April 30, 2019

Z is for Ziz

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign to kick this project over the finish line!

        We’re ending the alphabet with a bang: the biggest creature in the skies!  No, it’s not a mere roc.  It’s even bigger…
        “The ziz is a bird so great that it can eclipse the sun, and standing in the deep ocean, the water reaches only to its ankles.  The ancient writer says: It once happened that travelers on a vessel noticed a bird. As he stood in the water, it merely covered his feet, and his head knocked against the sky. The onlookers thought the water could not have any depth at that point, and they prepared to take a bath there. A heavenly voice warned them: "Alight not here! Once a carpenter's axe slipped from his hand at this spot, and it took it seven years to touch bottom." The bird the travelers saw was none other than the Ziz.

        If it’s standing in the deep ocean, I can’t help but wonder what leviathan makes of its feet.  Does this mean leviathan is only the size of one of ziz’s toes, or are they more comparable in scale, with even deeper deepest ocean for leviathan to lurk in?  Behemoth, by the way, is the biggest land creature, although I haven’t included it in my bestiary.  It’s hard to imagine that any land creature could be as big as leviathan and ziz seem to be, so I think it must be a fair bit smaller.
        These head-to-head comparisons make me think of the age-old questions: Alien vs Predator?  Godzilla vs King Kong?  T-rex vs bantha?  Ninki Nanka vs dragon, troll vs isnashi, cherufe vs bunyip?  Certain animals in the medieval bestiaries were said to be deadly enemies of one another, including griffin and horse, basilisk and weasel, and dragon and ichneumon.  Of course not all monsters spend their time fighting cage matches, but it can be interesting to imagine what various mythical beings might make of each other.  Some fantasy creatures seem to fit into the same world logically, while others seem to be loners, wanting to keep their stories to themselves.  What creatures would you like to see appearing in a story together?

        We may be at Z, but there’s still  just a bit more alphabetic mythical creature goodness for you.  Click the link to read 


[Picture: Ziz Eclipse, rubber block print by AEGN, 2016.]

April 29, 2019

Words of the Month - Y is for Ypotryll

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  If this sounds interesting, please check out my Kickstarter Campaign for all the details.

        The ypotryll is a rare and goofy chimerical creature that seems to have begun and ended in European heraldry.  To me, its appeal is two-fold.  First, because of its rarity there aren’t many depictions of it, and the version most commonly seen gives it this wholly ridiculous and cheesy grin.  I just couldn’t help loving any monster with such a silly smile.  In my bestiary the moral I’ve drawn from the ypotryll is that “the imagination must never fear to be ridiculous.  A thousand absurd ideas are a necessary part of the process of populating the Realms of Imagination, so that truly silliness can be as valuable in its turn as the more practical ideas which it may help to inspire and evolve.”
        And secondly, its name is such a fabulous word.  So we’re once again having our Words of the Month a day early so that we can take a closer look at those funny-looking, good-for-hangman-and-spelling-bees English words that start with Y followed by a consonant.  There aren’t many.  

Yggdrasil - the “world tree’ of Norse mythology.  I mention it because it’s well-known in mythology/fantasy, and it’s a particularly satisfying mouthful of a word, but I really shouldn’t include it since it’s a proper noun.  So, setting aside other proper nouns, my dictionary has

yclept - “called,” as in “I am a blogger yclept Anne.”  Six centuries ago all kinds of verbs in English could take y- or ye- in their past participles, but why, when all the others are long gone, yclept has sort of managed to stick around as a self-consciously super-archaic form I cannot say. (While I’m on the topic of archaic forms, I can also mention that in the days before standardized spelling it was possible to see just about any word that begins with a vowel sound occasionally spelled with a y.  As we’ve seen before, yale, for example, is an alternate spelling of eale.  My favorite of these spellings just might be yse-yckel, meaning “icicle.”  For purposes of my list of English words beginning with Y, however, these just don’t cut it.)

ylang-ylang - “a perfume derived from a tropical flowering tree,” from Tagalog ilang-ilang.  I can’t tell you why the perfectly reasonable I from Tagalog got changed to a silly Y in English.  I surmise that it’s because we got the word by way of French, but I haven’t confirmed that.

