Auda, the Mushroom Princess, sat in her home far below the busy streets of Baltimore, worried and nervously tapping the arm of her chair. Two bags full of wilting food sat at her feet. Scallions were limp and wrinkly and drooped over the edge of the bag, the spinach bag that was next to it was fogged up and looked unappetizing.
She was one hundred and ninety three, but her memory never failed her and she had a good century left before she became one again with the soil. Auda could remember the finest details of all that she had experienced in her lifetime, and was even able to recall all of her dreams. It disturbed her to realize that she did not remember getting home. She clearly remembered enjoying the overcast August morning in Mount Vernon. It was Sunday and she had walked her way to the Farmer’s Market. The princess remembered walking home and stopping by Dooby’s for an iced coffee and a savory scone. She remembered sitting in the park with her purchases and finishing the coffee and scone while having an impromptu conversation with the Council Mystic Ola.
Auda stopped tapping the arm of her chair and took a deep breath. She looked around the room. Her eyes scanned, but never stopped on anything in particular. She looked for some clue as to how she got where she was, but found nothing. Auda took the bags into the kitchen and began to put away the items as she began to think again about the last memories. Laloux had joined them at the park and talked about names she was considering for her new heliump. It was due to hatch any day now and she was too excited to contain herself.
Auda cut the wilted ends off of the scallions and tossed them in the compost with a disappointed exhale. The base of a few of them didn’t make it either and the spinach had shrunk considerably, but could still be salvaged if sautéed. It was still morning when she walked her way up W Read Street and the church bells mixed with the disapproving howls from neighboring dogs. She had left her friends at the park to chat with each other and had told them to come by for an early supper. Auda remembered that she had made it up to the manhole that she usually used to enter the caverns that led to her home, but a moving van was parked nearby. She lingered as the family loaded the van and remembered hearing dogs barking in the distance - communicating in their secret language. As she waited for the family to head back for another load she considered other entrances she might try instead, but the family moved back inside. The coast was clear and as she made her way to the manhole, a tall man caught her off guard and asked her if she knew the time. His voice was odd and his eyes were shadowed from the brim of his hat. He was extremely tall. Seven foot or more. He held out his pocket watch and asked if it was the right time. Sun reflected from the glass on the face of the timepiece as it fell from his hand to the ground. Her next memory was sitting at home in her chair.
Auda looked at the clock on her wall and gasped. It was only a few minutes shy of 4:45pm. She had lost half the day. Her friends would arrive any minute and they would be expecting one of here elaborate meals. What had happened to her? Her mind began to move too fast and she had to keep herself from falling. How did she get home? Was she taken? Did she walk home on her own? She ran to the front door and it was closed but unlocked. It was difficult for her to keep up with her thoughts. Her head felt like a blender and she forced it to stop.
Auda held the title of Princess, but it had been some time since she had any people to rule over. The kingdom had dwindled and eventually dispersed however Auda never lost the skills that were essential in her position. She was still able to be cool under pressure, a trait that had served her well as Princess.
First things first - food. Guests would be here in 20 minutes. It was not what she would have preferred, but under the time constraints she had little options. She considered the food she had and with a moments thought, added them to a large pot on the stove. Rarely did she ever use magic to cook, but she had little choice at this point. She was out of time. The princess wove her hand over the pot and then over the spice rack, food, cutlery and finally over the stove.
“Twenty minutes” she said out loud, to complete the spell.
Next she searched each room, with he help of a spell, for anyone that may be there. The result was relieving to her. It was just her and the occasional spider and cricket. She locked the entrance behind her and made her way double-time to the last place she remembered. Standing at the intersection she looked around. Nothing seemed odd. She heard someone loudly singing out-of-tune in distance, dogs barked, cars drove by - nothing was strange.
“Your highness.” Ola called from down the block. She was walking her way with Laloux.
They liked to call her by that title, not as a formality and certainly not because Auda wanted them to or required it, but simply because they enjoyed the fact that they knew someone with such a noble title.
“What are you doing here?” Laloux asked. “We were expecting to meet you at you at your place.”
Ola knew something was off. She studied Auda for a moment. Not just her physical body, but her energy and her soul. “Tell us what happened.”
Auda motioned for them to follow her to the manhole. They slipped inside and by the time they made it to her home, Auda had explained all that had happened since she last saw them (which to her only seemed like an hour ago) and the heavenly aroma of an early supper greeted them as they stepped into her home to enjoy the meal and put together the pieces of this lost time.
