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.