Raven Art of Brian Commerford

Midnight Magic

Brian Commerford’s command of color and texture is unmatched when it comes to depicting the Ravens of his New Mexico home.  Such a common icon of death, darkness, gothic culture, and bleakness, the Raven rarely gets such bold and revered treatment.

Inner Knowing

“I try to express the spiritual qualities of animals and birds through composition, color, and brushwork.  I try to create a vibrational stamp that reflects whatever spiritual quality or qualities that I’m trying to express in that particular piece.  I use alot of close-ups because I want a fairly intense experience, such as gentleness, joy, love, to be felt by the onlooker.”

The Raven's Prayer

More than just a Raven lover, Brian’s art and photography offer an intimate view into his tranquil sensibilities, covering cats to desert sunsets, elephants to buddhas.

“I follow the teachings of Yogi Paramahansa Yogananda, and share an interest in the Native American medicine of the animals. I am an avid motorcyclist, and when not painting, may be seen flying down the roads of New Mexico. My motorcycle paintings express the magical world of speed and torque! Riding high powered motorcycles is a transcendental experience. I try to convey the beauty of moving through different lines in space. “

You can view these selections and many more, as well as purchase prints and cards, by visiting the Brian Commerford gallery here.

The Jungle Crow


The Jungle Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos) is a crow (or Karasu烏 in Japanese) specific to Southeast Asia, and most prevalent in Japan. They are slightly larger than the Carrion Crow, and are affectionately called Corvus Growus Biggust by some locals. The Corvus japonensis, or large billed crow, is just one of 11 subspecies of Corvus Macrorhynchos. Some of these subspecies are distinctive vocally, morphologically and genetically, leading to speculations that more than one species is involved and they may not all be ‘Jungle Crows’ at all!


By Daniel Ruyle



The Jungle Crow’s feeding and nesting habits vary little from that of other Crows, with the exception of the Japanese variety which are notorious for scavenging. Their nesting habits are also much the same as their cousins, with the addition that they will sometimes end up with a Koel (a kind of Cuckoo) egg or two in their clutch.

Crows in Japan are regarded with mixed reaction. There is a large population of Corvid lovers – naturalists and spiritualists, but also a large number of haters. Tokyo’s governor Shintaro Ishihara created a “special commando” whose only purpose is “crow extermination”. This commando is starting to destroy nests and kill crows all around Tokyo in an effort to control their numbers. More recently a much kinder approach has been implemented to give 50.000 blue nets toTokyo’s citizens to cover their garbage bags when they put them outside their homes in the morning – the real source of the Crow population boom.  In contrast, Jungle Crows in India are more revered than hated, as the crow is a sacred animal in the Hindu religion.

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Jungle Crows in Japan are known best for their particular talent of cracking nuts, a behavior mimicked in other crows there. Researchers believe they probably noticed cars driving over nuts fallen from a walnut tree overhanging a road. The crows already knew about dropping clams high above the beaches to break them open, but found this did not work for walnuts because of the soft green outer shell. As shown in this BCC video, when the lights change, the birds hop in front of the cars and place walnuts, which they picked from the adjoining trees, on the road. After the lights turn green again, the birds fly away and vehicles drive over the nuts, cracking them open. Finally, when it’s time to cross again, the crows join the pedestrians and pick up their meal.If the cars miss the nuts, the birds sometimes hop back and put them somewhere else on the road. Or they sit on electricity wires and drop them in front of vehicles.

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By Daniel Ruyle



The Jungle Crow is best distinguished by the blue-violet sheen to its feathers, its large fat beak (making it almost appear like a very large jackdaw). In Japan, this species is larger than a Carrion Crow.  Due to the size difference, Jungle Crows are sometimes referred to as Asian Ravens, although they do not really possess the characteristics that would qualify it as such, and further west (such as in India) Jungle Crows are much smaller and sleeker. Their call is reminiscent of the Common Crow with a slightly deeper pitch, and they have been documented as mimicking woodpecker knocking.


Crows Chasing Crane, By Daniel Ruyle



By Daniel Ruyle


To view more incredible photos of Jungle Crows and other wildlife in Japan and India from Daniel Ruyle, click here

Stay tuned this month as we cover mythology and photography from India and Japan featuring this wonderful creature!


Raven & Crow Tattoos

For many ancient peoples, the raven is a powerful animal totem, a protector,spirit guide, or god.  He’s a shape-shifting messenger and a symbol of transformation.  Black plumage invokes an air of mistique, secrecy, and elegance. The Raven is also a powerful sun symbol. From the earliest times, raven myths tell of its intelligence and concern for humans.  As we wrote about in Mythological Ravens, and Crows in Celtic Mythology, there are plenty of reasons other than sheer love to get a Crow or Raven tattoo.

