May 24, 2016

Mythical S

        S is a very magical letter, inhabited by many magical creatures in a variety of forms.  We have creatures of air, water, and fire; alluring beauties and hideous predators; humanoids, beasts, and spirits, and lots of hybrid variations of in-between.  Surely everyone should be able to find an S beast to their taste.

sphinx - a wise but perilous creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion.  Female sphinxes are Greek and deadlier than the male, which are Egyptian.  (Actually, some Egyptian sphinxes are female, too, because they often have the heads of pharaohs, just a few of whom were women.)  While both Greek and Egyptian sphinxes are strong, fierce guardians, the Greek females are known for their riddles.  In order to pass her, a traveller must correctly answer a riddle, and anyone who fails will be devoured.  (ancient Greek and Egyptian)

sylph - a spirit or elemental of the air.  According to Paracelcus, who invented the term with his alchemical theory of elementals in the early sixteenth century, sylphs are taller and stronger than humans and, to my surprise, rougher and coarser.  I’m not sure what “coarser” meant to Paracelsus, but the roughness of sylphs may be attested by the allegation that a gang of them murdered Abbé de Montfaucon de Villars in 1673 in revenge for his occult tell-all Comte de Gabalis.  Since the eighteenth century, however, they have come to be regarded as something more like wispy, pretty airy fairies.  (renaissance European)

siren - a beautiful creature whose song lures sailors to their deaths.  In early myths there are only two to five sirens, individually named, although now they’re often thought of as an entire species.  Their appearance  ranges from birds with the faces of women, to various proportions of avian and human characteristics.  Later they’ve been depicted as 100% sexy naked woman, and sometimes they’re even disguised as mermaids.  The Greeks described them as living in flowery meadows, despite their attempts to lure sailors; later authors place them within singing range of the sea.  In addition to singing, they play instruments, especially the harp.  (ancient Greek)

satyr - a wild woodland creature fond of wine, women, and song.  The original satyrs are humanoid with long beards, the tails and ears of horses, and a permanent erection.  Presumably their love of nature puts them one step above drunken frat boys, but I can’t say I find them any more interesting.  (ancient Greek)

sulchyh - an otter-like creature the size of a large dog, with rich, black fur and dark ruby eyes.  Sulchym are primarily subterranean and have a particular connection with the rufous dwarves who live in the same caverns, and with whom they can communicate telepathically.  (from Return to Tchrkkusk)

su - a large creature that dwells along river banks in Patagonia.  Its most interesting feature is
that the female carries her offspring on her back and protects them with her long, wide tail.  They were first written about by traveller André Thévet in 1575, but Edward Topsell embroidered the account in 1608 by describing the su as a “cruel, untamable, impatient, violent, ravening, and bloody beast.”  The su is also known for its warm fur, which is why the Patagonians hunt it by digging pit traps.  (renaissance European accounts of South American)

        And see previous posts on still more S creatures:

salamander - another elemental spirit described by Paracelsus, the salamander lives in fire.  Also see my version here. (renaissance European)

sea serpent - a sea monster of generally elongated form, though not necessarily strictly snake-like, a.k.a. seps or sepedon (universal)

selkie - a creature who lives in seal form in the ocean and in human form on land (ancient Celtic)

sirrush - a dragonoid with feline forelegs, eagle hind legs, and horns, a.k.a. mušḫuššu (Akkadian)

[Pictures: Sphinx, woodcut from Gesnerus Allgemeines Thier-Buch, 1669 edition (Image from Österreichische Nationalbibliothek);
Les Sirénes, wood block print by Raoul Dufy, 1911, from Le Bestiaire ou Cortége d’Orphée by Guillaume Apollinaire (Image from University of Wisconsin, digitized by Google);
Sulchyh, illustration by AEGN from Return to Tchrkkusk;
Of a Wilde Beast in the New-found World called SU, wood block print possibly by Jean Cousin the Younger from The History of Four-footed Beasts by Edward Topsell, 1658 (Image from Internet Archive);
Sea Serpent, wood block print possibly by Lucas Schan from Historiae animalium by Conrad Gesner, 1558.]