ylem - "the matter of which the universe is formed," borrowed from Medieval Latin hylem in 1948 to refer to the Big Bang theory.  This one supposedly is a resuscitation of a Middle English word found by a cosmologist in "a large dictionary," but the OED gives its first appearance as 1948 and the Middle English form as hyle, so it's a bit of a mystery.

ypsiliform - “shaped like the Greek letter upsilon.”  Again, this has a Y spelling because it’s derived from an archaic (and probably Old-French-derived) Y spelling of the Greek letter.  (Tangential fun fact: a near-synonym is arietiform meaning “shaped like a ram’s head” or, specifically, the astrological symbol for Aries.  When there are two fabulous words for something, how can you choose?  You just have to talk about Y-shaped things twice as often, I guess.)

ytterbium - a metallic rare-earth element (Yb), named for the Swedish town of Ytterby where it was found

yttria - “the oxide of yttrium.”  It’s also possible to make various other forms, such as the adjective yttric.

yttrium - another element (Y), also found near and named for Ytterby

yngling - a kind of sailboat designed in Norway in 1967, with a Norwegian name (meaning “youngster”)

Of course my dictionary doesn’t even include ypotryll, so it’s clearly not comprehensive!
The word ypotryll probably derives in part from Middle English ypotame from Old French, meaning “hippopotamus,” even though the hippo is one of the few animals that does not lend any body parts to the ypotryll.  Possibly it’s just the horse part (hippo- or ypo-) ultimately from the Greek, although the ypotryll doesn't include any horse genes, either.  What the -tryll is, no one seems to know.  Given that this beast appears to have been invented by some late medieval herald desperate for variety, it may simply be a completely random word that sounded good, just like the made-up names of creatures in modern fantasy.
        But the alphabet of mythical creatures doesn’t stop with ypotryll.  In fact, it’s suspiciously full of wild, hairy ape-men.  You have to click the link to read 

[Picture: Ypotryll in Springtime, rubber block print by AEGN, 2019.]

April 26, 2019

X is for Xana

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign to kick this project over the finish line.

        From the end notes of the book: “The xana is a nymph or water spirit from the folklore of the Asturian region of northern Spain.  In addition to luring men with their beauty and their song, they frequently guard treasures, which they may occasionally offer to worthy travellers.  They are also known to leave their babies with human women as changelings.”

        So the xana is a pretty standard water nymph in most regards, similar to nymphs in legends all around Europe and most of the other continents, too.  Beautiful, watery young women that swim, sing, seduce, and lure men seem to be a fairly universal human preoccupation.  Of course I picked this particular variant merely because it begins with X.  (I know all my fellow A-Z bloggers will understand and sympathize with that!)  For my depiction, what occurred to me was that if humans are so curious about nymphs, chances are nymphs are equally curious about us.  Maybe they sing and lure people just to try to figure out what sort of creatures we are.
        Here’s the previous post about the making of this print.

        I really wanted to use xog for my X creature.  That’s a winged dog, which I thought would be tremendous fun to illustrate.  However, as the xog appears in a 2002 book by David Frampton (see it at the bottom of this post with lots more X-citing alphabet fun), I would have had to deal with copyright issues.  Ugh.  So I’m just sticking with stuff in the public domain.  But what are your favorite new fantasy creatures?  Pushmi pullyus? Orcs?  E.T.?  Nifflers or thestrals?  Godzilla or Mothra?

        Even for X, the alphabet of mythical animals doesn’t stop here.  Click the link to find more X beasts in 


[Picture: Freshwater Life, rubber block print by AEGN, 2016.]

April 25, 2019

W is for Wyvern

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign to find out more.

        As mentioned before, I’m not trying to make an encyclopedia in which I merely accurately report the research on these myths and legends.  I’m trying to start with the research, but then imagine the next step.  If these creatures really existed, how might they actually behave?  How might people interact with them?