The most important thing to consider prior to running down to the tattoo shop is what the bird will look like, and who the best artist is for your budget and ability to travel. Tattoos are absolutely forever, so you want to be sure yours is amazing!  Below are a few pointers:

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  • Research your bird choice thoroughly. There is nothing worse than seeing Ravens that are really Choughs (Choughs have orange feet, Ravens don’t)
  • If using a photograph as reference for your artist, it is best to email the photographer for their blessing.
  • If using artwork as reference, you absolutely must get permission from the original artist. This goes double if your tattooer is going to change it at all.
  • Strive for originality. While wonderful galleries exist online such as this one, it is better to think up your own design than get one ‘out of the book’.
  • Decide on a location that will allow your Crow or Raven to breathe. The back, sides, chest, and shoulder are the best.

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To help further inspire you, we have put together a huge Crow and Raven Tattoo Gallery here. (I’ve even snuck a shot of Clara’s raven in there on page 4!)

Crow Tattoo on our reader Christina

Do you have a tattoo you would like to share with our readers? Send it to our wonderful mailbird cawcaw at avesnoir.com!

Here are our ten favorites from the gallery. Choosing was tough!

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Raven Pop Art of Eelus

Possessing a sort of maniac calm, Eelus is a self-proscribed street artist.

“My career as a graphic artist began when I was 10 years old in the ruthless, Thunderdome like playground of a Wigan primary school. Being quite handy with the old pencil, I decided to tool myself up and began knocking out hand drawn posters of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to either A: sell for tuck shop money or B: give away to escape a good kicking due to the shortness of my trousers.

In October 2006 I quit my day job and became a graphic artist full time, putting myself on a long road of experimentation, progression, hangovers and worrying about the rent. My goal is to push my limits, learn the skills of my trade and to hopefully continue to make a living from my art. This site is here to document that journey and give you the chance to buy any work I create on the way.”

His debut London show, The Colour Out Of Space, so named after one of the stories by his favourite author H.P. Lovecraft, features 25 new pieces. His intricate hand-cut stencils,  instantly recognisable style, and thought provoking images have taken on a new dimension with bold, bright, sharp colours, all of which are sure to become instant collectables.


View his gallery here


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Cameron Kaseberg Crows

Cameron Kaseberg is becoming known as the artist who has taken the solvent transfer process of image making further than any artist working today. He has developed the once obscure process, brought to prominence in the 1950s by Robert Rauchenberg, to new levels of expressiveness. In Northwest regional exhibits and at national art fairs, Kaseberg’s works have been received with enthusiasm for their inventiveness and as expressions of human sensibilities.

The solvent transfer process involves “borrowing” subject matter from various printed media as well as his own photos and graphics, chemically dissolving them and transferring the image onto a new surface. Much as a photographer can manipulate the camera image in many ways, the solvent transfer can be changed, arranged, composed and continually altered to express the artist’s aims. Additional treatment with drawing or painting techniques may contribute to the uniqueness of each of Kaseberg’s works. Although called transfer prints, each is one-of-a-kind.

If you are really curious about the geeky bits of Cameron’s process, you can watch some insightful videos here.





To view the full gallery, click here.

Nichole Yanota’s Brilliant Natural World

Raised in the foothills of the Sonoran Desert, Nichole Yanota was greatly influenced by the brilliance of her natural world; the blossoming cactus a perfect coexistence of the fragile and the fierce. In early life, her drawings rose to the challenge of recording emotions and experiences, and became her voice for expressing ideals. She left the desert for the mountains in 2006 and now resides in the beautiful Crowsnest Pass, Alberta. She describes her work as “exploring nature’s connection to the human spirit”.

Each piece is meticulously lined, and pops with bold shape and color. We are particularily fond of the piece above, titled ‘Autumn’s Ravens’

For more, visit her website at www.njyartwork.ca or her Etsy shop

 

 

The Solitude of Ravens by Masahisa Fukase

The Solitude of Ravens was Masahisa Fukase’s last work before he plunged into a coma. This is a monumental and pivotal work in the history of fine art photography.

Words can never suffice for these emotional photographs.  Fukase is considered to be both a legend and an enigma in his native Japan and for a culture that is traditionally reluctant to expose emotion in public, the expressionistic character of Fukase’s work has since been unparalleled in its impact.

Born in 1934, Fukase grew up in a decade of the first Japanese children in which mannered self-control was not the ideal civic behavior. This new perspective, coupled with the effects of war, exploded into the avant-garde art scene in Tokyo. In elegant printing techniques emerged and the manic style of photography that Fukase shared with his contemporaries, among them Eikoh Hosoe, Daidoh Moriyama, and Shomei Tomatsu, reflected the “reaction to a world turned upside down.”

In the wake of his divorce in 1976 from Yoko, his wife of 13 years, Fukase began a search for absolution through his work which would last a decade.  His images crystallize solitude and death, appropriate to his last sombre years. He became obsessed with his subjects, with their darkness and loneliness. The Solitude of Ravens, then, is a wordless requiem.