May 20, 2016

Beloved Fantasy Classics I Hate

        It is my policy in this blog to celebrate the things I love, and if I don’t have anything nice to say, I generally say nothing at all, (or at least not much).  So why am I breaking that rule, fully aware that by criticizing these classics, I may be upsetting the many people who love them?  Maybe I’m trying to raise awareness of some issues that I see as problematic, or maybe I’m trying to boost my blog ratings by being controversial, or maybe I’m hoping to give permission for others who feel as I do to break their silence, or maybe I’m just in a cranky mood.  Whatever it is, feel free to read if you’re curious about my thoughts, or skip if your opinions are different and you think mine will just annoy you.  I know I get upset when my beloved favorites are criticized, so I won’t blame you!

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers - Mary is so narcissistic, peevish, and self-absorbed that the only possible explanation of the children’s affection for her is that they’re pathologically neglected by their parents.  Yes, Mary can do magic, and magic is cool, but (superheroes, please take note), being able to do nifty tricks doesn’t give you free license to be a complete jerk.  Mary, as portrayed in the sweeter Disney version Travers famously hated, is so much better (though the movie’s implication that a woman in favor of equal rights is unfit to be a mother is another issue…)

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie - A privileged, immature boy’s dream of the universe revolving around him, where everyone in the world exists merely to gratify his ego.  Females in Peter Pan’s world especially are permitted only in roles that serve his precious man-ego (more here).  Ditto the comment above that being able to take people to magical new places doesn’t mean you have the right to be a self-centered jerk about it.  Plus Tinkerbell is a homicidally jealous psycho.  I never found that as adorable as Disney apparently did.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams - As a child I had a stuffed Panda for whom I cared very lovingly, and I deeply resented the implication that because when he lost an eye I carefully sewed on a new one, it somehow meant I didn’t love him as much as if I’d abused him.  Do we really think it’s sweet to teach our children that being abused proves how much they’re loved, and that they should gratefully submit to every abuse in the hope of a better hereafter?  I don’t.  When you truly love something, whether it’s a toy or a living thing, you take care of it.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - It was lovely that Max’s mother could forgive him for his bad behavior to her, but I, alas, could never forgive him for his bad behavior to the Wild Things.  He terrified them, punished them when they’d done nothing wrong, and then abandoned them.  It was always unclear to me why they were sorry to see him go, as Max seemed to be just about as concerned with the good of his people as dictators usually are.  Not that I read politics in the book as a child; I saw it as being about injustice - the Wild Things’ love for Max, but his lack of true friendship in return, and Max’s mother’s love for her son, but his lack of repentance or apology for his misbehavior toward her (and the dog).  I do love the illustrations, though!

        So that’s my curmudgeonly rant for today, and now it’s time to go read something enjoyable.

[Pictures: “Mary Poppins admiring her reflection in a shop window,” illustration by Mary Shephard from Mary Poppins Comes Back, 1935;
“Max bent on mischief,” illustration by Maurice Sendak from Where the Wild Things Are, 1963.]

May 17, 2016

Mythical R

        Today’s episode of the Mythical Alphabet is brought to you by the letter R, which is a surprisingly sparse letter.  Of course there are plenty of other creatures I could cite to pad out my list, but many of them, such as Redcaps and Rusalka, are too similar to creatures I’ve already discussed.  Some just didn’t seem particularly interesting to me today.  And the rainbow serpent, though interesting, is more of a deity than a mere magical creature, and part of current religious belief, which I think puts it in a different category.  So that leaves us with:

ramidreju - A weasel-like creature that lives in Cantabria in northern Spain, it has an exceptionally long body, green-tinged fur, yellow eyes, and a hog-like snout with which it digs deep holes.  One is born once every hundred years, it loves gold, and its fur heals all illness.  (Spanish)

rompo - With a skeleton-like body, the front legs of a badger, the rear legs of a bear, a horse’s mane, the head of a hare, but the ears of a human, this beast feeds on human corpses.
Given that it seems to be a scavenger rather than a predator, it’s presumably more horrifying than dangerous, but even more unsettling is its habit of crooning softly as it devours human flesh.  On the other hand, it is cautious, not bold, and when frightened will camouflage itself with the color of whatever it sees around it.  (African and Indian, which seems rather vague, but it’s all I can tell you)

robot - Yes, I know robots are not mythical; they work mindlessly in factories all around the world, compete in soccer tournaments, and glow and beep benevolently in toy stores.  In the world of sci-fi and fantasy, however, robots are more than just machines capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically.  They are artificially made and powered by clockwork and/or electronics, but once they’re turned on, they have their own minds and even personalities.  Scientists are trying to make robots like this a reality, whether or not that’s actually a good idea, but so far that kind of robot remains mythical.  (I had hoped to have a new block print to show you here, but I decided to leave the carving to work on during my next show in June, so you get a repeat.)  See previous comments about robots here (Artifical Life), here (Mechanical Treasures), and here (Android Poetry).  (modern European)

roc - enormous elephant-eating bird of prey, see previous post here.  (Middle Eastern)

rakshasa - demonic humanoid who often eats humans, previous post here.  (Indian)

