Friday, December 13, 2013

SKY book

Everything in the world exists so it can end up as a book.

Stéphane Malarmé

The potential for reproducing an image accurately has become impressive.  Recently I have gotten digital prints of my drawings that are so close to the original it is a bit frightening.
Whereas I don't intend to go in league with those who sell their digital work in the same arena as original prints such as etchings and woodcuts, I am thrilled to be able to use the process to print posters and illustrate my books.

I used the digital images of the drawing mounted on the SKY cabinet, inside and out, for my most recent artist's book. Each element is paired with a poem or work of prose written specifically for the book. I am grateful to the writers for their generosity in working with me on this project.

The writers involved in order of appearance in the book:  Arnold Klein / Night Sky,  Bill Harris / Mars,  Arno Klein / Hugo Bristol,  Sarah Hart / Moon,  Henrietta Slote / Herakles,  Barrett Klein / Scorpio Rising,  Christopher Leland / Sol Invictus - Father's Regret,   Korinthia Klein / Saturn,  Alison Rogers Napoleon / Conversations with Uranus.

Sol Invictus may have been the final poem by Christopher Leland at the end of his life. He was a fine writer and an inspiring instructor who is deeply missed.

The cover of the book is a combination of paper with white wax dots, rhinestones and beads sewn on,  buttons, press on sparkles and touches of glitter glue.  The title page paper is metallic marble.
The digital images are printed in acid free inks on acid free paper by Eric Law of Color Ink Studio.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


"If it takes the entire army and navy to deliver a postal card in Chicago, that card will be delivered.” 

There are so many fascinating people who have contributed to the study of our world who are no longer remembered on a grand scale.  That said, when I "discover" someone it often turns out they appear in almost every book in my library - I have just been skimming over them, going on to something that seemed more interesting or currently vital.  They lurk, preparing to amaze me.

I found Gilbert White in John K. King's used and rare book store in downtown Detroit.  The Natural History of Selborne - never heard of it - but it looked interesting and it was in my price range.  It is a charming, quiet, book of observations of nature written by a clergy man who spent his entire life in the countryside he loved.  The book was published by his brother in 1789 and has never been out if print since.  If you do a search you will find an incredible number of editions.  There are enough to make it perhaps the 4th largest number of books in English.

White, an autodidact, is often compared with Jean-Henri Fabre, the great entomologist born in 19th century France.  Fabre came from great poverty, rising above all obstacles to write books on insects which are still read today for the quality of their information and their poetic style.  He too devoted his entire life to the study of his native territory.

I have begun a mail art project which I hope will arouse interest in some of the people I have been learning about.

The first mailing was posted to unsuspecting recipients and honored the birthday of Gilbert White on July 18, 1720.  There is no death date listed - for me he is still alive.  I used a bird to represent him as he is known by many for his work with ornithology.

The second mailing is in small book form which includes a short biography and quotes about insects by Fabre.  Many of the people who will receive this book are accustomed to finding a "solstice present" in their mail box.  It will be the 16th in a series of 6" square books published annually.

My plan is to do mailings during the next couple of years, honoring the birthdays of naturalists whose work I find compelling or eccentric.  Some of my favorites will be missing such as Luca Ghini who is stated as having been born in 1490 but the month and day are unknown.

The actual Mail Art is, of course, limited but can be viewed here in virtual form, now and in the future.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

John Burroughs

After honoring the great astronomers Galileo,  Caroline Herschel and Tyco Brahe I stepped back to look and realized that inadvertently I had also honored 3 of the 5 senses - touch, sight and smell.  It seemed silly to stop there - ignoring hearing and taste.

A logical selection for HEARING was Ptolomy who worked with the concept of Music of the Spheres first postulated by Pythagorus.  
The featured ear belongs to Lee Ptolomy Jackson, an artist and friend.  It resides on planet Earth which was then considered the center of the universe.  The other planets, the sun and the moon were each embedded in in their own sphere made of ether and rotating around the earth.  The layers were: Earth, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and then the firmament of stars and beyond that the crystalline Heaven.  
Ptolemy wrote an influential book called Harmonics that dealt with music theory and mathematical proportions.  He believed the same concept of harmonics was present in all things including the movements and relationships of the planets.  It is unclear as to whether this included actual sound or was simply mathematical theory.

TASTE was the greatest challenge to add to the sky.  I could not determine an astronomer who qualified to represent this sense.  Instead it falls to the 17th century French Benedictine monk Dom Perignon and a fictitious but incredibly appealing quote  attributed to him when he discovered champagne. 

 "Come quickly!  I am drinking the stars." 

Unfortunately he also did not invent the beverage.  That may have been an English man.   It is another charming falsehood.  I will replace this drawing with something more credible should a tasty astronomer be located.

