Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Artists Copy from Nature Either Intentionally or Unawares

Nine-Banded Armadillo -- a small knight in protective armor
Many artists pride themselves on their own ingenuity believing that what they create is unique or has never been done before. But the facts are that styles and designs repeat themselves over the centuries. Artists only do a variation on what has been done before.

Nature provides us with countless designs and shapes. Unconsciously we bring them into our work and they become a part of whatever we create. The saying: “There is nothing new under the sun” was spoken (or written) for a reason. It is true. Conjure, if you will, the varied shapes and intricacies of a flower or a leaf; an insect, the odd shapes on a giraffe, the stripes of a zebra, a caterpillar’s fuzzy or lined patterns.
The things that surround us find their way into our art. We manipulate them. We re-color them. We may even change their shape, but the origins of idea are still formed from that which we recall. Even abstract forms are reborn on canvas maintaining a semblance of the original nugget of thought. Scientists also admit that they create and change those things that already exist. They may duplicate life, but they cannot create it without using parts of that which already exists in nature.

I’ve drawn many simple creatures of nature simply because their intricate outer covering intrigued me. Usually I do some research to discover how unique and independent these magnificent insects or animals are in the scheme of things.
A quick sketch of an armadillo I saw while out walking.

Yesterday morning my husband discovered two young armadillos foraging in our back yard. I snapped a photo hoping to capture them in the early light. 

Normally, armadillos sleep during the day; but these two were still in the throes of youth, and were perhaps more daring than their parents. These were “nine-banded” armadillos protected by a hard, scaled shell that some playfully call “armor.”
Two nine-banded armadillos in our back yard.
Armadillos have poor eyesight which explains why I was able to stand fairly close without getting them overly excited. They can’t hear very well either, but if attacked or fearful, they will roll into a tough, round ball.

How do they eat? They are expert at burrowing and can smell insects nestled in the ground. They make three to five inch circular holes boring for a meal. Usually we don’t see them, but we know that they have been in our yard by these small holes placed at intervals in the soft earth of our flower beds.

"Nine-banded armadillos do not have any front teeth; they have rows of 28-32 peg-like teeth in the back of the mouth. Their diet consists mostly of insects and invertebrates but on occasion they will eat a small vertebrate, berries, or mushrooms. They burrow to find insects and other invertebrates. They also will root around ground litter to find their food.

"Armadillos breed in July, but the embryo is dormant until November. In March the females give birth to four young which are always the same gender because they are identical quadruplets. The armor of armadillo young is soft and leathery, becoming firmer with age.
Thanks to the University of Miami web site I learned a lot about these beautifully designed warriors."
Another shot of our back yard armadillos.
Somewhat alarming about this particular animal, known as the nine-banded armadillo, is that in rare occasions they have been known to spread leprosy. But according to the Smithsonian Institute, “leprosy is a wimp of a pathogen. It is so fragile that it dies quickly outside the body and is notoriously difficult to grow in lab conditions. But with a body temperature of just 90 degrees, the armadillo presents a kind of Goldilocks condition for the disease—not too hot, not too cold. Bacterial transmission to people can occur when we handle or eat the animal."

Yes, in some areas they do eat these small animals. According to connoisseurs, armadillos taste like chicken. If you're hungry for something outrageous, search for armadillo recipes. My own gut reaction is “Why would I want to eat a possible carrier of leprosy?” I’ll just leave it at that.

“Though Hansen’s disease effects 250,00 people worldwide, it only infects 150 to 250 Americans. Even more reassuring: up to 95 percent of the population is genetically unsusceptible to contracting it. And these days, it is highly treatable, and not nearly as contagious as once believe.

"And as for armadillos—the risk of transmission to humans is low, only the nine-banded armadillo is known to carry the disease. And most people in the U.S. who come down with the chronic bacterial disease get it from other people while traveling outside the country.

“Experts say the easiest way to avoid contagion is to simply avoid unnecessary contact with the critters. And, of course, they advise not to go hunting, skinning or eating them (which is a rule that the armadillos would probably appreciate, too)."
From the Smithsonian @