Ephemera refers to printed material that is intended for temporary use. Items such as greeting cards, posters, trade cards, etc. are all cherished prizes of those who collect ephemera. For an artist anything with a picture on it is an attraction. I especially love printed items from yesteryear. I'm kind of an old fashioned guy. I have always felt I was born a generation too late. As a child I loved any old book with illustrations. The talent of book illustrators of the past has always amazed me. The skill required to create art on a block of wood, a stone or a plate that would then be inked and imaged on the page of a book has been a great inspiration to me as an artist. Those old book illustrations took me on a virtual journey around the world long before I was able to travel via vehicle or the world wide web. I could follow adventurers through the bush of Africa, to the North Pole and even to outer space. I am particularly fond of the Victorian era. It was a time of great progress and adventure. Victorian art the perfectly suited a variety of printed items that long outlasted the era itself. My Grandmother would create giant scrapbooks by collecting old greeting cards and postcards. She would cut out the pictures and glue them to the pages of her books. I couldn't wait to visit her house to check out her latest scrapbook and enjoy all the pretty pictures she had collected. I never had her interest in collecting such items and have never been much for collecting antiques just for the sake of collecting them, but I always wished I had been an artist in the "old days". I could see myself in a small studio toiling away at art destined for the pages of some adventure book or a small masterpiece that would be displayed on a rack in some corner shop before being purchased and mailed around the world. Recently I have spent time in the studio creating paintings inspired by illustratons from the past. By recreating these often forgotten images in new mediums I have learned much about the styles and techniques of many master artists and it has largely expanded my skill. Unless you are a collector of vintage prints most of those older illustrations are too dated to enjoy in a modern decor setting, but by remastering or even better, reimagining those works they can make beautiful fresh art for display. Knowing animals as well as I do I get a particular kick out of the way the early naturalists depicted the wildlife they illustrated. They didn't have cameras to take reference photos. They often journyed to far away lands and got only fleeting looks at the animals they attempted to draw. Often they would reference dead game without the knowledge of how to pose their subjects. The anatomy was usually way off, to the point of being quirky. I tend to fix many of those quirks when I create a new work from an old vintage reference, but sometimes the exaggerated features are what make those vintage works so loveable.
Tobacco and trade cards are a category of ephemera that I take an interest in. This particular image of a bluejay on a Criterion Soap Company Card published in 1889 really caught my attention. Partially because it in rare to catch a bluejay crowing, but I know that they do because I have watched them at my home for over a decade. My daughter actually nursed a young orphaned bluejay back to health and after it's release it would visit our home every year. It would often crow or pant with it's beak wide open. The one thing I never saw though was it's tongue sticking out as illustrated by the orginal artist. I don't doubt that it could happen, but a bluejay's tongue is more anchored to the bottom of it's lower beak and when I've seen them with mouth agape the tongue is always flattened out inside the bottom of it's beak. We recently exhibited at the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Marshfield, Missouri. Marshfield High School are the Bluejays, so I thought it fitting to do a bluejay painting for our exhibit. I remembered the old Criterion Soap Card and thought it would be the perfect piece to remaster. I painted it in acrylic on canvas in a somewhat looser style than the illustration to give it more of an artsy feel. I kept the general pose but fixed a few of the anatomical issues I had with the original. It made a beautiful piece that would be well suited in a home decor setting. I plan on doing many more of these type of works as they are great fun, make great decor for fans of my art and I have boxes full of ephemera that I have collected over the past years just for the purpose of revisiting those images in my art.