i am jaguar

I am Jaguar, Panthera onca. Consider me the largest cat of the Americas.

My species once thrived as far north as California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. In the last decade you can find a few of us in the mountains of southern Arizona.

I wonder (I wander) if, like my ancestors, I can make a life here? The terrain of the Sonoran Desert sustains me. I travel back and forth, north and south, exploring the remote area. Can I return?

Can it work? Yes, it can. Will it work? That’s another question.

You want to know why I roar? I have, like you, a hyoid bone ↑ (highlighted in blue).  I vibrate my larynx causing the twig-like hyoid bones to resonate. Cats purr, I roar.

My large powerful jaw, canines, and retracting claws allow me to get through thick reptilian skin and turtle shells. I eat birds, mammals and fish too. The Sonoran desert provides plenty of javelina, a favorite.

Upper claws – tendons and muscles relaxed. Lower claws – tendons and muscles tightened.

Because my jaws and cheeks are larger, they say my brain is smaller.
I am intelligent.

I am a carnivore, not a popular thing to be, I understand. I need meat to sustain a lean body and lean muscle.

I run long distance, though I admit I am not fast. I am powerful. I pounce prey, give a direct bite to the neck or the back of the skull. I’m quick, I suffocate. Remember, I have  powerful jaw and canines.

Communication channels are visual, acoustic and chemical.
Perception channels are visual, tactile, acoustic and chemical

I am top predator. Though more important, I am a keystone species. I take on the critical role of maintaining structure and balance an eco system.

My status is NT, near threatened.  Humans are my primary predator.  They see me as a threat to livestock. They kill me for my fur and body parts. And they threaten my habitat.

 

I am Jaguar,  Mixed media on Canvas,  35×45″

NOTE:
A border wall can affect all life in general, and will affect wild-life in particular.
If the wall goes up between the United States and Mexico, the jaguar cannot make a home where it’s ancestors once did.
#Panthera onca arizonensis


AZ Central / Video / AZ Jaguars →

//www.azcentral.com/videos/embed/105143752/?fullsite=true

deep in the solar plexus – the pancreas

I love the shape and texture of the pancreas – long, flat, soft and flexible. I’ve drawn it before and wonder why didn’t I note it tucked deep into the solar plexus? This organ carries some energy!

The 6″ organ sits behind the stomach and in front of the spine. The head of the pancreas nuzzles the duodenum while the tail end tapers into the spleen. The organ is gray-pink in color but because I want to emphasize subtle energy, my representation is yellow (golden) dominant.

Pancreas (anterior)

The pancreas plays a role in both the endocrine system and the digestive system.

As part of the endocrine system the pancreas produces hormones (insulin, glucagon, somatostatin and pancreatic polypeptide), secreting them directly into the bloodstream. One of its jobs is to monitor the bloodstream. When the pancreas detects a rise in glucose levels it responds by producing a hormone called insulin. Insulin attaches to cells signaling them to open up and absorb the glucose (basic fuel for the body) from your blood.  Insulin allows cells to receive the energy they need and ensures blood glucose level remains stable.

It also holds an exocrine function involving secretion of digestive enzymes that break down carbohydrates, lipids, and in particular – proteins – aiding in digestion and absorption of nutrients in the small intestine.

Pancreas (posterior) Slight color variation signifies – from left to right – the tail, body, neck and head

Symbolically:
The pancreas is located in the solar plexus, the area representing the center of will.
Connected to it are the energies of stability, instinct and intuition, along with will, courage, choice, action and peace.

Caroline Myss connects the pancreas to the sweetness in our life…ahhh glucose.


I am in the planning with the University of Arizona medical school for a solo exhibition. I hope to include the endocrine system I designed last year. Because the pancreas from that original series found a buyer, I draw another. Returning to it allows more insight.

altar of incense, the ethmoid bone

Coming across an image of the ethmoid bone, I love its wild structure. I wonder where in the body is this angular (cubical) bone located?

Quickly I learn it is one of 8 bones of the cranium.

Look to the top centered, dark area inside and underneath ↑ the skullcap. This is one side of the ethmoid bone. It separates the nasal cavity from the brain.  (Man…do I really need to clean this skull. Though for this purpose the dirty area works as a marker.)

From the front of the skull, the Ethmoid bone sits at the roof of the nose, between the two orbits forming the inner edges of the eye sockets. Ethmos is Greek and means sieve. The bone is lightweight and spongy, full of air spaces and canals.

Ethmoid bone (anterior view)

Neurons of smell travel thorough the ethmoid and the olfactory bulbs that lie atop, across what is called the cribriform plate. If this narrow and deeply grooved plate is broken one loses their sense of smell. All olfactory nerves travel through the crosses and canals of the ethmoid.