Fukase, according to Yoko, was an intense and obsessive character despite the joyousness of the images he made of her early in his career. She described their life together as moments of “suffocating dullness interspersed by violent and near suicidal flashes of excitement.” After they split up, he suffered from bouts of depression and heavy drinking. “I work and photograph while hoping to stop everything,” he once said. “In that sense, my work may be some kind of revenge drama about living now.”

In Japanese mythology, ravens are disruptive presences and harbingers of dark and dangerous times – another reason, perhaps, why the photographer was drawn to them during his darkest hour. In 1992, five years after the book was published, Fukase fell down a flight of stairs in a bar. He has been in a coma ever since. His former wife, now remarried, visits him in hospital twice a month. “With a camera in front of his eye, he could see; not without,” she told an interviewer. “He remains part of my identity; that’s why I still visit him.”

For all that, there is a dark, brooding beauty in these images that is singular and affecting. In The Solitude of Ravens, Fukase found a subject that reflected his darkening vision, and he pursued it with obsessive relentlessness. It remains his most powerful work, and a kind of epitaph for a life that has been even sadder and darker than the photographs suggest.

The photobook ‘The Solitude of Ravens’ is rare and quite expensive, ranging from $200-1000USD, however you can find copies here or through Ebay.

Masahisa Fukase at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Masahisa Fukase at the Stephen Wertz Gallery

Featured Creature: The Jackdaw

Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)

This month our focus is on a European bird, the Jackdaw.  These Jay-sized mini-crows are an extremely lively and social bunch, and are most (in)famous for their compelling infatuation with shiny objects.  Quite a remarkable character, the jackdaw prefers the glossy black – and sometimes purplish – coat of a gentleman, but is also commonly seen with a grey ‘hooded’ look about the nape. their legs and beaks are black as well, but perhaps the most stunning feature which sets it apart from all other corvids is the crystalline blue eyes.

The Jackdaw spends most of his time and brain power to the practice of thievery. For reasons known only to himself, he is very fond of human beings and will go through a lot of trouble to get himself adopted by one with a nice garden. He captures our attention with amusing tricks, and if especially ambitious, will go as far as to learn our language and strike up a raspy conversation, albeit with limited vocabulary.

His bright eyes are interested in everthing happening around him, and he will not hesitate to bark orders to your dog. Beware of caging this delightful chap however, for not only is it illegal but it will depress him beyond his ability to cope.  He also has a weapon of revenge – anger a Jackdaw and he might just nip you enough to dose you with Campylobacter jejuni, which will see you properly acquainted with your loo for several days.

Example of a Jackdaw who adopted a pair of humans:

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You see, Jackdaws possess the intelligent talents inherent to all members of the Corvidae family,including the cunning ability to plan ahead, but they are also adept readers of the human intent.  His chattering and pirouetting around your patio or kitchen windowsill is simply a ruse to distract you from that bit of foil or that lump of pie crust, and somewhere nearby he has a hip flat of shaggy twigs where he hoards such loot in his quest to be the most pimp bird in the ‘hood.

The species may be the only animal aside from humans known to understand the role of eyes in seeing and perceiving things, according to a new study by Oxford University. While humans often use visual clues to communicate, it wasn’t known whether other animals share this social ability until recently.

Jackdaw eyes, like those of humans, are unusually conspicuous, with dark pupils surrounded by silvery white irises.

“The physical similarities hint that jackdaws use their eyes to communicate in the same ways humans do”, says study leader Auguste von Bayern, a zoologist currently with the University of Oxford. “We can communicate a lot via the eyes, and jackdaws do that as well, in my opinion.”

Von Bayern’s study of hand-reared jackdaws shows that the birds can use a human’s gaze to tell what that person is looking at. “They are sensitive to human eyes because they are sensitive to their own species’ eyes,” she says.

By contrast, previous studies have shown that other animals regarded as intelligent, such as chimpanzees and dogs, find even their own species’ eyes hard to read.



Conflict and Cooperation

In one test, Von Bayern and colleague Nathan Emery timed how long a jackdaw took to retrieve food if a person was also eyeing the prize.They found that the birds took longer to retrieve the food if the human was unfamiliar—someone the bird apparently didn’t trust. The birds were equally sensitive to the gaze of a single eye, such as when the person looked at the food in profile or kept one eye closed. This suggests the jackdaws made the decision to risk conflict solely based on eye motion and not on other cues, such as the direction a potential rival’s head was facing.

In a second experiment, the birds were able to interpret a familiar human’s altered eye gaze to “cooperate” to find food that was hidden from view. The study authors add that more tests will be needed to tell if the birds were able to read eye movements based on their natural tendencies or if it is a learned behavior from being raised by humans.

