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The insects


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Sometimes we carve an insect, that's why we learn our object, but, as a rule, all insects are very small. I hope these photos will help to us! I found several macro-photos on one of Russian sites.

Well, there are some photos of the different bugs:

1. Rhaphigaster nebulosa :


2. Scarabaeus sacer (Scarabaeidae).


3, 4. Eurydema ornata


5. Graphosoma lineatum


All these bugs are very comfortable objects for carving from mammoth ivory and ebony!






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Guest DFogg

Those are great pictures Natasha, thank you. The black scarab beetle is my favorite although the last one has me thinking about getting an orange T shirt.

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Thank you Natasha! The photos of the insects are very nicely close and detailed! I love to get that close to the critters.


Here is the underside of a cicada I found on the internet, it is not the one from Don. The legs, which I looked at for months, have mostly broken off with all of the handling of it, I am sorry to say.


tibicen_canicularis_3.JPG tibicen_canicularis_2.JPG

tibicen canicularis (It looks male to me, with the plates between the thorax and abdomen. There is also no ovipositer at the tip of the abdomen.)

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Great leaping long-legged ceatures! The third one down, pale green on the yellow flowers, looks more like a katy-did. I carved katydids in porcelain and used celadon glaze to enhance the carving. I'll have to dig for any digital renderings of slides for the katydid, but here is a wood version, carved in a shallower relief than the porcelain would have been carved (I carved the porcelain while the clay was damp, or leather hard.)




"Katydid, Katydid" 1996

Male katydid on a black cherry tree branch on the left, the female on the right, carved from boxwood.


The male katydid rubs the areas near it's wing attachments together usually three times, in intervals which sound like the three sylables of its common name, ka-ty(tee)-did, sometimes it is ka-tee-did'nt. The time of year he begins to sing is when the particular variety of day lily we have in the yard begins to bloom. The snowy tree crickets begin to chime as well. All this is the signal that summer has reached it's end and in several weeks, the days will feel shorter and colder, ending the cacaphony of summer's many sounds.

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I have some photos of moths!

1. Saturnia pyri

2,3,4. I don't know!

5. Laothoe populi L.



Beautiful pictures. I've carved a few bugs but not as intricate as you netsuke guys. The scarab reminds me of Darth Vader. You know that summer is almost here in Arkansas when the box turtles, Terepene ornata, emerge from wherever they go in the winter. If I can figure out how to email pictures I'll send a few.


Thanks again,



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Guest ford hallam



hey Natasha!, those images are truely remarkable and wonderful.


But ( at this point I feel like Simon Cowell).......


I can't help wondering what the point is in desperately trying to copy nature so faithfully. Surely the motivation for any "real" artist would be to express their own experience of life ( whatever that may be ) as an expression of genuine and honest communication.......


these opinions are expressed while under the influence of a slightly subversive 2004 Cab Sav, "Excelsior". from my neck of the woods :)


Do svidanye,



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shouldn't one have a decent idea of what one is to 'interpret'?

I do agree with you, however, that there's more to this than making replicas.

But for those of us unlucky enough not to be able to experience these up close they could constitute a good 'reference'.


1 more hour till the 'weekend' starts..........


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Well, I am the one who might be identified as one who appears to replicate nature. I experience the incredible variety and multitude of insects and plants with awe. I care enough about the surprises and distance from human reference to want to share a point of view that will take a mind to another place or to a remembered experience. Often such discoveries are made in solitude. To carve the small creatures is an opportunity to bring a quiet interlude to another person when viewing or handling the carved insects and frogs in their bit of environment.


I cannot carve battle scenes, sexy or alluring human bodies, mythological creatures or any number of other things. Cannot, will not, because I do not experience them in my life. I could carve experiences with sick children, flabby people, food, dirty dishes, laundry, mundane versions of my life, but how interesting would that be? I could carve the endless hours of driving from one extra curricular activity to another as I experience being a mom as chauffeur, but that would become satirical, and not any kind of style that I wish to develop. If I carved like other carvers whether contemporary or from past centuries, that would not be honest either.


I live in the country. It is peaceful and restorative to be in the leaves and near the water, finding the creatures that exist around me. My life is interconnected with the smallest and greatest of it all. All of our lives are but not everyone recognizes that.


Katydids, to me, are elegant, sexy and alluring. Watching the males as they move with care from one leaf to the next as they make the come hither sound is to me an amazing and incredibly lucky experience. Six delicate legs, each step put exactly so, moving slowly, making it's sound to call in the female to him, a slow and delicate but deliberate movement towards the ultimate goal of reproduction. As she finds him, the dance begins. When the calls of the katydids begin in each late summer, such scenes of these beautiful pale green insects are recalled. I have observed them in many settings. Each infrequent time I see a katydid, I feel very fortunate to be given a chance to watch it's slow movements, and I am inspired by the exquisite compositions made by the lines of their legs, and the complex shapes they make in relation to the leaves.