[Pictures: On the Rukh', woodcut based on a drawing by William Harvey, from The Story of Marco Polo, 1899, but apparently ripped off from 1001 Nights translated by Edward William Lane, 1841 (Image from Internet Archive, cf. Andy Brills);
Rompo, woodcut from Natural History by J. Maclock, 1815 (Image from Wikimedia Commons);

May 13, 2016

AEGN

        Although I pointed out in the previous post that most relief print artists don’t seem to bother to include their name or initials carved into their blocks, I enjoy figuring out ways to get my initials in there.  The linked initial design I use has been my symbol since I was about ten, with the addition of the N upon marriage.  Like so many things from my childhood, I came up with it when my older brothers had the idea first.  (Their initials worked better than mine, I thought, but I did the best I could.)  Certainly I sometimes just stick my initials plainly in a corner of a piece, and on smaller pieces especially I do leave it off altogether if there doesn’t seem to be a good place for it.  But whenever possible it pleases me not only to include my initials, but to include them in an interesting way.


        (By the way, I've illustrated this post with details to focus on the initials, but if you're curious to see how any of the details fit into the whole piece, you can always click the links at the bottom to see the complete images.)
        One possibility to make initials more interesting is to modify or decorate them in accordance with the style or theme of the piece, such as making leafy letters in a leafy scene, foamy letters in a foamy scene, or medieval style letters in a medieval style scene.
        Another option I enjoy is the Dürer method: putting the initials on an object that’s sitting in the scene, such as a book.  I use a variant of that when I’m making an image of something that would have writing on it anyway.  Then I can substitute my initials for some other name or word that might logically have been there, such as the name on a train or the registration on an airplane.
        Sometimes instead of making the initials conspicuous by making them an integral part of the picture, I have fun
camouflaging them instead.  Twigs, watery ripples, spider webs, struts and wires, and all sorts of busy patterns make possible places to disguise my initials.
        As you look at my art, or of course any other art you encounter, keep an eye out for whether the artist has included a name or initials, and if so, how.  You may find some pleasing details, some hints of humor, or some clever design that you hadn't noticed at first glance.  Although signing a work of art is usually something of an afterthought, still a name is an especially personal thing, and I find it interesting to see how other artists treat their names, and interesting to find fun things to do with my own.




[Pictures: detail of Autumn Clematis Door, rubber block print by AEGN, 2013;
detail of August 25, 2007 - Aggregate Industries, rubber block print by AEGN, 2007;
detail of Young Unicorn, rubber block print by AEGN, 2015;
detail of Holy Mountain, rubber block print by AEGN, 2007;
detail of Piping Plover, rubber block print by AEGN, 2008;
detail of Tom’s Orangutan - Bukit Lawang, rubber block print by AEGN, 2004;
detail of Three at the Water Hole, rubber block print by AEGN, 1998;
detail of Nightshade in the Sunlight, rubber block print by AEGN, 2007;
detail of A Glimpse of Paradise, rubber block print by AEGN, 2011;
detail of The Family Who Lived in a Shoe, rubber block print by AEGN, 2003;
detail of Bookby-upon-Shelf, rubber block print by AEGN, 2016;
Cement Mixer, rubber block print by AEGN, 2006;
Lockheed Vega, rubber block print by AEGN, 2015;
detail of Steam Locomotive, rubber block print by AEGN, 2010;
detail of Nycteris & Flederer’s Patent Mechanical Chiropterid (Model 3), rubber block print by AEGN, 2015;
detail of Blackbird and Hawthorn, rubber block print by AEGN, 2014;
detail of Diatomaceous Art, rubber block print by AEGN, 2012;
detail of New-fallen Snow, rubber block print by AEGN, 2010;
detail of Newport Dormer, rubber block print by AEGN, 2016;
detail of Magnolia Warbler, rubber block reduction print by AEGN, 2014;
detail of Eiffel Tower, rubber block print by AEGN, 2015.]