Monday, May 13, 2013


Yet just as the day has two halves, one governed by the sun and the other by the moon, so there are many people of the day and who busy themselves with daytime deeds, whilst others are children of the night, their minds consumed by nocturnal notions; but yet there are some in whom the two merge like the rising of the sun and the moon in the day.

Aino Kallas

As companions to the night images of Arno and Barrett's portraits there are the two drawings that represent day and night - the sun flower with the golden host of butterflies and the moonflower with its ghostly butterflies and moths.  I have done a series of drawings using the idea of butterflies and moths camouflaged in a night sky - their markings helping them to pretend they are stars, galaxies, explosions. 

IO is a drawing dedicated to the moon of Jupiter discovered by Galileo.  The brightest moth, almost in the center of the drawing, is an Io moth, Automeris io, and below it is a butterfly called the Peacock, Inachis io.  The rest of the cast is working to blend into the night sky.  The Seurat-like border of the drawing is my interpretation of the one of the Hubble telescope photographs of the farthest realms of outer space.

FLY was drawn in honor of the retirement of Susan Gold from the art department of the University of Windsor.  Susan is one of my favorite artists and deserves the time to fly on her own.  It is a very difficult thing to achieve as an artist.

Paplionidae Paplio paris is perhaps my favorite butterfly.  It is a beautiful name for a radiant creature. This is the most recent and may be the last in this series. Drawing dots can be addictive and also exhausting.  If there is one more it might be only black and white butterflies and moths with perhaps more color in the sky.

All of the specimens were drawn from the collection of the University of Michigan.   The curator of the collection, Mark O'Brien, has kindly given me access to the insect range and space to draw.
It is very much like what I imagine heaven would be.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


Night does not show things it suggests them.  It disturbs and surprises us with its strangeness.  It liberates forces within us which are dominated by our reason during the daytime.




ARNO & BARRETT @ NIGHT:   Identical twins are similar in profound ways while remaining  unique in all respects.  In these two portraits Arno and Barrett are surrounded by the energy of the heavens filled with many specimens of amazing insects.  Everything is in equal measure.  Find a beetle from the family Cerambycidae in one drawing and you will eventually find another of a different species in the other.  The stories balance one another - two parts of one puzzle.

Some people consider themselves day people and others will tell you they are best activated at night.  I would consider myself in the latter category.  I don't believe these two men are limited to any hour on the clock or season of the year.  

Monday, April 29, 2013


Your children will smash your understanding, knowledge and reality.  You will be better off.  Then they leave. You'll miss them forever.

Tibor Kalman



Until recently I have had only the slightest interest in drawing people.  They are rarely found in still life drawings which have been the main focus of my work for many years. 

Arno and Barrett are our identical twin sons.  They are remarkable artists, writers and scientists. 
They are also two of the most original, funniest and kindest people I have ever met.  Walk anywhere with them and you will see more and you will always learn something new.  They (along with their amazing sister Korinthia, who will appear later in this blog) are my best "works".

I was inspired to include Barrett in the Insect Installation, as he opened the door to that kingdom for me.  He began his pursuit of entomology when at the age of 5 he found a dead butterfly in our driveway.  From then on it was the major focus of his interest. He has generously allowed me to visit him as he has pursued his adventures and his education.  He is the inspiration for my interest in natural history museums.  Arno's interests are less accessible to me as they include the realms of computers beyond my reach and the study of brains that goes even further away.  Despite that, he is approachable and wonderful with his ability to include anyone who is interested in his work.  Both are admirable, generous scientists.  

All three of our children have taught me to be more rigorous in my thinking - always question! Conversations with them are exciting and profitable.

In the cabinet of sons and insects  Barrett is surrounded by bees as his PhD work was involved with bees and sleep.  Arno is surrounded by mantids and stick insects because they seem to suit him and they also relate to forms of martial arts which have been a part of his life.

This is the outside of the cabinet.  Further posts will explore the inside when the doors open... 

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Close-up views of the front doors of the cabinet:

I did my first drawing of a hawk moth acting like a Phoenix for an artist's book I made called "WAIT WAIT".  That image is inside the book which is usually tucked away on a shelf.  I love the visual concept so much that I decided to use it again on the cabinet doors where it would be seen more often.

Originally the breaking or flaming on the petals of  tulips was the result of a virus carried by an aphid.  The most famous of these early tulips was named Semper Augustus which appeared at the end of Tulipmania in Holland when crazy speculation in bulbs brought down their economy.  Today the effect is achieved by breeding and not disease.

The lily isn't really as appropriate as the tulip but it does have a wonderful grasping twist as if it is trying to hold onto the beautiful beast that is making an escape.

The band of butterflies beneath each main drawing has an almost subterranean look as if it were the ground itself holding onto the plants.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


24 portraits inside the Insect Cabinet: