Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Month: December 2013

Artdog Quote of the Week

The quirky, talented artist John Hendrix created this collage for St. Louis Design Week.  I thought it was a great thought and a cool image with which to close out the year.

IMAGE CREDIT: John Hendrix gave me permission to use his image, which I found here. Please give yourself the visual treat of browsing his website and blog!

A participant dressed as Krampus parades past onlookers on his Krampus vehicle on November 30, 2013 in Neustift im Stubaital, Austria. The machine appears to be an ATV with headlight and a glowing, horned cow skull (with glowing eyes) mounted on the front, bedecked with long-haired goat skins.

You think Halloween is Scary? Try Yuletide!

For a walk on the wilder side of the holiday season, try Yuletide. As it’s re-enacted in Central Europe, Yuletide hearkens back to ancient European traditions of a much darker, scarier nature than we usually associate with holiday . . . cheer?

A member of the Haiminger Krampusgruppe dressed as the Krampus creature, in rams’ skins and a mask complete with curly ram’s horns, glaring eyes, an enormous nose and a snarling mouth with fangs, carries a “delinquent” little boy. Tradition says the Krampus will now take him to Hell to transform him into the demon-like Krampus. This event took place on the town square during their annual Krampusnacht in Tyrol, on December 1, 2013 in Haiming, Austria.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images, courtesy of The Atlantic.

Think You’re Ready to try Yuletide? Meet Krampus.

Forget the bogeyman. Krampus is the terrifying opposite of St. Nicholas’ sweetness and light. He, too, carries a sack–but his is NOT full of toys and candy.  He uses it to capture naughty children and carry them off to Hell.


The magazine The Atlantic recently posted an online slideshow of images of costumed “Krampus” figures that are a feature of Yuletide festivities in Central Europe. I chose several to share with you here, but for more explanations and images I urge you to see the whole show.

A member of the Haiminger Krampusgruppe dressed as Krampus hits a fire to release sparks on the town square during their annual Krampusnacht in Tyrol, on December 1, 2013. This photo captures his goatish shape and elaborate horns in silhouette by the flying sparks and flames of the fire pit, wreathed in smoke.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images, courtesy of The Atlantic.
A participant dressed as Krampus walks the streets in search of delinquent children during Krampusnacht on November 30, 2013 in Neustift im Stubaital, Austria. Krampus is a demon-like creature represented by a fearsome, hand-carved wooden mask with animal horns, a suit made from sheep or goat skin and large cow bells attached to the waist that the wearer rings by running or shaking his hips up and down. Photographer Sean Gallup caught this one against a billow of fire-orange smoke.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images, courtesy of The Atlantic.
A man dressed as Krampus, during a traditional Krampus procession in St. Martin near Lofer in Salzburg province, Austria, on December 5, 2009. His goatskins are all dark gray. His white mask, demon-like, red-slashed face, and jagged fangs make him a fearsome sight in the darkness of the Austrian night.
AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson, courtesy of The Atlantic.

The Scariest way to Try Yuletide? By Firelight!

The men in the Krampus outfits spend hundreds of euros for their elaborate traditional costumes. Clearly lots of time and thought goes into these annual traditions. The lighting effects of torches and bonfires in the night add to Krampus figures’ menacing appearance. How many future years of therapy do you think these guys have inspired?

Scary as they may seem in the right light, The guys who design and wear these costumes probably have a load of fun doing it. I have friends who delight in putting on elaborate productions to “haunt” their yards or porches for Halloween. They have kindred spirits in the Alps, I’m sure.

You can’t tell me the guy with the “devil go-kart” didn’t build it in his garage and chortle over how cool it looks in the dark. And as for the “Krampus chariot rides”? What a rush! If you’re going to try Yuletide in its darker traditions, why not go all-in?

