Darwin’s Dilemma

 “What a book a devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low, and horrible cruel work of nature!” – Charles Darwin, correspondence with Joseph Hooker (1856)

“When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.” – Charles Darwin, On the Origin of the Species (1859)

Charles Darwin, photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron. 1868

Charles Darwin, photographed by                    Julia Margaret Cameron. 1868

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was and English naturalist and geologist who solidified evolutionary theory with his work On the Origin of the Species. While Charles Darwin continues to be a polarizing figure long after his death, many people are unaware of how polarized Darwin was in his own life.  Darwin was heavily involved in the church throughout his life, and even initially attended college to become a clergyman. It was his close observation of nature that brought him to question the concept of intelligent design, specifically the abundance of what he deemed “cruelty” throughout the natural world. His faith continued to dwindle up to the day in 1851 when his daughter Annie died.

Darwin’s Dilemma, 24”x30” mixed media Valerie Herron 2014

Darwin’s Dilemma, 24”x30” mixed media
Valerie Herron 2014

In this piece I wish to explore Darwin’s attempt to reconcile his discoveries in nature with his pre-existing faith. As an artist with a strong reverence of nature, I ask fellow nature-worshippers if these images fall into their visions of veneration. Last, I ask with this piece if cruelty is an inherent quality of nature, or if cruelty is a human projection upon nature.

I created this piece for the exhibition in Curious Gallery PDX. I felt it was in theme with the Victorian’s and their complicated relationship with science. Each image was presented as a separate photo plate within the piece, digital paintings combined with photo elements and treated for vintage effects to create a hybrid of painting and photography. Contemporary and antique visual elements, contemporary and antique sensibilities.

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Faerieworlds, Dead Can Dance, and Portraits

Heh, it’s been about a month, so I suppose it’s time for an update…

Faerieworlds 2012 Summer Festival was amazing, hands down. I drove down to Eugene with my dear friend, Tina, on Friday and Saturday. I ran into so many good friends and danced more in 2 days than I have all year. So necessary. Sadly, I had to come back from Arcadia.

Buddies at Faerieworlds. Clockwise from the bottom: Michael, Tina, Jason, and me.

Back to work. I just completed a portrait sketch for friend and local musician Kenneth Barton. His band Petal Songs is based in Portland and has been together for over a decade. He commissioned this another portrait, and we are talking about album cover design and illustration work coming up in the fall. I’ll continue to post all the work I do for Ken.

A sketch of Kenneth Barton.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a tentative painter. I hate the process of creating a painting when the piece is very important to me. For over a year I have been trying to start this portrait of my dear friend, Eleanor. Over a year ago I conducted a photo-shoot at her house in Seattle to capture the composition and have reference for the piece. Then I did a digital mock-up painting for a study, and then moved on to the actual painting. I restarted it twice. Then I put it aside. Then I did countless tiny studies, scared to death to start working on the actual piece. I finally started working on the final piece this week. I must finish this damn painting before school starts. Here are some pictures of the process so far:

On Friday I will be driving to Seattle to see Dead Can Dance in concert. This has not quite sunk in yet. DCD is largely responsible for most of the music I love. This may be the only concert I’ve ever attended where I get a little star-struck and manic. As manic as one can be while listening to droning incantations and folk dirges. If I can dissociate from my inner 14-year-old enough to notice various details of the concert, I’m hoping I can write a review of it on The Movement of Sound.

There, I’m that is enough update to make up for a month of silence!

Anna Fidler

Hello! I am back from a few weeks of birthday revelry interspersed with a billion projects. I hope the Summer has been as fun and productive for the rest of you. To kick off her newly renovated website, as well as her current exhibition down in Oakland, I wanted to write a bit about the awesome lady I’ve been an artist assistant for for the last few years.

Anna Fidler in the studio with daughter Willow
photo by Sabina Samiee

I first met Anna Fidler my freshman year at PNCA. She was one of my drawing instructors, and at the end of the semester she offered me an internship to work as an artist assistant for her. I have been working for her on and off ever since.

See all those lines? They took months to draw.

In my time assisting at Anna Fidler studios, I’ve helped work on a couple of different series. The first is comprised of several portraits of Victorian Oregonians, the second is centered around iconic women, but I can’t really reveal any more about it for the time being.

As an artist assistant I’ve done everything from research at the Oregon Historical Society, paint pours, transferring line work, applying color and texture with prismacolors, repair, prepping pieces for gallery display, and assisting in physically setting up gallery shows, and I’m sure a bunch of other things that I’m forgetting.

Anna’s style and process of creating these mixed media pieces is unique and fascinating, and I must admit it has definitely rubbed off on me in my own work.

Mister George, by Anna Fidler
20.25 x 15.25 inches Acrylic and colored pencil on paper 2012

Pieces from the 1st series, Vampires and Wolfmen, are currently exhibited at the Johansson Projects Gallery in Oakland, CA. The series will also be exhibited in Portland at the Charles Hartman Gallery later in the year, and in September the series will be exhibited at the Portland Art Museum. I will announce the dates as they come in. I urge everyone to go see the work in person. And once again, you can find out all of her background info and about her other work at her website: http://annafidler.com/

I must now get back to watercolor studies and writing comics. Soon I’ll have something I can actually share 😉

The May Queen

My last project in Experiments in Drawing. We had a model come in for the last 2 classes and we were supposed to think of how to super-impose the model into a drawing.

I took some sketches of the model for reference. I drew the linework in graphite and ink, and then I scanned it in and colored everything in photoshop. The three hares are from a previous drawing of mine.

It’s not very experimental, nor is it very dark, but believe me: wheat takes an impressively long time to draw. Fact.

May Queen: digital media, Valerie Herron 2012

I spent the last few hour working on my promo-pack, which is my final in Cultural Marketplace. Once that’s finished I’ll post it up here. Wow, this is my last week of school. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel!

Self Portrait

Latest assignment for my drawing class. I decided to go digital with this one. I scanned in the line work, which I did with graphite and ink, and then colored the rest in photoshop.

Margaret Cho, to be Continued…

Here is a portrait I was drawing this morning of Margaret Cho, which I will have to come back to.

Now that my thumbnails are done, I can get to work drawing for my Alchemy project. So excited.

Later today I will be doing some photography for my next project featuring poems by Aleister Crowley. Stay Tuned.

 

Secret Project Finally Revealed!

I must apologize to my facebook followers who have been anticipating this moment, I’m not sure it is as epic as warranted by 3 weeks of secrecy.

A while ago Lucretia Renee Rathmann – proprietress of Dark Fusion Boutique – asked me to create some illustrations for DFB. She wanted me to use photographs from the website for reference, which was sweet, since she is a great photographer. First I came up with this:

Portrait of Lucretia Renee Rathmann - ink and aquarelle, 2012

For reference, I used a DFB photo taken by the insanely talented Christopher Perez. For the rest of the DFB images, I wanted to mute the models a bit so the clothing would pop a bit more. I created the foreground images and the DFB logo in the same style as Lucretia’s portrait, (sans heavy shadows on the models) then brought the images into photoshop and completed them there. I also did 3 variations of each, so there is a white, black, and red version of each model. Here is the result:

Dark Fusion Boutique: Heather - mixed media/digital, 2012

Dark Fusion Boutique: Ashley - mixed media/digital, 2012

Dark Fusion Boutique: Korina - mixed media/digital, 2012