that’s for sure.

Head over to the Acts page to start reading!

Tarot Feature: Tarot of Trees

Tarot Feature: Tarot of Trees

(crossposted at Ridley the Fool)

I love Dana Driscoll’s Tarot of Trees – so vibrant! Also I love trees.

Driscoll says that she started the project because she couldn’t find a Tarot deck that really spoke to her, so she decided to make her own. She painted the images in watercolor, acrylic, and ink – you can definitely see the watercolor in the winter skies of the pentacles. The original paintings were four by five-and-a-half inches and took a bit over a year to make. Head on over to her Process page to see several in-progress photos of the Three of Swords – I like how she builds up the background.

The deck comes in two forms: a physical one and as an app made by The Fool’s Dog, an app company specializing in Tarot.

Below are some of my favorite cards.

The Fool
The High Priestess
The Moon
The World
Page of Swords
Ten of Wands
Nine of Pentacles
Page of Pentacles
Queen of Pentacles
My art: I’m a plant mom!!

My art: I’m a plant mom!!

I ordered seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and planted them at the beginning of April. I was inspired by Stardew Valley to start growing my own food, and eventually I’d like to have enough plants that I can save some money with a container garden.

Little did I know that from this practical desire would spring intense delight and love! I have fallen head over heels for the little sprouts that came up! Actually some are still emerging and I squee over every new one.

Here are some photos (please forgive my terrible phone camera):

Cabbage sprouts at three and half days!
Cabbage sprouts a day or two later
Tomato sprout
Stinging nettle sprout – so tiny!