May 10, 2016

Initials

        I like to carve my initials in my blocks, and I plan to discuss that next time, but first I thought I’d take a look at what other artists do.  Skimming through the various artists I’ve featured here over the years, the first thing I discover is that most of them don’t bother to include their initials in the block at all.  And really, that makes a lot of sense when two likely scenarios are illustrations for a book, in which the artist’s name will be on the cover, and individual prints which the artist will
have signed directly below the image anyway.  Why bother with the
redundancy of carving something into the block that will be fiddly and probably add nothing to the composition?  So most artists don’t seem to bother, and many others are inconsistent, including initials in some blocks but not others.
        M.C. Escher, however, famously put his initials on everything he did, always the same stylized letter blocks, often with the date, usually sitting plainly in a corner of the block.  Whether Escher was leading a trend or following one, it seems to me that he worked at the time of highest popularity of initials.  Most of the other artists who carve an initial or monogram into their block were also working around the first half of the twentieth century.  Many of them include simple capital letters, such as Félix Vallotton, Herbert Pullinger, and Julie de Graag.  Some dress their initials up a little,
including Herschel Logan putting his L in a neat square, and Jan Mankes superimposing his initials into a monogram.  A few artists write out their names, including Charles Turzak and Robert Bonfils, while Jim Edd Spencer uses a symbol that doesn’t look like letters at all.  Then there are the Asian artists with chops and the addition of their name/monogram within the image, but not actually as part of the block, as in this example by Toshijiro Inagaki.
        In all these examples, though, the artists make their mark separate from the rest of the composition, usually simply down in a lower corner where there might be a convenient spot.  It was one of the earliest artists to add his initials who was also the most innovative about how he did it.  Albrecht Dürer’s monogram is always the same stylized shape, but he uses quite a bit of creativity in how and where he incorporates it into his pictures.  It’s often placed on a sort of plaque or other object sitting in the scene, and it’s appropriately distorted by perspective or shading as the scene requires.  I really enjoy that Dürer obviously had a little fun deciding how he was going to incorporate his monogram into his work, and that’s the transition into my next post, on how I like to try to do the same.

[Pictures: detail from Tower of Babel, woodcut by M.C. Escher, 1928;
detail from The Jungfrau, woodblock print by Félix Vallotton, 1892;
detail from Farm House, wood engraving by Herbert Pullinger;
detail from Twee uilen (Two Owls) woodcut by Julie de Graag, 1921;
detail from Dust Storm, block print by Herschel Logan, 1938;
detail from Zilverwyandotte, wood block print by Jan Mankes, 1917;
detail from Granary 2. linoleum cut by Jim Edd Spencer, 1934;
detail from Yasaka Pagoda, woodblock print by Toshijiro Inagaki, 1950s;
detail from Chicago Snow Storm, wood block print by Charles Turzak, 1934;
detail from L’Orage, relief block print by Robert Bonfils, c 1920’s;
detail from Noli me tangere, woodcut by Albrecht Dürer, 1511;
detail from The Flight Into Egypt, woodcut by Dürer, 1503;
detail from St George and the Dragon, woodcut by Dürer, 1501-4.]

May 6, 2016

Mythical Q

        Q, as you can imagine, is a pretty unusual letter for creatures of any sort.  Still, you should never underestimate the mythical menagerie, which is certainly not afraid to be unusual.  Here are the handful of Q beasties I’ve found.

qilin - First discovered in the fifth century BCE, the qilin is an auspicious creature that brings serenity and prosperity.  They have hooves, antlers, and manes, and their bodies are scaled and sometimes flaming.  They are peaceful vegetarians, who don’t disturb the grass when they walk (and presumably don’t burn it, either), and their voices sound like tinkling wind chimes.  (Chinese)

