Sunday, August 23, 2009

Aleta Wynn Yarrow's 'Guardians'

Aleta Wynn Yarrow, Guardians
Acrylic; 18" x 36"

I’ve always enjoyed learning about other artists’ processes. Whatever the media, something nearly always translates, becomes useful, inspires. Recently, I talked with my friend Aleta Wynn Yarrow about her painting Guardians. Here’s some of what she had to say.

Guardians is an intuitive piece that had its genesis in fairy tales and archetypes. I have always loved stories, especially the old stories. There are themes and images that recur, like the number three, a key, a castle, and animals such as the owl, fox and horse. What I set out to do is to paint a narrative painting, not in the sense that it has implied action, but in the sense that it contains archetypes from fairy tales for place, character, and object.

So, there is the night, the cloud, the constellation, the tree and the seed
to represent "place." All these symbols have deep layers and resonate in many directions, many dimensions. Night, for instance, is a symbol for refuge, sleep and dreams, for magic and the awakening of the fairy realm, for romance, for mystery, but also for evil and dark forces. Now each of those is just skimming the surface of possibility. One could write a book about the meaning and symbolism of the night. The same is true of the other symbols, particulary "tree."

The "characters" are the birds. Three is the "magic" number: man, woman,
child originally, but well adopted by religions over the millenia. In fairy tales, there are always three brothers, or events transpire three times. An artist's magic 3 is, of course, the primary pallette: red, yellow, blue. The "characters" in the painting are a scarlet tanager, a goldfinch, and an indigo bunting. The owl is the guardian, keeper of the key, and symbol of wisdom, intuition, and vision: a sort of artist's muse.

The key is the key to the painting. It is the "object," and the clue that
the artist intends more than decoration. In fairy tales, keys open doors to horrors, doors to treasures, and doors to lost loved ones.

You have the pieces and the symbols, but you have no action. That is what
you, the viewer must supply. From the vast storehouse of tales in your common memory, from the vast possibility of symbolic meanings, what meaning, what story can you create with the beginning given here? This is what I intended: an illustration for a story yet to be written.

Guardians was painted with matte acrylics on paper mounted onto stretched canvas; size is 18” x 36”.

Aleta is currently working with illustrator Johanna van der Sterre to offer "Nature's Story" wall tiles. These tiles are designed primarily for schools and libraries, and are nature-inspired, combining picture, narrative elements, and words. The project includes both stand-alone murals and series: “Like a picture book,” Aleta says, “on the wall. Children will be able to walk down the hall, reading and touching.”

Aleta’s work will be showcased at West End Gallery, Corning, September 4- October 8. Opening reception is Friday, September 4, 5-7:30. For more, visit and Aleta’s website,

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Simon's Cat

If you're a cat person, or if you just like funny, you need to check out Simon's Cat, a series of short films by English animator Simon Tofield. Tofield creates his films with Adobe Flash, and draws each frame- up to 25 per second are required- with a Wacom pen and tablet. Here's his most recent, Fly Guy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Walk In The Moonlight

A Walk In The Moonlight
Ink, Graphite, Charcoal; 2 1/4" x 4 3/4"

Yesterday I gave this drawing to a friend. I’d decided some time ago that I wouldn’t sell this one, and it’s hung over my computer since. But selling and giving are two very different things, and I’ll always be glad I gave it to him. John, if ever you read this- Well, you’re just the best, that’s all.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What Are The Odds

It's a small thing, really. We're in Borders, in Ithaca, at the newsstand. La Petit Chou thumbing disinterestedly through remarkably samish glossy artsmagazines, me I'm reading up on New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal bands and mentally crossing off those I already know need to work on their chops some. No names mind you, sure I'm a metalhead but no unkind. And then I see this pencil on the floor. It's black and about half-used up, and looks something like the water-soluble Aquarelles I used to like. But when I pick it up, it's a promo pencil from a long-closed Elmira frame shop where La Petit Chou worked fifteen years ago or so. A small thing, but it makes you wonder. How many of these are still around, and why here where we'd find it, etc. Nowhere much to go with all that- Makes you take notice, but of what exactly? Does provide though a fine satisfying opportunity to say, just like Judi Dench at the end of that Vin Diesel movie, Now what are the odds of that.

New to the links list: Ithaca artist Christi Sobel's blog The Tree With The Lights In It. We've admired Christi's work for awhile, and her blog is a good one too.

Pics from the 2009 West End Gallery picnic up on my fb, more on La Petit Chou's.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Catharine Valley Trail

Along a half-mile spur of the Catharine Valley Trail, south of the Mountour trailhead.

This spur crosses Catharine Marsh before rejoining the main trail along the hillside.

Approaching the trailhead at South Genesee Street. A plaque inset in the opposite side of this sign honors trail founder Ed Hoffman of Elmira; I haven't yet learned the significance of the W on the sign's north face. But I like it.

Edit: My thanks to the commenter who explained that the 'W' indicates that the trainman needed to blow the whistle for an upcoming crossing.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Two More From The 'Tage

Sometimes when I haven't listened to these guys for awhile, I forget just how good Savatage was. The Gutter Ballet video, from 1989.

The Somewhere In Time/Believe medley from the Criss Oliva Memorial Concert, with Jon Oliva on vocals.