“The wyvern dwells primarily in Europe, and is frequently employed in heraldry, where it poses fiercely on coats of arms.  There it is thought to bring fortune in battle to those who bear its symbol, but what of the wyvern's own fortune?  Though wyverns have rampaged over the countryside and posed on coats of arms for centuries, it is not inevitable that they do so always and forever.  I myself in my travels once encountered on a rocky tor a restless wyvern who had left his shield to seek his own fortune, hoping to discover what new possibilities the world might hold for him.
        This wyvern teaches us the power of envisioning new possibilities, for it is easy to assume that the way things are is the only possible way for them to be, and difficult to break free of the assumption that the world cannot be changed or improved.  Let us be reminded by the adventuresome wyvern that we need not remain enslaved to things as they are, for the way things are is not inevitable, and we can, with imagination, seek for freedom in new ways of seeing and living in the world.”

        If you could pick any creature for your own personal symbol, what would you pick and why?

        The alphabet of mythical creatures doesn’t stop there.  You have to click the link to read 

[Picture: Freedom, rubber block print by AEGN, 2017.]

April 23, 2019

V is for Vegetable Lamb

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign for lots of fun details about the project.

        To learn all about the vegetable lamb, start by reading this previous post.
        And now that you know what the vegetable lamb is… I particularly enjoy imagining how magical creatures might have a place in our modern world, but this is one of the few illustrations I’ve made that directly addresses that.  I have chosen to grow my vegetable lambs in an urban pot garden, rather than a medieval cottage garden or a renaissance herbal garden, for example, because it seemed to me that traditionally fantasy is much more commonly set in rural or preindustrial scenes, and the recent proliferation of urban fantasy focusses more on horror or “gritty” stuff.  I wanted some cozy urban fantasy.  The fire escape obviously makes this a city scene, and the fan in the upper window shows that it’s modern rather than being, say, Victorian.

        How do you think mythical creatures would fare in the modern world?  We hear plenty about vampires and werewolves, but what about some of the other creatures in the alphabet so far?

The alphabet of mythical creatures doesn’t stop there, of course.  Click the link to read 


[Picture: Enchanted Garden, rubber block print by AEGN, 2014.]

April 22, 2019

U is for Umbrellaphant

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign to kick this project over the finish line!
        Be sure to check out the master list at the A-Z Blog Challenge for links to all my fellow A-Z-ers.

        The two U animals featured in my bestiary are the ancient and famous unicorn, and the more recent and less well-known umbrellaphant.  You can read about both of them starting with the
Click through from there for further details.
        As you will see if you read the previous posts, I had identified two species of umbrellaphant portrayed by previous illustrators: the tusk-umbelled and the trunk-umbelled.  Gustave Verbeek’s tusk-umbelled from 1905 is a “gluttonous brute,” “thirsting for gore,” while Jack Prelutsky and Carin Berger’s trunk-umbelled from 2006 is simply and straightforwardly equipped with a convenient umbrella.  When I decided to do my own, however, I always try to come up with something at least slightly different, so I had to discover a third species: the auricle-umbelled umbrellaphant.  And my version is a “most welcoming beast.  Should another creature desire shelter, the umbrellaphant will gladly make room, so that it is not uncommon to see a number of smaller birds and beasts accompanying an umbrellaphant, glad to find shade from the searing sun or shelter from the pelting rain.”  I hadn't thought of that aspect until after I made the print, though, so unfortunately I didn't show any other creatures in my illustration.
        Inspired by Verbeek and Prelutsky, however, I did invent the capybureau, and among the others I thought of (but have not illustrated) are the pelicanopener, hollyhocktopus, artichokapi, clockroach, kumquotter, and helicoptermite.  It’s a lot of fun to try to come up with them.  What mash-up critters can you discover?


[Picture: Umbrellaphant, rubber block reduction print by AEGN, 2018.]

April 20, 2019

T is for Time Fly

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign for more information about the project.

        “Time flies are an order of insect that comes in many varieties.  It is thought that they breed in the dust of long-abandoned bell-towers, where the dry fluttering and buzzing of their wings causes slight vibrations in the flow of time around them.  It has been noticed by philosophers that similar vibrations in the flow of time can occur to people engaged in certain activities.  That is to say that during the most engrossing of tasks in which we are utterly absorbed, it sometimes happens that time seems to run the faster past us.  I myself have found that while I am engaged in my own favorite task of studying, writing, and depicting the Realms of Imagination, several hours may pass over me in a space that seems much shorter.  Naturalists may be led to wonder whether such temporal anomalies indicate the presence of a time fly nearby.”