Renée French was born in the early 60’s in rural New Jersey and now her and her husband split their time living between the US and Australia. Up until very recently, graphite was her preferred medium, however now that she has begun using paints, her works have concentrated in that field. French’s works are small-miniature (typically only a few square inches) and sometimes she has to get creative to allow herself to work smaller than her instrument may allow. Her work has hung in galleries across the globe and often the entire show can travel in an envelope. Renée's art carrer began through working in comics as both a writer and illustrator, where she was honored with the Inkpot Award, and is also the author of two children’s books under the pen name Rainy Dohaney. The switch to painting came from living in Australia and wanting to learn classic techniques. After learning the oil methods of the masters, French realized that painting in acrylic is where she felt the most comfortable and less stressed during the creation process. This also allows her to paint where and when she wants (the same way she draws). The Bunny painting I have highlighted is one of these paintings and despite the brilliant gold background, the painting shows her fondness of a muted palette which I adore. Follow her work using some of the links below and discover the farcical and often worrisome, fuzzy fleshy and squishy characters that Renée French has become synonymous with.
Hildreth was perfectly named. Her parents, back in Germany, must have know that she would one day grow into the cunning warrior she was with a deep knowledge of strategy. The council selected her as the Battle Counselor of the occupying suvians in Baltimore before they even knew that her name indicated that she could live up to that role.
Before this title was bestowed upon her, she filled her spare time as a life guard at Lake Roland. This was a favorite swimming hole for the suvians that lived in Baltimore, but not one that the humans would dare use. Her keen observation and her long-reaching tentacles made her great at this job, even though it wasn’t where her heart was.
These days she spent most of her time in solitude, atop various buildings in Baltimore, observing the comings and goings of suvians, humans, and most importantly the unsavory grootslang and yaogaui from the Inmost. After much persuading from Ola (the counsel mystic), and her friend Alti, the counsel began to take head to the demands the Lords and Ladies from the Inmost. Their attempt at appeasement and trickery with the animated dead as an offering, instead of living humans, was still uncertain. No official reply had been made, but Alti (as well as other suvians) were being followed and warned. Thankfully these intimidating tactics were diminishing, but Hildreth was on guard all the same. Those that dwell in the Inmost may well outnumber the suvians that dwell on the surface, but they weren’t pushovers and many could match them in their ferocity.
The day was gray and wet, but this didn’t phase Hildreth in the least. As a matter of fact, she felt the most comfortable in this kind of weather. A few degrees cooler would be perfect, but it didn’t matter much. She was content. The moisture filled the air and echoed sounds and refracted light from all around.
She was saddened to find that some of the reanimated corpses that had been given as a sacrificial offering had made their way back to familiar haunts. Hildreth was uncertain whether or not the offering were simply escapees (which could happen at times) or if they had been rejected all together. It was an added bonus of her job, that if she were to find that any of these reanimated corpses had returned, she was given the authority to dispose of them by whatever means she preferred. Now she had been a vegetarian for almost four decades now, but in her opinion, eating these “zombies” were not taking a living soul.
Hildreth had mistaken a few quite living humans for the reanimated ones because their mannerisms had been similar. Upon closer examination, she realized that they were on some sore of altering substance or they were reading their phone while walking. Both gave a similar appearance.
Cars honked in the distance and the light rain drew the sound in circles around here. The setting sun refracted in the droplets that clung to all that was around and Hildreth settled into her spot, aware that it may be some time before she was needed, but she would be more than ready.
Matt Dangler was born in 1984 and grew up on the Jersey shore. He graduated with a BA from Uarts in Philadelphia PA where he won multiple awards, but he settled back in NJ where he lives with is wife (who is expecting their first born) in their dream home “The little house on the lake in the woods”. For over a decade now Dangler has been working full time as an artist and his work has shown across the nation and the globe. His career first began in illustrating a couple children’s books, when he quickly realized that creating art for someone else’s vision did not satisfy him. Matt’s work has always come from deep within. A quite and meditative space that highlights his life and feeds his art in reflective illustrated narratives. Most of his oil paintings are surprisingly small for their detail. Often just a few inches wide and tall, but some of his work goes larger (like the painting I have highlighted here). Unlike like smaller paintings (which focus on a single creature portrait), his larger pieces focus on scenes of magic and mysticism that encompass fantastic landscapes and a wide variety of oddly familiar fauna that seem to have been conjured from the universe that Jim Henson exposed us all to. Matt has taken that inspiration of movies like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth and made something of his own out of it, with his very distinct vision. I have featured one of his larger oil paintings (36” x 24”) titled The Deep Dilemma which I love because it depicts some of my favorite subjects in his paintings all together - ghostly whips of smoke, living wax, an aquatic creature, and a puzzling lock and key scenario. Follow the brilliant work of Matt Dangler in the links below.
