M. lucifugus: cauchemar

Myotis lucifugus, or the little brown bat, is the most common species of mouse-eared bat in North America. Several encounters with these guys have made me quite familiar with them, from having to trap them in my apartment building – scary – and let them go outside, to watching them zoom around in the evening catching mosquitoes before a movie in the neighborhood park. From the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources “Living With Wildlife”:

  • Bat Fact 1: Bats will not fly into our hair.
  • Bat Fact 2: Bats are of benefit to humans.
  • Bat Fact 3: There are ways to get rid of bats without killing them.

I’ve been interested for a long time in doing studies of animals in the direction of Audobon and/or taxonomical illustrations, and have been working on species that I can find here in Minneapolis. Developing illustrations like these is a truly fun way to observe biological diversity and think about the non-human creatures that cohabitate urban areas. The detail and focus given to depicting each of those characterizing elements of the organism give the work a precious quality that ends up conveying natural beauty. In this piece, I plan to show the little brown bat chasing down mosquitoes to illustrate its particular ecological niche as an insect eliminator.

While the pristine nature of audobon illustrations is great, I want to depict organisms in a more lighthearted way. They might be illustrated fulfilling their ecological roles, but they are going to be flashy while doing so! I’ve always loved the flat block-printed, 2-dimensional and baudy quality of Toulouse Lautrec’s posters, so I’m trying to unite those qualities and create whimiscal posters of local species doing what they do best, perhaps in a sort of sideshow fashion. I hope for the posters to be eye-catching, fun to collect, and I want viewers to be excited by the scientific names and look more into learning about different species.
The uppermost image represents the point at which I will stop with this piece and go to print and move on to other works that will make up this series. I hope to take this to print to make multiples in keeping with the “poster” quality it assumes. In progress, the technical development was challenging. I wanted to mix traditional block printing techniques (sadly, I lack a printing press!) with my usual mixed media approach, but this is presenting a host of problems…First of all, without a press, it has been difficult to get enough of the ink to adhere to heavyweight mixed media paper. I have literally been trying to press the ink in with the back of a wooden spoon! It only worked well when I used the crappiest paper I own while it was soaked, but without a proper drying rack and weights the paper has puckered all over (as you can probably see from this image)! I finally decided to accept that I can only get a finite amount of ink onto my mixed media paper and will have to work with what I can get.

2 thoughts on “M. lucifugus: cauchemar

  1. Hi Zach, I have always been fascinated by bats. I used to sit on the patio in Burnsville after dark and watch them fly around catching mosquitos. One of my first memories of bats is when I was little and they would come in through the chimney in the farmhouse we were living in. My Mom and grandma would be chasing them around the house with brooms wearing kerchiefs, and telling my sister and I to stay in bed with our heads under the covers. That was when the myth was going around saying that they would get in your hair and get tangled. I was not scared but thought it was hilarious.

  2. I really like that piece Zach! Very interesting and entertaining. Will look forward to seeing the finished image!

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