        During which activities do you experience the presence of time flies?  Or do you find yourself more commonly visited by the species that make time stretch out — that’s right, the ones that breed in waiting rooms and droning lectures?

You can read about my process of making the Time Flies block here.

        The other T creature in my bestiary is the troll, and you can learn about my process of
making the troll block here
And don’t forget to read

[Picture: Time Flies, rubber block print by AEGN, 2011.]

April 17, 2019

S is for Space Creature

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign for lots of fun information about the book.

        Like robots, space creatures are often neglected when people look at the creatures of fantasy, presumably because of the slightly arbitrary distinction between fantasy and science fiction.  You may be surprised to learn that people have been telling fantasy tales about travellers to the moon, heavens, stars, and other planets for as long as we have writing that preserves the stories they told, and those tales include all manner of  fantastical space creatures.

        “The story illustrated for you here is of a struthioform astronaut from the far-distant planet Pelavium upon its first discovery of life forms on a moon of Nemelun, with which Pelavium shares a star.  Among these newly encountered species are a tentacled crater-dweller, a grove of sentient trees or vines, and the aviansect that dwells thereon, while a cautious frondbrow looks on shyly.  All these space creatures are new discoveries to the struthioform, but it should be noted that the struthioform is equally new to them.”

        For a few more posts on older fantasy involving space creatures, check out 
        I’m not as well-practiced at drawing space creatures, but I certainly had fun trying to invent a few.  What sorts of aliens would you most want to have pay a visit to Earth?  Or encounter on your own space travels?

        The other creature representing S in my book is the salamander, which you can link to by way of

[Picture: One Giant Leap, rubber block print by AEGN, 2019.]

April 16, 2019

R is for Robot

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign for lots of additional info on the project.

        You may argue that robots are not fantasy, but of course those depicted in much sci fi or fantasy fiction are.  As the bestiary explains…
        “A robot is a creature built by human hands, and can thus be designed in myriad forms.  Some of the creations of humans are mere tools, devised by mechanics to perform a task without thought or reflection, and these are common in the mundane world, especially in factories.  Other robots, however, are complex creatures capable of life-like action of their own, beings proper that may consider their own place in the universe.  Indeed, there is much debate over the essence of a robot, and whether a robot with self-consciousness and will can indeed be said to be alive and have a soul despite its artificial birth.  The ancient robot says: I am on-ly a ma-chine. But I can think and speak and act, when I am pro-per-ly wound up.  I am fit-ted with Smith & Tin-ker's Improved Com-bi-na-tion Steel Brains.  You have no i-de-a how full of ma-chin-er-y I am.”

        The “ancient robot” is Tik-tok, as quoted by L. Frank Baum in Ozma of Oz, written before the word robot was coined.  Tik-tok is a character of whom I’m very fond.  He frequently points out that he’s not alive, but it seems to be a distinction without a difference.  Then of course there are Data from Star Trek, replicants from Blade Runner, and robots in Westworld, Almost Human, and dozens of others.  What do you think?  Will truly sentient robots ever move out of the realm of fantasy?  Should they?

If you prefer your fantasy creatures more fantastic, there are always rocs, Redcaps, and ramidrejus.  Click the link to read 


[Picture: A Device for Cleaning Steam Pipes, rubber block print by AEGN, 2016.]

April 15, 2019

Q is for Qilin

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out its Kickstarter Campaign, which is already 200% funded!  (Much gratitude to all who have pledged!)

        “The qilin is a most auspicious creature in the land of China, where it dwells.  It is covered in brilliant scales and has a mane and tail that flow always upwards like flame.  With its slender legs and delicate hooves it is careful to step lightly so that it never harms a living thing, neither crawling insect nor blade of grass.  The ancient writer says: There lives a creature of so gentle kind a nature, on no living thing will tread, no, not e’en the grass in spring; and the horn which crowns its head never injures mortal thing.
        There are those who may say kind words when people are listening, but speak cruelly behind others' backs, or who do what is right only when others are watching, in hope of reward or in pursuit of reputation.  The qilin, however, is gentle wherever it walks, and is no less careful of a lowly beetle in the grass than of an emperor.  The qilin’s perfect integrity gives it the power to stand up to wickedness, for it knows what is right and how to live in peace and honesty with all.”

