February 2020 In Celtic lore, deep winter is a particularly spiritual time for bears. What better focus, then, for this mid-winter issue. One of my all-time favorite animals, it's a pleasure to put the spot-light on them. Enjoy!
If you're interested in a wonderful black bear rescue organization, visit Idaho Black Bear Rehab at bearrehab.org
Twice I’ve had the experience of looking at a photo of a mother bear and her cubs and being overwhelmed with a desire to crawl into the photo and live with them. Needless to say, bears hold a great fascination with me. And they’ve been an animal of prime importance to mankind for thousands of years. Joseph Campbell believed bear cults were older than shamanism. The great British hero, King Arthur’s name is from a Celtic word for bear. Celtic mothers placed jet amulets carved in the shape of bears in their children’s cradles to protect them.
Bears, the European brown bear to be specific, were abundant in Britain before the last Ice Age, but rare afterwards. In England, they’re thought to have gone extinct in the wild around 500 AD. Their natural habitat is dense ancient wood, a habitat which originally covered England, but today makes up only 2% of the land area.
Bear Wood is a project of the Bristol Zoological Society aiming to convert 7.5 acres of ancient wood (undisturbed by man since 1600 AD at the latest) to a sanctuary for four ancient British species which are now lost in the wild – bear, wolf, lynx, and wolverine. A visit to Bear Wood is now on my bucket list!
This is a gourd I painted with a bear theme. It's a European brown bear, and there are small images around the gourd of motifs related to the bear. The handle on the lid is a cluster of quartz crystals, and I've glued round moonstone cabochons around the gourd to represent stars.
Sorry about the glare on these photos - it's the varnish on the gourd. By the way, this gourd is a large one, about 12" tall.
What could be more iconic that California's state symbol in a field of California poppies? Well, I think I'm a little off here because the state symbol is a grizzly bear whereas this is a black bear, the grizzly's smaller, gentler cousin. By the way, this is an alkyd painting (kin to oil paints, but faster drying).
Black bears are my favorite bears—well, with the possible exception of polar bears. They live around here, but I’ve never seen one. I’m pretty sure I heard one though.
It was the middle of a summer night and my Great Pyrenees wanted to go out. She often wanted out in the middle of the night and would be outside for a while, so it was my practice to go back to bed, waiting to hear her scratch on the door to come back in. This night, though, she was barking like a maniac. It went on and on and on.
Finally, I realized she might have a raccoon treed, so decided to go out and try to get her back inside. I stood on the back porch calling her—to no effect, of course. Suddenly, everything went perfectly quiet. It was eerie. Then I heard a loud huffing sound from the trees, maybe about 20 feet away.
In a moment, I saw a white shape in the darkness, getting slowly larger and larger, nearer and nearer. It was my dog Fiona. She was slowly backing up, a move I’ve never seen before or since. And her hair was standing on end. I think it was a bear, but only Fiona knows for sure!
Inspiration is Where you Find It
Inspiration can come from the strangest places—in this case, the names of quilt blocks. Quilting is something I did quite a bit of earlier in life and I especially enjoyed piecing (as opposed to applique). Once I began working with collage, I realized it would be an interesting exercise to collage a quilt block, so I got out my scissors and a Sundance Catalog. Those catalogs have the most beautiful images and color palettes. In fact, I think you could cut pieces from one of those catalogs at random and they’d go together beautifully.
Anyway, I chose ‘bear’s paw,’ and I also did one of ‘flying geese’ and ‘cat’s cradle.’ I chose quilt blocks with animals in their names because I wanted to add drawings of the animals.
I did the bear drawing with Sepia acrylic ink on deli paper, having discovered that motifs on deli paper can be added to a collage with the deli paper mostly visually disappearing.
Finally, I added ink-work leafy branches and swirls and stamped the name of the quilt block on the piece.
The only trouble I had is that the acrylic ink is only water resistant, not waterproof. Despite spraying the deli paper with workable fixative before I added it to the collage, the water-based adhesive (Liquitex mat medium) smeared the ink, though I worked quickly to try to minimize the smearing.
I'm offering you, my precious subscribers, a 15% discount in my Etsy shop. (Please note this discount does not apply to any of the items in the bear section because I donate the proceeds from sales from this section to Idaho Black Bear Rehab.) The offer applies to everything else in the shop - all items hand made by me. From February 2 to February 115, just use discount code FEBOFF15 at checkout. I ship the day after I receive your order, and shipping is free. Click on the image above to go to my shop!
This Month's Free Downloadable Art
This bear, like all her kin, has a special connection to the spiritual world, and I've tried to capture it in this pencil drawing tinted with transparent acrylic washes. Click on the image and it will open in a new window (from dropbox.com). You’ll see the image, and at the upper right of the window you’ll see three little dots. Click on them to open a menu, then choose “download.” Please note that this image is copyright protected. I’m sharing it for your personal use only. Also, it's 3.83 mb.
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