A participant dressed as Krampus parades past onlookers on his Krampus vehicle on November 30, 2013 in Neustift im Stubaital, Austria. The machine appears to be an ATV with headlight and a glowing, horned cow skull (with glowing eyes) mounted on the front, bedecked with long-haired goat skins.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images, courtesy of The Atlantic.
A member of the Haiminger Krampusgruppe pulls another on a fiery cart to the town square during the annual Krampusnacht in Haiming, Austria, on December 1, 2013.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images, courtesy of The Atlantic.

Try Yuletide’s “Wild Side” – But Keep a Little “St. Nicholas” in Your Heart

Scary and fearsome as they look, these guys clearly seem to be in it for the fun. Children photographed in the story may look occasionally taken aback, but they’re mostly wise to the make-believe. They know that inside the fur and under the horns, the spirit of St. Nicholas lingers in the hearts of ordinary guys who love putting on a helluva show.

Yuletide blessings to all . . . but watch out for old Krampus!

Prior to Krampusnacht on November 30, 2013 in Neustift im Stubaital, Austria, some 20 participants who arrived by bus gather in a snowy park area. Most are dressed in their goat-skin coats but without their Krampus masks, Amid this "Krampus goat herd" one participant has only half-donned his furs. He's still wearing a red-and-white "St. Nick" hat with its white puffball top bobbing at the top of a curly red spring. Even inside "Krampus," the spirit of St. Nicholas lives on.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images, courtesy of The Atlantic.

About the Author

Author Jan S. Gephardt wrote this post in 2013. In 2023 she updated the photo formats for mobile devices and adjusted the wording some to mesh with contemporary SEO standards. Jan is the Chief Cat-Herder, Manager of Weirdness, Art Director, and Marketing Director for Weird Sisters Publishing LLC. She is the author of the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy, humorous science fiction mystery novels about a pack of sapient police dogs who live on a space station.


Many thanks to The Atlantic for bringing all these photos and more together in their wonderful article by Alan Taylor. Most of the photos are by photographer Sean Gallup/Getty Images, except for the AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson. See cutlines for which is which. Many thanks to all!

Artdog Quote of the Week

Here’s a thought for the Holidays.

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo and design are by Jan S. Gephardt. If you wish to use them please give attribution and link-back.  May your holidays be warm and bright!

A New Sound from an Old Sketchbook

Leonardo Da Vinci strikes again! Well, with a lot of help from his friends and admirers.

Especially with the help of one particular Polish admirer and astonishing polymath named Slawomir Zubrzycki.  He took a look at this drawing and made a whole lot more sense of it than I can:

Meet Da Vinci’s invention, the “viola organista,” as drawn in his sketchbook.

Here is a video from the AFP News Agency that gives you both a glimpse of the instrument in action, and a taste of its sound:

Give yourself a moment to sit back, maximize your screen for a good view, and listen to this amazing new sound, extrapolated from the pages of one of Leonardo’s sketchbooks.

Here’s another video, showing Zubrzycki at the keyboard, performing about ten and a half minutes worth of music for a concert audience in Krakow, Poland.  This video was recorded Oct. 18, 2013 at the International Royal Cracow Piano Festival:

I wanted a closer look at this instrument, and I thought you might, too:

Mr. Zubrzycki and his amazing construction: no muted hues for Mr. Z!
Here’s one view “under the hood” of the Viola Organista.
And a bit more detailed close-up.  I still don’t know how it works.

I’d like to thank the NPR blog, Deceptive Cadence from NPR Classical, for turning me on to this instrument’s existence.  There also is an interesting article on the background of this instrument on the Musical Assumptions blog by Elaine Fine.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Wikipedia, for Da Vinci’s sketchbook image of the viola organista, shown at the top of this post. Many thanks also to the AFP News Agency and YouTube for the first video, and to Slawomir Zubrzycki and YouTube for the second, longer video. The three photos of Zubrzycki at the keyboard and the “under the hood” views are from Tygodnik Powszechny and Tomaz Wiech/AFP, via Laughing Squid (You may enjoy the accompanying articles, too!).