Questing Beast - First discovered in the thirteenth century, this creature has the head and neck of a snake, the body of a leopard, the haunches of a lion, and the feet of a deer.  The name comes from the noise it makes, like the barking of “thirty couple hounds questing.”  Its French name is Beast Glatisant, which means “barking beast.”  The really unusual thing about this noise, though, is that it comes not from the creature’s throat and mouth, but from its belly.  Could this be a strange sort of purring?  Questing is also an appropriate name, though, because it is Sir Pellinore’s never-ending quest to hunt it.  In contrast to the qilin, the Questing Beast is seen as a symbol of the violence and chaos that destroy King Arthur’s kingdom.  The contrast is particularly interesting because both qilin and Questing Beast may have evolved from legends of giraffes.  (medieval European)  

quinotaur - First mentioned in the seventh century, quinotaurs are sea monsters somewhat like the Ophiotaurus, but with five horns (hence the name.)  Inexplicably, one allegedly raped a Frankish queen in the fifth century, and the offspring of the episode was Merovech, for whom the line of Merovingian kings was named.  I have no information as to whether quinotaurs are usually so violent, or whether Merovech’s dad was a particularly heinous one.  You wouldn’t think you’d want to brag about being descended from a monster, and a monster rapist at that, but the historians just called it a “sea god” and that made it all good.  (ancient French)

qiqirn - a large dog spirit that is mostly bald but has hair on its feet, ears, mouth, and tail-tip.  People and dogs find it terrifying and run away from it, but at the same time it runs away from people and dogs.  You can be especially sure you’ll scare it if you shout its name.  However, my sources don’t tell me whether its name is Qiqirn, or whether it might have a personal name you need to know, such as Bob, Alice, or Rumpelstiltskin.  (Inuit)
quintaped - First mentioned in modern times, quintapeds are dangerous magical creatures a bit like huge tarantulas with five legs, each ending in a club foot.  They are covered in thick reddish-brown hair.  They are carnivorous and particularly love to eat humans.  Quintapeds are also known as Hairy McBoons.  (wizarding world)


[Pictures: Qilin, wood block print from Sancai Tuhui by Wang Qi and Wang Siyi, 1607 (Image from Wikimedia Commons);
Arthur and the Questing Beast, illustration by H.J.Ford from King Arthur, Tales of the Round Table edited by Andrew Lang, 1904 (Image fromWikipedia);
Quintaped, illustration from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander, edited by J.K. Rowling, 2001.]

May 4, 2016

What's New in the Studio

        This new piece is an architectural detail of the Philip Simmons house in Newport, RI (not to be confused with a Philip Simmons house in Charleston, SC).  This isn’t one of the crazy huge mansions along Bellevue Avenue.  It’s a private house that we passed while walking in the center of town a year or so ago, and I took a photograph of the dormer window and the beautiful detailing under the eaves.  So that’s what I carved this weekend.


[Picture: Newport Dormer, rubber block print by AEGN, 2016.]

April 29, 2016

Words of the Month - Shut the Door!

        A speech act, called a performative, is when simply to speak the words is to perform the action.  For example, if you say “I apologize” that is the apology.  It isn’t a report of something that happened elsewhere at another time; it isn’t merely a discussion of whether you might do something.  A performative cannot be false.  In other words, once you say “I apologize,” you have actually ipso facto apologized, even though you or the apologizee can always claim that you weren’t really sorry.  Some performatives are strong enough to have official or legal status, such as “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” or “I sentence you to life without parole,” but only when spoken in the official circumstances, by someone with the official authority.  Other examples of performatives are “I swear,” “I deny,” and “I resign.”  Only the speaker can perform the speech act, only by speaking is it performed, and once it’s spoken it cannot be unperformed (although in some cases it can be reversed or superseded).  If a sentence works with “hereby” inserted, it’s probably a performative.  “I hereby pledge my loyalty,” but not *”I hereby knit a sock.”
        Commands are a common kind of speech act.  They don’t usually include the labelling verb (I order you to shut the door) but it’s still true that to say the command “Shut the door” is to make the command.  This is all very well, but what’s really interesting is how frequently we perform indirect speech acts, and how wide a variety of ways we find do it.  So, you want Reggie to shut the door.  Here are some possible things to say/do, in rough order of increasing indirectness:
        Reggie, I hereby command you to shut the door!
        Will you please shut the door?
        I’d be grateful if you’d shut the door.
        Don’t you think the door should be shut?
        Shall we keep out the draft?
        Who left the door open?
        Now, Reggie, what have you forgotten to do?
        Aren’t you cold?
        You could even say nothing, but huddle, shiver, and look martyred.
        Often, indirect requests are deemed to be more polite than direct orders, but you can read personality and relationship into the varying strategies above: bossiness, smarminess, passive aggression…  I get a kick out of the ones that are not at all saying what the words seem to be saying.  Those in the form of questions are not really requests for information, nor indeed true questions at all.  And yet they are very seldom misunderstood, except willfully.
        In my youth my mother would often use the construction, Would you like to shut the door?  To which I would reply, usually cheerfully enough, but sometimes more obnoxiously, “No, but I will anyway.”  (This never failed to irritate my father.)  To this day I ask my own children simply to shut the door, please.  Although actually, in our house it’s not leaving doors open that’s the issue, but leaving lights turned on, and in my more frustrated moments I have been known to say to the guilty child, T, what’s wrong with this picture?  Which is a marvelously indirect speech act, and as such my children really should appreciate it more, for its linguistic beauty.
        There’s just one more cute twist to this particular phrase: sometimes Shut the door! isn’t a speech act at all.  It’s simply an exclamation of astonishment, synonymous with “No way!”  No doors are involved, and no special action is performed by the use of those particular words.  It’s yet more evidence of the wonderful complexity of human language as a reflection of the wonderful complexity of human interaction.