        I had a lot of fun with this piece and am really pleased with it.  My qilin is floating above the tops of the grass blades and taking a courteous interest in the butterflies, as befits such a gentle soul.  The ombre coloring is done by putting the two colors of ink (in this case green and black) next to each other on the plate and rolling them out until they’re blended just the right amount.  Then you have to ink your block in one direction only (horizontally and never vertically), so as not to mix up the colors.  It does make it harder to get the block inked perfectly, but can be a really nice effect.

        The qilin is a particularly good mythical beast to encounter because it is entirely auspicious and (especially if you’re reasonably virtuous) won’t hideously slaughter you.  What mythical creature would you most like to see live and in person?
        Q may seem like a tough letter, but the alphabet of mythical creatures doesn’t stop there.  You can click the link to read


[Picture: Keeping Off the Grass, rubber block print by AEGN, 2018.]

April 12, 2019

P is for Pyrallis

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign; there are lots of goodies about the project posted there.
        Actually, the two P creatures in my bestiary are the phoenix and the pterippus, both of which I’ve blogged about before.  So I decided to be tricky and focus today on the pyrallis, which will appear in my book only as a bonus critter in a tiny detail of another illustration.
        Many sources nowadays describe the pyrallis (aka pyrausta) as being like a tiny dragonoid insect or insectoid dragon, which lives in the copper-smelting furnaces of Cyprus.  When I first heard of this I was utterly enchanted.  I imagined it as being a miniature dragon, but with dragonfly wings, large multi-faceted eyes, and probably antennae.  I can just see it, flitting among the sparks and glowing in the firelight.  It’s a delightful image.  But when you do a little digging, Pliny, our original source, classes it under “insects” and describes it as “a four-footed animal with wings, the size of a large fly.”  With only four legs we are justified in questioning whether the pyrallis is truly an insect… but dragon?  Where did that come from?
        The pyrallis is a poster child for the question of “authenticity” in fantasy.  For millenia people told each other stories, and retold them, and adapted them, and mixed them up, and told them again.  We saw this phenomenon before with the gnome, and the phoenix, too, had all kinds of variations from author to author - how long did it live, what did it look like, how did that whole regeneration thing work?  There are many many different versions throughout various classical and medieval writings.  Which one is “authentic”?  What does “authentic” even mean when you’re talking about something entirely imaginary?  On the other hand, if I start describing a swimming bird that doesn’t regenerate at all, I really can’t call it a “phoenix”, can I.  How much leeway should modern fantasy writers get in adapting and changing fantasy creatures they did not make up themselves?
        It’s a question with a lot of wiggle room and grey area.  What do you think?  All you fantasy writers out there must have Opinions, and among readers, do you appreciate the little tweaks or added depth that fantasy books contribute to your image of a mythical creature, or does it annoy you when they don’t stay true to previous versions?
        As for me, I confess that sometimes changes annoy me and sometimes they don’t, but in the case of the pyrallis, if it is a mere insect, I don’t much care about it, but if it’s a tiny dragon?  Yes, please!  What do you think?
        You can read all about
and

[Picture: detail from The Philosophers at Home, rubber block print by AEGN, 2018.]

April 11, 2019

O is for Ouroboros

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign for all sorts of additional information, pictures, and even a video.  Huge thanks to all the backers who have already successfully brought this campaign to its goal, much to my astonishment and delight!
        And now for our featured creature:

        “The ancient artists of Egypt and Greece depicted this serpent as a simple circle, tail in mouth, but not all ouroboroses find satisfaction in the perfect circles common among their kind.  Though some find the simplicity of the circle pleasing and satisfying, others prefer to form themselves into other shapes, just as dancers long to sing with their bodies and poets long to paint with words.  Yet no matter the strange and sinuous variety of patterns enacted by the more poetical ouroboroses, every one holds its tail in its mouth, without which closure it would no longer be eternal.
        By the ouroboros we are reminded that everyone has a unique voice and vision, and it would be a terrible loss to force every person to conform themselves to the same regular shape instead of the endlessly creative variants with which our souls are naturally teeming.  But just as the ouroboros must always keep tail in mouth, so must we remember that true creativity consists not in mindlessly altering things merely for the sake of novelty, but rather in balancing the fundamentals which are truly important, with the variations that allow us to celebrate our myriad unique visions.”