Artdog Quote of the Week

IMAGE CREDIT: The photo is mine, as is the design.  Please use with attribution and a link back, if you like it.

A Beautiful New ArtHouse in Overland Park!

Nicole Emanuel does not think small.  What is more, she follows through on her big ideas.  Nicole is the founder and Executive Director of the InterUrban ArtHouse in Overland Park, KS, an ambitious and growing organization in the Kansas City metro area.

Interesting visuals are everywhere you turn.

On December 11, 2013, the InterUrban ArtHouse opened its doors in a new, beautiful space that offers a place for a range of programs and events, studio spaces for artists, and even a small retail area for the sale of artwork.

The space is available for rental, but the organization also sponsors several regular events here, too.

I dropped in during the afternoon of the open house and took some pictures. They offer a glimpse of the new space. But you really should come take a look in person, if you’re in the KC metro area!

A flexible open area in the middle of the ArtHouse space offers many possibilities.
Here’s the nook by the Blackberry Castle Productions studio.
Assistant Director Nick Carswell greeted open house guests from the reception desk, aided by a volunteer.
The conference room seems kind of bare, compared to the rest of the space, but it’s functional.
Blackberry Castle’s Reggie Banks, Sr. stands between the reception desk and the small retail area.

IMAGE CREDITS: The InterUrban ArtHouse logo is from the organization’s website.  All the other photos were taken by Jan S. Gephardt, with the ArtHouse staff’s permission.  Please use only with attribution and a link back.

Character Sketches

Who says we only get to be talented at one thing?  Certainly not creative people!

Think of Tony Bennett, who both sings and paints, or Michelangelo Buonarroti, who sculpted marble, painted (including the Sistine Chapel), and also was a noted lyric poet of his time.

Profile image for Les Lethal’s Larryville Blue on Facebook.

We lesser mortals who are creative also can be good at more than one thing.  I’m a  decent artist, I tried to be a good teacher (performance art), and I am working on becoming a published fiction writer.

In the course of doing research for my novel-in-progress, I have come across yet another multi-talented creative person, whom I’d like to introduce here.

Les Lethal is his cartoonist name, but in his “other life” he’s a Denver police officer. I hope his policing is as clear-eyed as his cartooning, because if so he’s an outstanding cop, too.

What I appreciate most are the telling details. The sound authenticity of the caricatures comes through for me in the comments from Les’s audience, 7,287 of whom have “Liked” his Facebook page.

One of Les’s recurring themes is his collections of character-caricatures, offering comical views of various categories of law enforcement officers. The first one I encountered was his Officers Career Progression.

The book I Love a Cop, written as a resource for law enforcement families, outlines a very similar progression of phases in a typical career, only they tell it “straight.” Humorous it may be, but this cartoon also seems to be dead-on accurate.

Knowledgeable comment-writers have remarked on the progression in Career Progression from the belt full of gadgets on the Rookie to the less-cluttered duty belts of the older officers (who have figured out what tools to keep, and which get in their way); the thigh-holster and protein shake carried by the “Rooster,” and many other touches.
Whether your medium is words or pictures, the details are crucial, for a good portrait!

Les also has done a series of The Characters of Law Enforcement. Once again, based on comments, the more you know about these specialties and the individuals who work in them, the more amusing these caricatures seem to be.

Here, with his permission, are The Characters of Law Enforcement, Parts One, Two, and Three:

Here is Part One. No one and nothing is sacred in Larryville, it seems.
Part Two adds to the collection.  Several seem to be responses to comments made on the first image. (For those who need a clue, a “BwaB” is “a Bitch with a Badge.”)
Part Three probably isn’t the end of the series, but it’s the latest one so far. Again, some of these appear to be inspired or informed by comments on earlier images.

Les does not shrink from spoofing anyone, and that includes himself.  He recently produced this little gem for Halloween. Note that it is based rather closely on Part One, shown above.

Recognize anyone?