Jackdaw & Rook

Jackdaws are the second smallest corvid, with the Jay being slightly smaller. Above you can see a Jackdaw in comparison with a Rook (which is about the size of a crow).  Unlike Crows, Rooks, and Ravens, Jackdaws rarely (if ever) feed on carrion or kill other animals and prefer to feed on mostly ground level fare such as berries, seeds, and grubs.

Jackdaws work together to build their swank apartments by dropping sticks into hollow trees, or any other crevice or burrow they can find (such as your chimney, so remember to keep a cap or net on it!). The resulting platform supports the eventual walls and roof which will usually contain a large percentage of fine material such as coins, foil, pop-tabs, cigarette butts, and so-on.

The Jackdaw call, which lends itself in part to their common name of just ‘Daws’, is a cute kak-kak, and distinguishes itself from a crow in its higher-pitched and more chipper cadence. Like the crow, they adapt easily to song and are known to mimic everything from opera to Madonna.

Mythology

The Jackdaw appears in many historical and current works, most notably in Aesop’s fables and the The Ingoldsby Legends written by Richard Harris Barham.

The legends were first printed in 1837 as a regular series in Bentley’s Miscellany and later in New Monthly Magazine.They proved immensely popular and were compiled into books published in 1840, 1842 and 1847. They remained popular through the Victorian era but have since fallen out of fame.

The best known poem is the Jackdaw of Rheims, about a jackdaw who steals a cardinal’s ring and is made a saint. As a priest at the Chapel Royal, Barham was not troubled with strenuous duties and he had ample time to read and compose stories. Although based on real legends and mythology, such as the hand of glory, they are usually deliberately humorous parodies or pastiches of medieval folklore and poetry.

Ancient Greek authors tell how a jackdaw, being a social creature, may be caught with a dish of oil which it falls into while looking at its own reflection. The Roman poet Ovid also saw them as a harbinger of rain (Amores 2,6, 34). In Greek legend, a princess Arne was bribed with gold by King Minos of Crete, and was punished for her avarice by being transformed into an equally avaricious jackdaw, who still seeks shiny things. Pliny notes how the Thessalians, Illyrians and Lemnians cherished jackdaws for destroying grasshoppers’ eggs. The Veneti are fabled to have bribed the jackdaws to spare their crops, and finally in another ancient Greek and Roman myth, “The swans will sing when the jackdaws are silent,” meaning that educated or wise people will speak after the foolish become quiet.

In some cultures, a jackdaw on the roof is said to predict a new arrival; alternatively, a jackdaw settling on the roof of a house or flying down a chimney is an omen of death and coming across one is considered a bad omen (this is more commonly attributed to crows).

Similar to Crow Augery, jackdaws standing on the vanes of a cathedral tower are meant to foretell rain. Czech superstition formerly held that if jackdaws are seen quarrelling, war will follow, and that jackdaws will not build nests at Sázava, having been banished by Saint Procopius.

Jackdaws in Art

Stay tuned this month as we continue to feature Jackdaw art and photography. Enjoy some of our favorite shots from our featured Jackdaw photographer, and be sure to visit his Flickr Gallery here.  You can also jump over to Ted’s gallery here, which we featured last month.

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References: UNEP ; The Eugene, OR. Register-Guard, 1972; Systema Naturae & Wikipedia; The University of Oxford press; National Geographic Magazine, April 2009

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Beth Surdut Fine Feathered Art

Santa Fe artist and writer Beth Surdut has always lived by water — Hawaii, New England and Florida — and at first, Santa Fe didn’t seem appealing.

“It doesn’t have an ocean,” Surdut explained. But then she visited and “was completely interested and enchanted.”

The landscape and the ever-present ravens fascinated her the most, leading to her move here and the creation of a visual storytelling project called Listening to Ravens, which includes drawings, each of which is accompanied by a myth or story.Surdut is looking for Santa Feans who have raven stories to share with her that will be included in her new project.

“I call it story-catching,” Surdut said about giving people an opportunity to tell their stories.

If you want one of these one of a kind gems for your own, check out Beth’s Esty shop here.  All of Beth’s drawings, along with their corresponding stories, can be found on her blog.  Have a Raven story to share with her? Leave a comment below or contact her through her blog.

Aves Artist: Helen Janow Miqueo

Featuring bold, colorful, original modern & whimsical art, we bring you some giclee prints and abstract paintings by contemporary artist Helen Miqueo:
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“I have an incredible experience every time I take a brush in my hand. Every painting I do is Me with somebody else’s heart and soul. I see invisible seas, I smell the fragrance of distant flowers, and hear the sounds of mysterious lands. When I open my eyes wide: I am a stranger, I am a wanderer and a child. I am an artist.”

Bird Paintings Landscape Sky Art

Giclee Art Print Tree of Life

Visit her blog or view more from the gallery