        For a post about my process in imagining and creating this piece, see here.
        Are there any things that you have your own unique way of doing?  What quirky personal variations do you have for ordinary activities?  (Or maybe not so ordinary?)

The alphabet of anything-but-ordinary creatures doesn’t stop there.  Click the link to read


[Picture: Ouroboros Makes a Poem, rubber block print by AEGN, 2014.]

April 9, 2019

N is for Ninki Nanka

        My theme for this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination.  I’m super excited to announce that I am launching my first ever Kickstarter Campaign to kick this project over the finish line!  Please check it out; there’s a lot of info about the book there, including a video, because I’m just that snazzy.  And if you know of anyone who might enjoy this project, please let them know about it - I’ll need all the publicity help I can get!
        And now for the content teaser, an excerpt from the Letter N:

        “The Ninki Nanka is a fearsome monster dwelling in the swamps and rivers of western Africa, especially the Gambia and Senegal.  Although it is seldom seen, its presence is known, and children are warned never to enter the swamps alone lest the Ninki Nanka devour them.  Imagine how easily even a huge beast can lurk in the muddy pools among the roots and weeds, watching and waiting for unwary prey.  A swirl of movement in the humid, heavy air, a swish of the turbid water, and suddenly the scaly neck rears up, the horns slash, the powerful teeth clamp on flesh, and another victim disappears beneath the churning water.  Surely no one should enter the swamp without being warned of the Ninki Nanka.”

        Did anyone ever warn you with threats from the boogeyman, Jenny Greenteeth, Krampus, or other scary creatures that will Get You if you don’t behave?

        The alphabet of mythical creatures doesn’t stop there.  Something's gonna get you if you don't click the link to read


[Picture: Don’t Go Into the Swamp, rubber block print by AEGN, 2018.]

April 8, 2019

M is for Malacorana

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination, which will be released by the end of the year.  Please visit my Kickstarter Campaign for the project to learn all sorts of additional details!

        M is another letter for which I’ve already discussed both my bestiary’s creatures in this blog.  To learn all about them, first go back and read my previous posts
But I do have a new block print to share with you, which is one of the malacomorphs that will appear in my bestiary.  True to their origins as doodles in the margins of illuminated manuscripts, I have made a number of these funny little critters which will appear throughout my book.  I had particular fun with this one, combining not only the requisite snail shell, but also snail antlers and then wings, just because that made it even quirkier.  What creature do you think would be best combined with a snail shell?

      Are you a doodler?  What sorts of doodles do you tend to produce?  Pictures of things, or abstract shapes?  Straight lines or curves?  Filling in all the o’s or putting mustaches on all the people?
But wait; there’s more!  The alphabet of mythical creatures doesn’t stop there.  You have to click the link to read


[Picture: Malacorana, rubber block print by AEGN, 2019.]

April 5, 2019

L is for Leviathan

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination, which will be released by the end of the year.  You'll find lots of additional information at my Kickstarter Campaign for the project.  Please check it out!

        Both of my bestiary’s L creatures have been featured in this blog before, so you can start with lots of background reading:
on the lylit (aka leaf baby) here (from last year’s A-Z Challenge)
        And now here’s an excerpt from my bestiary, On the Virtues of Beasts:

        “There are known to be many creatures in the depths of the ocean, of wondrous strangeness, and never seen by human eyes.  And yet our learned men are wont to assert as if with certainty that this creature or that one cannot truly exist.  It is well to remember the limits of earthly wisdom and the reality of those realms beyond our current knowledge: the distant skies beyond the stars, the depths of the oceans beneath the waves, and the possibilities of wonder within the imagination.  Perhaps even the leviathan, largest of creatures in the deepest of oceans, is no greater than our ignorance.
        The leviathan, therefore, reminds us of how much we have yet to learn.  No one can call themselves wise who cannot first recognize and admit the limits of their knowledge.”