How could I ever hope to go beyond mediocre human forms, when there is so much beauty right outside my door? Why try to compete with every other figurative artist when I am not ready to or do not desire to? The folds in a frog's skin, its gold speckled eyes with the universe in them is as beautiful as a man's dream image of the perfect woman's form.


As I carve, I am not trying desperately to copy nature, but to use what means I have to interpret in the materials at hand the form and composition of my subjects, and their stories. Unless one knows their natural history, their place in the environment and in relationship to our lives, one may only see a frog or an insect on a branch.


An artist may try desperately to copy the human experience as well, and do it exquisitely or clumsily. With the field of work I am now in, I do not see, see, that nor do I desire to make it happen. To relate my subjects to human stories, to anthropomorphize them would be to charicaturize them and would denigrate their intrinsic beauty.


I feel defensive tonight, Ford. I have enjoyed the exercise of trying to examine why your statement has made me want to respond to it. If your definition of a real artist is one who is able to express their own experiences in life, why is my work not valid as an honest and genuine communication? Many times I have watched people wipe tears from their eyes, their hands shake as a piece is placed in their hands, or rush out to bring their companions back to see one of my carvings which has struck a deep chord in their inner self. Something communicated.


There are perhaps as many definitions of what a real artist is, as there are people who strive to be artists.



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Guest ford hallam

Hi Janel,


my sincere apologies. I certainly did'nt have anyone in mind when I posted my musing last evening and if I had thought about it I would not have singled yourself out. I don't think of your work as being obsessively concerned with accurate detail, what I was getting at is the possible danger of getting too caught up in the truely amazing details that these wonderful images offer us. I think there is a real danger in being beguiled by these jewels that our technology offers us. I was merely being the devils advocate.


as an aside, I was mildly amused to read that you thought that expressions of mundane life would'nt be very interesting. I read somewhere that "everything is interesting if looked at closely" :)


anyway, I'm sorry for causing you to feel defensive. I don't think anyone needs to "justify" their work or mode of expression, which is not to suggest that honest questioning can't also be a valid ( perhaps vital ) aspect of the exchange between an artist and their audience.


by way of an olive branch I've posted a link to something that has degrees of scale and detail to suit all.


"far out, man!"


regards, Ford

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Hello Ford,


I enjoyed the exercise, and you are right about everything being interesting (what I quoted)! There is truth in that but I would become nonfunctional (to the family) if I gave all aspects of what is in my life and could find interesting, the time to develop into an interpretation through my hands.


Feeling isolated from other artists whose work is similar in scale and determination, the forum and email are the sharing and sparring grounds upon which growth and enrichment occur. Without your difference of viewpoint offerings and your willingness to question openly, there would be fewer challenges and opportunities to consider and cultivate.


Thanks for your good response to my late night posting. If we had been sharing that bottle, I may have not been able to contemplate and express my thoughts, thinking alone is good exercise now and then. There have been some developmental stirrings, which may take years to move through, and I am feeling again the pressure of a lifelong habit of growth and change towards my work at an almost subconscious level. What comes of the thoughts, observations, conversations with peers and challenges from life will encourage the work of my future.


It is good to have you back Ford,




Now lets get back to the incredible insects!

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Guest DFogg

When I experience a work from a sincere artist it is almost always a lesson in learning to see. As an artist, I know the flow of the work is mostly about discovery. Often we are drawn to a subject but only by working on it do we find what it was that we found appealing. We discover what made it beautiful by trying to distill it. Realism, abstract work, reproduction even can all have an honest energy if the artists invests themselves in the mystery.


There are pitfalls that we have to constantly guard against and I think your comment Ford was directed toward being trapped in the details. We are often too close to our work and need to be able to step back from it in order to see it with fresh eyes. A benefit of being able to gather in the forum is that we are meeting with folks who face the same world, deal with the same challenges and who have that unique insight that we share. A fragile trust can develope, but only if we are careful to nuture and support each other.


It is always a brave thing to show your work to the world. Sometimes it helps to have a carapace to shield yourself other times we must be like leaves in the wind.


I think this discussion has merit and I would like to know more.


P.S. By the time I got this written and posted it was behind the discussion. It has stimulated me to think, perhaps too long, but I am greatly distracted this weekend.