Ethmoid bone (posterior view)

I enjoy drawing the front and back of this beautiful bone.

About its symbolism:
In more esoteric teaching it is called the altar of incense, representing the altar in the sanctuary.  The altar of incense is the place of prayer and this bone represent the principle of prayer.

Inhale deeply!  Consider the lovely ethmoid and know it connects to your sense of smell.

jaguar – panthera onca – big cat

Presence of a jaguar(s) in the Sonoran desert determines I will someday draw the big cat. First things first, I need to cross paths with one.

Last weekend, a visit to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center with artist Carolyn Lavender, brings the opportunity. We attend an evening Bat Netting. Excited about the bats, I don’t think about meeting the resident jaguar.

Before the netting, our guide walks us through the facility. Each animal has a rescue story. (Humans…one really has to wonder about some of them.)

A jaguar walks towards us, slow and elegant. Two fences sit between him and us.  I want to push aside a young boy that stands between me and the feline (but I don’t). I want a closer look.

The large cat and the guide interact, they know each other. We look at the majestic creature. He looks at us. He lays and rolls in the same way my cat does when she’s feeling secure.

Our guide makes introductions and explains Leonardo, bred for entertainment, was born in a cage. His canine teeth and his claws, pulled out. You can imagine how not having canine’s has effected him, including the facial structure necessary to eat, consequently effecting diet and proper nutrition. Declawing is not recommended (considered abuse) for cats (big or small) and in this case, the careless job leaves the jaguar with pain.

I stay behind as people move on to the next wild creature.  When he lays eyes on me, I am thrilled (to say the least).

Leo, respected and made whole, enjoys a good life these days.

Leonardo’s story points to the value of the Conservation Center.  The facility houses many animals including coyotes, wolves, lions and bears. While the goal is to rescue, rehabilitate and release the animal back into the wild, in the case of some animals (like Leo) where condition does not permit, Southwest Wildlife becomes home.

Back to the studio…This summer, I draw a jaguar.

As I begin setting up a composition, I realize I must consider how to lay in both anatomy and unique markings. I will need to decide how to balance the anatomy and the striking pattern. (I had a similar challenge a few years back when I painted an armadillo.)

The jaguar head is a 16 x 16″ collage and mix media panel. A study of materials, method and subject that will help me lay out a full anatomy study of the grand feline.


The Southwest Wildlife Conservatory is a non-profit organization that rescues and rehabilitates wild animals. They provide a home-for-life in their accredited sanctuary for animals that cannot be returned to the wild.
For more info and/or donation (they have a wish list)  → Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

eddie in profile, my brain draws conclusions

More on the brain. And my random notes…

  • you use all of your brain, at different times (not just 10%)
  • nerve cells are the basic building block of the brain
  • nerve cells (neurons) generate electrical signals (action potentials) which allow them to transmit information over long distances
  • glial cells (glia) are essential to nervous system function, though mostly their job consists of supporting neurons
  • we don’t really know how many brain cells we have
  • we can never really determine what is going on in someone’s head (only he or she can)
  • left brain controls right side of the body, right brain controls the left, but logic and creativity stem from both hemispheres
  • 1/4 of our brain is connected to our visual perception (can we really know this? i don’t believe so)
  • the visual system is understood better than any other sensory system

I draw Eddie.

I consider the sub-conscious (the unconscious) as I collage a brain, using a city map of El Paso, Texas, into the composition. I focus in on the general vicinity where Eddie spends  much of his youth (Sunset Heights). I choose the ground work to place into his mind/brain. The truth is Eddie could (probably would) choose differently and it might not be the city in which he grew up. It could be something that connects to a particular person, place or thing I know nothing about.

I like how the collage map compositionally sets the 1-10 highway to run from the eye-ball to the back of the brain (occipital lobe). See the red ↓ line, it follows the path of the real optic nerve. I don’t plan this. How does brain science explain serendipity?

This week I listen to Charlie Rose’s The Brain Series. While working on this drawing I listen to The Acting Brain.  

  • The acting brain devoted to movement (the motor system) needs a visual (internal representation) of the outside world (a particular act). The motor system begins with this internal representation. 
In order to act (to move) one (the brain) needs to know where to move. It needs a plan, a decision, a want, as well as a willingness to execute the plan. There is a whole hierarchy of function that must occur in order for one…to act/to direct action/to move (sounds to me like goal setting).
  • The (entire) brain is set up for movement. Really…the entire brain? Did I hear this right? Do I understand correctly?

