A woolly mammoth (by me) and a poem for winter solstice.
O Winter! bar thine adamantine doors:
The north is thine; there hast thou built thy dark
Deep-founded habitation. Shake not thy roofs,
Nor bend thy pillars with thine iron car.
He hears me not, but o’er the yawning deep
Rides heavy; his storms are unchain’d, sheathed
In ribbed steel; I dare not lift mine eyes;
For he hath rear’d his sceptre o’er the world.
Lo! now the direful monster, whose skin clings
To his strong bones, strides o’er the groaning rocks:
He withers all in silence, and in his hand
Unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life.
He takes his seat upon the cliffs, the mariner
Cries in vain. Poor little wretch, that deal’st
With storms; till heaven smiles, and the monster
Is driven yelling to his caves beneath Mount Hecla.
William Blake (1757–1827)
Spirits of Samhain (illustration by Squeaking Cat)
‘Twas the dusky Hallowe’en —
Hour of fairy and of wraith,
When in many a dim-lit green,
‘Neath the stars’ prophetic sheen,
As the olden legend saith,
All the future may be seen,
And when — an older story hath —
Whate’er in life hath ever been
Loveful, hopeful, or of wrath,
Cometh back upon our path.
Extract from Song of the Deathless Voice
by Abram Joseph Ryan, 1880
Today my sketch commemorates St Wite’s feast day which falls on the 1st of June. In the Dorset village of Whitchurch Canonicorum during the 16th-century there was a local custom of offering her cakes and ale on this day.
She is also known as St White, Whyte or Witta. Not much is known about her and she could have been an Anglo-Saxon, Welsh or Breton saint (she is known as Candida or Blanche in Brittany).
She is one of two saints (the other being Edward the Confessor) whose shrines survive the English Reformation intact. Her 13th-century shrine is located in the north transept of St Candida Church, Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset (England). It was opened in 1900 and fragments of bones and teeth were found as well as a leaden casket with the inscription Hie Reqeset Reliqe See Witey containing even more bones. The shrine has three oval openings which handkerchiefs and other small articles were traditionally placed to gain healing properties and then given to the sick.
More details are found on the Dorset County Museum website.
A contemporary statue of St Wite has been set high upon the exterior of St Candida Church, Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset. And this is 3D photogrammetric model of it is for those who can’t make the pilgramage to west England today.
Happy Winter Solistice!
My painting is a reconstruction of what a horse looked like during the time of the Ice Age based on cave paintings. Representations of horses and other animals were carved, painted and drawn by Upper Palaeolithic artists and grace the walls of several European caves. The most famous examples are found in Lascaux and Chauvet in France and Altimera in Spain.
Cave painting of a horse from Lascaux
This equine image from Lascaux (dating approximately 17,000 years ago) reveals features similar to the Jungarian horse or Przewalski’s horse, which is known as the takhi in Mongolia. It is dun coloured with a big white belly and has a dark brown mane. Other cave paintings also feature horses in their winter coats with long hair around the jaw and hoofs. The frozen body of a Pleistocene stallion known as the Selerikan horse was found in Siberian permafrost in 1968 and its preserved hide confirms the accuracy of the Upper Palaeolithic paintings.
Horse bones have been found in Britain at sites such as the Pin Hole Cave, Creswell Crags, Derbyshire (dating around 50,000 to 45,000 BCE) and Kent’s Cavern, Devon. So far there is not much evidence with regards to art from the Upper Palaeolithic in the UK, let alone equine depictions. A bone with an engraving of a horse’s head, however, was found in Robin Hood Cave in the Creswell Crags. It was originally known as the ‘Ochre Horse’ (dating approx. 13,000 to 11,000 years old) and now resides in the British Museum collections. At the moment, the Ochre Horse is the only piece of Upper Palaeolithic portable art with an animal depiction found in Britain.
In my last blog I featured my dodo illustration that was created in Photoshop.
A couple months ago I discovered the Smoothie-3D website which can transform 2D images into 3D models. I was intrigued in what it could do and decided to add some depth to my dodo. It has been a fun experiment for me as I dip my toes into the world of 3D modelling.
Visit my dodo model by clicking on the Sketchfab portal below and have fun taking my dodo for a spin !
The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) has been the object of curiosity and ridicule ever since its discovery in Mauritius by Europeans around the end of the 16th century. Regretfully, it was brought to extinction in the late 17th century by island settlers, but lived on through establishing its own particular mythical status.
It was during September 1865 that the first dodo fossilised bones were discovered in the Mare aux Songes marsh, Mauritius. Not only was this important to the advancement of Victorian natural history, but the discoverer realised it would also be equally important in advancing his finances. The abundance of bird skeletons found was downplayed as it would help keep the market price inflated when sold to collectors and museum collections.
The poor dodo not only became an emblem of the carelessness that leads to the extinction of a living species, but also a powerful symbol fuelling our collective imaginations ever since. Perhaps, the most celebrated dodo in fiction comes from the pages of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, which was wonderfully illustrated by John Tenniel.
The dodo continues to be drawn upon in literary works up to the present day. It is one of many rare and strange creatures encountered in Veronica Cossanteli’s delightful children’s novel, The Extincts (Extincts webpage at The Chicken House). I created a black and white dodo colouring sheet for Veronica a while ago, but couldn’t resist colouring it up myself (as seen above).
Recommended further reading on the controversy of the discovery of dodo fossils in the 19th century:
J.P. Hume, A.S. Cheke and A. McOran-Campbell 2009. How Owen ‘stole’ the Dodo: Academic rivalry and disputed rights to a newly-discovered subfossil deposit in nineteenth century Mauritius. Historical Biology, vol. 21, Nos. 1–2, pp. 33–49. Pdf version
This is my working illustration (right) which captures the essence of the Paper Galleon paper mâché sculpture created by Jessica Palmer (left). Along the bottom of the hull swims the figure of a mermaid. The sculpture was purchased by the Friends of Southamption’s Museums, Archives and Galleries (FoSMAG) for the Southampton City Council art collection. It now hangs in an upper storey window of Tudor House located in the heart of old Southampton (Hampshire, UK). The illustration was commissioned by the Friends to commemorate their 40th Anniversary this year. My working illustration featured above is the prototype painted in brown tones. The final is cast in shades of blue.