You don’t have to be on Facebook to see Les’s artwork. Check out his website, Les Lethal Cartoons, especially both his Gallery and Products pages.

IMAGE CREDITS: All images in this post are copyright 2013 by Les Lethal, and may be used ONLY with his express permission (Thanks, Les!)  Please do not re-post or publish any of them without contacting Les and obtaining his permission first!

Artdog Quote of the Week

As artists, we both create places of enchantment . . . and need them.  What is yours?

IMAGE CREDIT: My photography, my design work. Use with attribution and link back if you like it!

iPads for Orangutans in Kansas City: part of a bigger movement

We are just beginning to appreciate the intelligence of other species.  An unexpected side benefit of recent developments in consumer electronics has been an increased ability to explore the realm of non-human intelligence.

And the Kansas City Zoo has enlisted its orangutans in one of those explorations.

The orangutan in this photo is unnamed in my Internet photo source, and I’m not sure what zoo it’s from.  Whoever this orang is, he or she is exploring some of the available apps.

The headline writers have been having a field day with the story (my favorite of the many predictable puns: “There’s an ape for that!”).

But at the heart of it is a project from the New-York-based nonprofit Orangutan Outreach, called Apps for Apes, that seeks to make life in zoos a bit more interesting for the primate species many believe is the next-most intelligent to humans.

This is Iris, of the Smithsonian Zoo, with her “Apps for Apes” iPad.

The Apps for Apes page for Orangutan Outreach explains that “Orangutans are highly intelligent creatures who require mental stimulation to keep from growing bored and depressed.”

It lists three goals of the Apps for Apes project:
“1. To provide stimulating enrichment & immediate gratification for the orangutans using iPads,
“2. To raise awareness among zoo visitors of the critical need to protect orangutans in the wild, and
“3. To promote the conservation efforts of Orangutan Outreach.”

Orangutan Outreach does NOT recommend allowing the apes to hold the iPads themselves, for safety reasons. This is an illustration published by Maclean’s.

One reason why it’s important for orangutans to be happy and interested in life, even when confined to zoos, is that their natural habitat in Sumatra and Borneo is disappearing rapidly. It may be gone as soon as 2022, so the day may soon come when the species must reproduce in zoos, if it is to continue to exist at all.

Having a healthy orangutan population includes their mental health–and with these intelligent apes it’s vital to keep them engaged.

IMAGE CREDITS: The first image of an orangutan using an iPad comes from Bubblenews.  I am not sure where it was taken.  The photo of Iris in DC is from an article on the RedOrbit website. The illustration from Maclean’s accompanies an article that pulls together information about various zoos, the Apps for Apes program, and the studies being conducted by Suzanne MacDonald of York University (York, ON).

Jellyfish Burger, Anyone?

Welcome to what I intend to be an ongoing series of images that visualize concepts in the areas of science, technology, mathematics, and/or engineering (or what we educators call the STEM disciplines).

Here is Jellyfish Burger, by Dave Beck and Jennifer Jacquet

Jellyfish Burger, 2009, by Dave Beck and Jennifer Jacquet

Today’s image made the National Science Foundation‘s list of Best International Science and Engineering Visualizations in 2009.  Unfortunately, things haven’t improved much since then!

The New York Times created a slide show of the winning images, which you may enjoy.  Here’s how the NYT captioned this one:

Jellyfish Burger, Honorable Mention, Illustration
Without changes in global fishing policies, the seafood of the future is rubbery, according to Dave Beck, a digital artist, and Jennifer Jacquet, a marine scientist, creators of this 3D digital composite image. “The jellyfish burger is so close to becoming a reality, we can taste it.”

For a little more information about this image, please see this article from Volume One.

As someone who has started to feel guilty any time I even contemplate eating certain kinds of seafood, this image really hit home for me (to become “part of the solution,” check out the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch lists).

IMAGE CREDIT: Many thanks to the New York Times for this image, and to the National Science Foundation for calling it to everyone’s attention!

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