“It is such a beautiful day.” Vassago said while laying on his back under the shade of the fragrant magnolia. His eyes were closed and he swam in the dreamy pleasures of the summer. The heat was just the way he liked it, heavy and sticky and filled with thick and fetid city odors. Baked loam and sour asphalt.
“You find pleasure in everything. That is what I love about you.” Alti said while gazing into the bright summer sky. Their sticky arms were touching and Vass turned and smiled at him. He held Alti’s hand; their palms tacky with sweat.
“Whats not to like?”
At the moment Alti could think of a few things - the gnats buzzing in his ear, the mosquitoes feasting off him, some of the rank and unsavory city smells wafting his way, and the oppressive heat, but he decided not to mention them. Alti knew that Vassago loved those unpleasant things and wouldn’t understand.
A snort came from Alti’s other side and he turned to see what Gyoza, his beloved pet podgolin, was up to. Gyoza was on his side scratching at his spines and playfully chewing on a dandelion.
“How was your meeting with the counsel?” Vass asked as if he was asking how the sandwich was that he had for lunch.
“Really? What do you mean? This is the third meeting you have had since you were approached.” Now with more interest and concern. “Did you mention the threat this time?”
Alti let go of Vass’s hand and rubbed Gyoza’s side. Gyoza noticed, but continued playing with the flower.
“I didn’t. I did make sure they knew it was serious this time.” Alti hesitated. He hated to burden anyone and that included the counsel and Vass. “They know it is bad. And important.”
The heat felt like a unbearable blanket of wet hot wool and Alti began to squirm. He sat up and Vass followed, but Gyoza stayed down, lazily mouthing the weed. Alti wanted to change the subject.
“Play us a song.” Alti requested with a forced smile. He was determined to preserve the special time they had together on this sweltering day.
“You’re in danger Alti.” Vassago hesitated to go further. “I have seen it.”
Alti’s smile fell ever so slightly. “Come on,” He took Vass’s hands. “Play us a song.”
Vass gave him a look, one that said this important and shouldn’t be dismissed, then removed his harmonica from his pocket, thought for a brief moment, and began playing. The notes were low at first and pulled from the gut. Alti did not know the song, but it sounded familiar. Vass moved with the music and you could see from the way he played, that the song seemed to be moving though him and out of him. Taking parts of him with it. Tearing at him has it came out in a slow somber dirge.
“That was beautiful.” Alti said. It had put Gyoza to sleep and his tiny snoring lightened the mood a bit. Alti didn’t ask what the song was called or what it was about. He knew it was telling the story of what may come. “I’ll talk to the counsel again and tell them about the threat.”
Vass smiled and kissed Alti. The gnats and mosquitos settled again as they layed back down and gazed into the canopy of the blooming magnolia.
Born in Southern California in 1984 to Mexican immigrants, Emilio Villalba felt his artistic drive early on. Emilio initially studied animation and received his BFA in 2006 from the Art Institute of California and quickly began work in that field in his early 20’s until moving to San Francisco and transitioned to the medium of painting. In San Francisco he received his MFA in Painting in 2012 from the Academy of Art University. Villalba’s work reflects his studies in both abstract and figurative painting. At the core of Emilio’s painting’s there is pure portraiture, but great focus on the disharmony of the self and perception. Pressures from society and the toll it takes on the emotional state of the subject when confronted with benevolence. Raw emotions and the fragility of the soul. Villalba overlaps and repeats human features with a kaleidoscope effect. “Don’t Worry” is the 2018 painting of his that I decided to feature. It pulls you in with a sadness at its core and doesn’t want to let you go. It reminds me of the face we may give to the world, that all is ok, but the eyes tell a different story. I urge you follow the links below and discover his somber and seductive work.
It was a beautiful Spring day in Baltimore, Maryland. Not but a few scattered clouds spotted the azure sky. In the sun it was warm and comforting and in the shade it was cool and refreshing. The air was dry and a pleasant breeze carried the fragrance of flowers and grilled food through Mt. Vernon Place, where Augen sat and longed for his love Elsie.