[Picture: Closing Doors, reduction linocut by Lori Biwer Stewart (Image from L.B. Stewart Printmaker).]

PS.  If you're in the greater Boston area, come see me at Needham Open Studios this weekend.  I'll be offering demonstrations and an opportunity to carve your own mini block.  Details here!

April 26, 2016

Mythical P

        Today I offer a selection of mythical P creatures, and it just so happens that I’m making split pea soup for dinner tonight, even though I completely forgot that it’s Tuesday and I was supposed to post something.  Conspiracy theorists, make of that what you will.  In any case, I think the theme of most of these P’s is flight - although I’m not actually thinking about it too hard, what with the forgetting about having to post something and all.

pixie - small, mischievous humanoid spirits, who are native to the moorland areas in the southwest of the UK, and often dwell in barrows, ring forts, and other archaeological sites.  They are extremely playful and love to dance and wrestle.  They are traditionally enemies of the fairies.  (Cornish)

pooka - Etymologically related to that knavish sprite call’d Puck, pooka are shape shifters who can be humanoid, or may have characteristics of animals, either ears and tail, or the entire appearance, especially horses, goats, cats, dogs, or rabbits.  They are usually dark in color.  Like the pixies, pooka are generally mischievous but not malevolent.  (Irish)

piasa - This mysterious creature was depicted as a large mural on a cliff overlooking the Mississippi River.  At the time it was first seen by Europeans it was somewhat dragonoid, but at some point in the eighteenth or nineteenth century it acquired wings and became known as a bird.  We know nothing about the habits of this creature, which is now extinct, its cliff having been quarried away for limestone.  The only record we have of its legend was published by a professor in about 1836 and was probably simply made up by him.  (probably Cahokian)

poltergeist - a ghost that makes physical disturbances, such as moving objects, making noises, and hurting people.  A poltergeist may haunt a person or a location.  According to Walt Kelly’s pup dog, poltergeists make up the principal type of spontaneous material manifestation.  (Sorry; in-joke for fans of Pogo.)  (nearly universal)

pterippus - a winged horse.  The most famous pterippus is, of course, Pegasus.  Indeed, Pegasus is the only one in classical mythology.  But it would be such a waste to have only one of such a cool and useful beast, so isn’t it nice to know there’s a word for a whole species of them?  (ancient Greek)

pyrallis or pyrausta - a dragonish insect with four legs and transparent wings.  It is born of fire, specifically the fire of the copper-smelting furnaces of Cyprus, and it cannot survive except in the fire.  (Cyprian)

phoenix - a bird that is reborn from the ashes of its own death (or, according to some theories, the ashes of its predecessor).  A phoenix can live for as long as 1,400 years in each of its cycles of life, and is associated with the sun.  They may vary in size from eagle to ostrich, and their coloring may also vary, but is always magnificent.  (ancient Greek and Roman)

[Pictures: Le Cheval, wood block print by Raoul Dufy, 1911, from Le Bestiaire ou Cortége d’Orphée by Guillaume Apollinaire (1918 edition);
Piasa Bird, woodblock print by Brian Reedy (Image from his Etsy shop WoodcutEmporium);
Phoenix, wood block print from Bestiarius by Magister Joseph Berreurius, 1524 (Image from A Fantastic Bestiary by Ernst and Johanna Lehner, 1969).]