        The leviathan is the biggest creature of all.  What’s the biggest creature you’ve ever seen?

        The alphabet of mythical creatures is bigger, too.  You have to follow yet another link to read 

[Picture: Altum Incognitum, rubber block print by AEGN, 2014.]

April 4, 2019

K is for Kasa-Obake

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination, which will be released by the end of the year.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign for the project!  There's all sorts of additional information about my book, pictures, and even a video!








        Once again, rather than rehash information I’ve posted before, I’ll send you right away to read

        … And now that you know what a kasa-obake is, I’ll tell you about my version.  It’s just a small piece with not a lot of room for detail, and it’s pretty straightforward.  I tried to remain true to the traditional description of the thing, so my twist on it is in its setting and pose.  You might recognize it…  Yes, that’s Gene Kelly in the 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rain.  I figured that a sentient umbrella would surely out-Kelly Gene Kelly himself.  I like to imagine this Japanese spirit
or creature on dark, stormy nights happily singin’ and dancin’ in the rain.
        Do you like the rain?

        Remember, if you click the link for the A-Z Blog Challenge, you will find the Master List of all the other blogs participating this year.  There are lots of cool posts out there for you to discover!

[Picture: Singin’ in the Rain, rubber block print by AEGN, 2016;
Photo of Gene Kelly from Singin' in the Rain, MGM, 1952.]

April 2, 2019

J is for Jubjub Bird

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination, which will be released by the end of the year.  Please visit my Kickstarter Campaign for the project!

        The basics of the Jubjub bird, discovered by Lewis Carroll, are discussed in
So today I’ll discuss how I designed my version.  One of the fun things about the Jubjub is that the description of it is quite vague and sparse, and since Sir John Tenniel never gave us his version to set the canon, it remains very much up to each artist to envision it as she wishes.  In the versions shared in the link above, one artist gives us a picture in which the Jubjub bird barely shows at all, so that it remains a mystery and we still don’t know how to imagine it.  The other gives it clothes, since Carroll says “Its taste in costume is entirely absurd - it is ages ahead of the fashion.”  I didn’t want to dress my Jubjub in clothes, so I contented myself with giving it gaudy plumage.  Almost the only other thing we learn about its appearance is that it has a “symmetrical shape,” which explains my composition.
We know it lives "in a perpetual passion," so I imagined it throwing a bit of a tantrum.  And finally, although Carroll’s description ends up sounding, on the whole, merely ridiculous, the one thing everybody does know for sure about the Jubjub is that we must beware it.  For this reason I gave it big, fierce talons like a velociraptor to hint that it really could be quite dangerous.  How do you imagine the Jubjub bird?

[Picture: Beware the Jubjub Bird!, rubber block print by AEGN, 2018.]

April 1, 2019

I is for Isnashi

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination, which will be released by the end of the year.  You'll find all kinds of details about it at my Kickstarter Campaign for the project.

        “The isnashi is a large beast covered in long, coarse hair so rank in odor that strong hunters have become dizzy and lost consciousness at the stench of it.  Its claws turn backwards on its feet, and it has only one eye, but it has a second mouth, in the center of its chest, from which it roars mightily.  It dwells deep in the thick jungles to the south of Earth's equator in Brazil and Bolivia, fearing nothing, only that it dislikes open water.
        Some say the isnashi is a vicious monster who slaughters men, while others maintain that it is herbivorous and attacks humans only when they transgress the laws of the forest with needless destruction.  In these reports of the isnashi we can see that stories may tell us as much about the teller as the subject.  Perhaps those who claim that the isnashi is vicious are themselves vicious, and color the creature by their own disposition as much as the truth.
        From the isnashi, therefore, we learn to assess the perspectives of every tale-teller we hear, and likewise to be aware of our own attitudes before we tell tales of others.”

        This is another of those creatures that cryptozoologists have speculated about.  Could there be monstrous, mutant, one-eyed megatheriums still surviving from the end of the Pleistocene, now roaming the Amazon?  Well, you never know.
        I do know that the alphabet of mythical creatures doesn’t stop there.  You have to click the link to read

[Picture: You Never Know, rubber block print by AEGN, 2018.]