 

Notes on the Complexity of the Brain, Mixed media on paper 8×8″

I meet Eddie in a ceramic art class in high school. He enjoys careful forming, making and perfecting objects with clay. Between the desire to create, a mechanically inclined and practical sensibility (logic meeting creativity), it’s no wonder he ends up in the engineering field. He (brain and mind) thrives on solving a problem. You understand I draw a conclusion here because only he can say for sure what is true.

it’s all in your head

I want to map and label a brain. But before I do, I decide to look more closely and try to understand the areas (oh boy! there’s so much!) of the brain. This small study lays out general regions of the brain and some of their activities (I’m bound to do more).

The drawing begins spontaneously after brief conversation with a friend. I respond to a feeling (probably in the frontal lobe).

My jumble of notes include random sentences and words:

  • Brain: 24/7 watch dog
  • Control center for sensory and motor activity
  • controls thinking, memory, emotion, auditory and visual activity
  • interprets sight, hearing, taste, smell and balance
  • emotions are not feelings but are biochemical properties that produce feeling
  • automatic
  • somatic
  • plasticity
  • dynamic
  • genes
  • environment
  • architecture
  • every single thing you do makes your brain different.
  • it has enormous creative ability.
  • creativity originates in the brain.
  • is a creativity machine.
  • creativity receiver (via eye)

Other things influencing the direction of this study…

  • Quick back and forth, in the early part of the week, with a friend, about memory (that’s her in the portrait).
  • I am (still) thinking about pattern making and Aboriginal artwork.
  •  I speak with someone in the medical profession about wanting to understand something fully. She responds by saying no one understand everything fully, especially when it comes to the human body.

Is this really what she said? I can’t remember. I should have written it down.

It’s all in your Head, Mixed media on paper, 8×8″

A note about brain health…
The work is mostly copper and gold ink. On a different note, based on what I understand about brain health, copper is a nutrient at low levels. Among other things, the body uses it for bone growth, nerve conduction and hormone secretion. In high concentration it is linked to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

anatomy of arousal

“I didn’t hear words that were accurate, much less prideful. For example, I never once heard the word clitoris. It would be years before I learned that females possessed the only organ in the human body with no function than to feel pleasure. (If such an organ were unique to the male body, can you imagine how much we would hear about it—and what it would be used to justify?)”
― Gloria Steinem, The Vagina Monologues

 

“The clitoris is pure in purpose. It is the only organ in the body designed purely for pleasure.”
Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues


Christine, based in London, is completing a training (here in the states) to become a Fertility Awareness Educator. Interested in using my artwork (the reproduction system) as teaching material, she contacts me.

While the work is grounded in scientific medical illustration, it is also abstracted. I use symbolic color and line suggesting the subtle energy of the human body. As it turns out she is also a Massage and Craniosacral Therapy practitioner and understands why I explain – it may or may not work as traditional teaching material.

We share some goals, in this particular case, to educate and empower women.

I admit since beginning our correspondence, I’ve learned what (almost) feels like a new language! Christine asks if you were to draw something up from scratch for us – for example the internal anatomy showing the full anatomy of arousal, what is your rates? I respond in a practical way giving general information for a commission and prices.

Though all the while I’m wondering…what exactly is the full anatomy of arousal?

Eventually while speaking with her (where are my notes!) I realize I think sensual as she clarifies sexual anatomy. She explains more and I really do feel like I am hearing a foreign language.

She emphasizes the clitoris, crura (2 legs extending 9 cm into the pelvis), and bulbs of the vestibule (two – one laying to either side of the vaginal opening). She directs me to reference material, including images and books.

I respond to the information Christine sends. The plexus of veins and the arteries (like a hammock), and the nerves among all the forms also catch my attention. I know they will make for added (and beautiful) detail, shape and texture.

I am further educated by my friend Tara, a Pelvic Floor Specialist. I say to her, I don’t like pink, I don’t want to paint anything pink. She explains color indicates health (pink it is). Once again she lends me her medical pelvis model with ↓bladder, uterus and colon (I plan to include). And she too, provides me with reading material.

I start to organize a composition and I can’t help but recall The Dinner Party and the work of Judy Chicago ↓. I am further reminded of the politics of the female body as I continue to research other artist’s work.

Judy Chicago, test plate, 1978 National Museum of Women in the Arts (photo by C. Lavender)

Right now the study sits on my drawing table. I might add one more element. And then I’ll consider the title of the small painting on mylar.

I leave you with a few interesting facts…

  • The clitoris has at least 8000 nerve endings (a man’s penis has about 4000).
  • The clitoris and the crura are referred to as the wish bone because their structure resembles one.
  • One single gene on a Y chromosome and a clitoris (female) becomes…you guessed it…a penis (male).
  • Clitoris is Greek for key. It has only one job.

I plan to ask Christine if she wants to say anything about the anatomy of arousal. If she agrees, look for a future post.

There is so much to our body – take care to know it.