There’s an amazing show of infinite delight at the UNE Art Gallery called “Critters.” Having just delivered all the art for a picture book about animals affected by climate changes, I was keen to see animal art. The show is swarming with sculpture inside and out; there’s a dizzying amount to take in. There are well-known artists like William Wegman, Bernard Langlais, Dahlov Ipcar, and even a couple of artists I was surprised to find, like former colleague Joe Begnaud, and fellow pastel artist Wade Zahares.

Certain creatures called to me, like this school of ceramic fish by Sharon Townshend that swam up the gallery wall.

I recently did this illustration below for Charlesbridge, and could relate to the pull of the stream. I brought in my own thermometer to gauge the pastel water temperature: chill.

I enjoyed this sculpture by Clare Cohan. We should all take a slow ride, and pay attention.

Could this be a loggerback, like the one I drew below? Here’s a detail from my illustration.

I often find odd coincidences in my roamings. This white whale by Don Gove…..

made me think of senior illustration major, Seumas Doherty, who I’ve spent the past semester meeting with weekly. His independent study project involves concept art for a game titled Moby Dick: A Space Odyssey. He spent his last semester of art school illustrating character designs, costumes, hardware, and scenes.

Here’s Seumas in front of one end of his thesis display in the halls of Maine College of Art. 
If you are in need of stalwart diligence and creative design, he’s your captain.

There was another whale reference in the UNE exhibit, so tiny one might miss it. My whale radar is exceedingly strong, though. Look, a paper moth of incredible delicacy by Cat Schwenk.

 Whales are mythic in my imagination. I drew Daisy riding a whale named Wink in  Seven Days of Daisy:
 
Is it coincidence that a picture book manuscript about humpback whales has just floated my way? I think not.
The day after seeing this show, I met another senior illustration major, Elise Smorczewski, to review her thesis project, Strange and Endangered. Since meeting Elise sophomore year, I’ve learned quite a bit through her devotion to the odd critters of the world.
Elise covered many bases with her body of work: she made oil paintings, and sewed handbags with fabric printed from the paintings and paired with information about each species. She made a website, stickers, and a street campaign of posters and flyers that promote awareness. Did you know there’s a World Tapir Day? Now you do: April 27.
Elise plans to pursue more animal research in New Zealand, and wants to teach young kids about conservation.
All of us can be better informed about the critters with whom we share the planet.  Any art that fosters that wonder is worthy of applause. I give a standing ovation  to all the artists in “Critters”, whose work uplifted me.
And to ALL the amazing illustration seniors at MECA, be proud of your creations. Graduation probably can’t come fast enough, but savor the accomplishment. Bravo, ninjas.

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