• additional view of artwork by Mark Vallen
  • additional view of artwork by Mark Vallen
  • additional view of artwork by Mark Vallen
  • additional view of artwork by Mark Vallen

The Messenger


United States

Drawing
Size: 13.5 H x 16 W x 0.1 in

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Art Description

Drawing: Graphite on Paper.

My long running infatuation with ravens and crows compelled me to create the black and white drawing titled The Messenger. Drawn with black color pencils on deckle-edged hand made paper, the drawing reflects my fascination with the birds as well as their millennia old influence on the human race. These birds have always been with us, inspiring human culture for millennia.

When my wife and I visited Hoonah, Alaska, in 2015 we encountered a large conspiracy of ravens engrossed in foraging; I was given the perfect opportunity to lay my eyes on the birds up close, so close in fact that I could have reached out to touch them. The Messenger is based upon those observations. The indigenous Haida people of Alaska have a creation story that tells of a hungry raven feasting in a tide pool. Because the bird was all alone and craved companionship, it created men and women from seashells, creating the world and the first humans. That tale was in the back of my mind when I created my drawing.

Whenever visiting the austere California high desert area known as Joshua Tree National Park, one of my treasured natural places in the state, I stand atop the gigantic surrealistic rock formations in the eerie silence and listen for raven calls. My favorite is an oddly melodious call that sounds like an echoey "knocking." I always pay close attention to the voices of these intelligent hawk-sized birds; I imagined their vocalizations as the strokes from my black pencil became details of fluff and feather on paper.

In 2003 I befriended the American artist and social realist, Philip Stein (1919-2009). He showed me a small canvas titled Crow that he had painted in 1959 using pyroxylin, the auto paint that Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros preferred for many of his creations. Stein was once an assistant to Siqueiros, and helped him paint a number of masterworks. I was enraptured by Stein's Crow and resolved that I would someday create a comparable drawing… perhaps someday I may attempt a painted version.

Truth be told I wanted my drawing to show the dark bird as a harbinger of things to come; a messenger of wisdom. My vision is not so far off, considering the ancient Greeks associated ravens with their deity Apollo, the prophetic god of light and truth. It was said that Apollo kept a white raven named Corvus as his divine courier. So there you have it, Corvus flew through the centuries; nesting with the Hoonah; cawing in the high desert lands of Joshua Tree; perching on the easel of Philip Stein… and finally winging his way into my studio as The Messenger.

Keywords: realism, black and white , animal, drawing, nature

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