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Living in the city, especially in the capitol, to watch different

insects is a problem. The rhythm of a big town is very fast, we rust to

somewhere and don't see around the beauty of our nature, we, people,

see only each other and many cars. :) That's why to carve an insect is a difficult

problem for me. Before my collector asked to carve the ryusa style

netsuke, I didn't meet such problem as how was built this or that

insect. I've done some drafts for him, one of them has dragonfly and

grasshopper, when I began to draw them I had no idea "how". I

collected a lot of macro-photos of different insects, it helped me to

understand many things. I'm going to carve a fantastical creation for

one of my collector, he is a great lover of Julie Bell and Boris

Vallijo's work, my idea is a dragon-woman with wings, she will hatch

from the egg or get out from a cocoon, I already called this new

sculpture, "The first breath"! I'll try to show all power of nature,

of this fantastical creation! I so wonder to carve this from ivory

mammoth! There is a BIG PROBLEM! I've never seen the bat! ;) The wings of

the dragon-woman must be like the wings of the bat.


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Wow! Somehow as I was away I totally missed this thread. Now I feel "late to the dance", but as the earlier discussion around detailed representational art struck some chords I feel moved to respond. The question around what is necessary in a piece of work is complicated, mysterious and variable. I've found in my own work that there is not an easily defineable trajectory, subject to dissection or replication in the next piece. I've made work that was near baroque in detail and other that was austere. I judge my result based primarily on the conveyance of emotion, and the ability to revive a connection with the natural world.


I think Don's point is well taken that it takes some courage to put our work out there, no matter our seeming "advanced artist status". I don't think anyone posting here is so secure in their "groove" that they expect a slam-dunk.


It's natural to have different points of view over aesthetic issues. I disagree with myself all the time! :)

To me the danger is not in experimenting with any one aesthetic viewpoint or another, but adhearing rigidly to any one or another.


I was happy to read Janel's detailed and revealing statement of her relationship to her work. It conveys the depth of meaning it has for her, and illuminates the power it has for me.

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A quote from Bertolt Brecht: "Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it."


Perhaps the hammer image is a little heavy handed, but the point to me is we are rather like filters of reality; our art work being a distillation, or product, rather than a mirror.

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Haven't read that quote before. It's interesting... I get frustrated, as perhaps many artists do, of not being able to shape reality. I have to remember it's only my artwork I can control.

Too many contemporary artists take it upon themselves to be social reformers, and then get angry when no one listens.

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I'll take the bait :)

Well, it's just that since I was in art school in the 1980's and followed these things, it has seemed to me that many artists choose to pick up on something they perceive as a social ill that needs to be commented upon, or corrected. Not that this is wrong necessarily, but the idea often seems to be that if the concept or subject is worthy, it makes the art worthy just by association. They're confusing the subject (third world poverty, for instance) with the object (the artwork). For me I've always seen myself more as a formalist when it comes to the art I like. Art for art's sake. This is how I perceive and judge art- less about the message, but more how it is conveyed through color, shape, line, texture, and so on.

I didn't exactly say that 'my approach to creating is one of attempting to shape reality'. What I said is I get frustrated at not being able to shape reality. By this I meant from a more personal standpoint outside of art making, I sometimes want to shape things and situations beyond my control. I have noticed in speaking with other artists from time to time, it is something most of us 'creative' types deal with. Perhaps it is because with our art materials being so malleable and controlled by our will, we naturally want to extend that to other areas of life?

My approach to creating art has lately been to make something I (and others, hopefully) enjoy looking at. It's as simple of a statement as that, and it's something I have a long way to go before fully achieving.


My definition of social reform is the attempt or process of changing some aspect of society's behavior that one does not agree with. Again, it's just my personal taste, but I tend to prefer art which does not touch on this as a goal. I think there are better, more effective methods for social change such as voting, lobbying, boycotting, striking, disobeying, etc.


As far as artists who attempt social reform, in my mind right then, I was directing that statement towards the so called "book-arts' world. I straddle a few other chat rooms/groups of artists. My formal education was in paper-based, two dimensional arts and conservation of those. Since the 1970's a genre of the 'artist book' has developed using traditional and non traditional book forms as a stepping off into combining words with imagery and the narrative structures a 'book' provides to create a piece of art. It's frustrating to see time and again artists creating works that while heavy on the message, are amatuerish to say the least in terms of craft and technical know-how. They then have the gall to ask why their pile of leaves bound together with a paper clip, commenting on the Rape of Nanking, in an edition of 10 copies, hasn't sold.

Give me some time, and I'll find other artists working with different media...

It is a factor in arts eduction today, especially at the Bachelor's and Master's level, that concept and message, and often dexterity with the written/spoken word has overtaken formal skill as the means by which art is judged.




Maybe we should shift this to "The Way"- doesn't have much to do with insects anymore, does it?



Janel and Don, can a discussion thread be cut and pasted elsewhere?

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Very thought provoking discussion. The thread that runs through it all is - observing. I think in many ways that the goal of any artist whether performing, written, graphical, dimensional or whatever, is to make the audience see whatever it is in a different light. If that means bugs then bugs, if it's mountains, it's mountains. The goal is to provoke and stimulate a different and hopefully broader view of our incredible universe.


I attach a picture of a mountain by way of example. (Janel - hope it's sized properly)




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