Buses and cars passed Augen as he sat on the marble wall at the East Park and faced the grand monument to George Washington. Augen missed Elsie and wished she could enjoy this moment with her as they would share their nighttime rendezvous. She was traveling with her family and would not be back for another few months. For Augen it was simple to hide in plain sight - all he needed to do was create a mental hologram so he could blend in. Anyone that saw him would see a thin framed middle-aged man that had gone a tad doughy in the middle and not the fuzzy, pale-blue gangly yet doughy suvian of average height that he was. It was a simple trick that all suvians were able to do to blend in, but Elsie was not a suvian and she was not able to blend in as well. The alabaster skin of her saturnine face had typical human features that many men would find irresistible and many women be envious of, but if sunlight was to ever find her skin, it would combust and quickly leave her as a lifeless lump of cremated remains. She was not human and never had been, unlike those humans she could feed on and turn to a vampire. This was always the way for her and her kind - an ancient breed of vampire that aged very slowly, but never died from old age. The males had four horns and although the females did not, they did have four long and deadly canine teeth that were always in place.
The statue next to Augen reminded him of his place in this world of humans as well as Elsie’s place. Beasts were beneath them and must be controlled to show them their place. The elders knew that if the suvians ever came out of hiding, they would be in the same place as the beast in the sculpture. The alarm on Augen’s phone went off and snapped him out of such depressing thoughts. He pulled out his phone and with a smile on his face dialed Elsie’s number.
She may not be able to sit there with him and enjoy this beautiful day, but her trip overseas planted a wonderful idea in their minds. It was 10pm where she was in Constanța, Romania and the sun had long since set. The call went through and they both tapped the button for FaceTime.
“Hello my dear.” Augen cooed.
“Hello my love.” Elsie replied. In the candle light Augen could almost see the milky skin on her cheeks blush. “It’s so bright there.” She said as she squinted.
“It is beautiful out today and now you just made it even more beautiful.”
“It is beautiful here as well. There is magic in the night air here.” She paused for a moment. “I miss you.”
“I wish I could have come with you.” Augen stopped the rest of his thoughts.
“My dad will come around. Give him time.” Augen could see him look up at her in the background and gave a frown.
Augen faintly heard him grumble “What kind of man has no horns. This is no man for my daughter.”
Elsie turned so her dad was no longer in view. “Ignore him. I love you just the way you are.” This time, she could see a blush rise on Augen’s fuzzy blue cheeks. She smiled at him. “I should go. My cousins are waiting for us.”
They said their good-byes and Augen sat there on the wall with a silly grin on his face. All felt right.
Henrik Aarrestad Uldalen is a self-taught artist that was born in South Korea in 1986, grew up in Norway and currently resides in London. Henrik’s oil paintings have been shown in galleries across the globe and range from miniature to gigantic. He even has murals that grace the sides of buildings, and tiny delicate paintings on glass frames that fit in the palm of your hand. Most of his work is somewhere in-between and that seems to be a comfortable place for his subject matter as well. Henrik’s work is more about feeling than form, despite the fact that the human form plays a major part in his paintings. Like the featured painting “Strife”, his paintings typically seem to begin as photorealistic portraits and dissolve into dreamlike forms or expressions of emotional states. This is sometimes achieved using bold chunky glops of fluid oil paint or even light and airy wisps of smoke and fog where once there was a skull or shoulder. Henrik’s paintings are beautiful, captivating and mesmerizing and I urge you to find more of his work on Facebook, Instagram and his website. You will be happy you did.
It was almost time for the trip back home. Information had been gathered and recorded and samples had been sorted, and labeled. The final stop, to gather the last items they had come for, was the Mid Atlantic region of North America in the city of Baltimore. It was a hotbed of Suvian activity, but this was not the reason for their visit. The mushroom princess Auda, lived there and had a gift for them. Her alchemy skills were know across the universe and a gift from her was a prized thing indeed.
The Discomedusae ship hovered silently over the Belvedere while the scouts were sent to explore and study the residents and surface. The Marquis however headed underground for his appointment with the Princess Auda. Through sewers and tunnels and caverns he finally came upon her humble home and she was waiting for him. No guards were in place and the formality of her title had long since dissolved along with her kingdom. Her posture revealed that the centuries had been a burden on her bones, but her regal silk-gown indicated that she was still not completely removed from her title. The Marquis bent his three boneless legs and exposed the jellied dome of his head in a bow.
“Ebb…dear friend, there is no need for that.” Auda said with the hint of a smile as she waved her hand in the air. Brushing away the formality of the gesture. Her smile remained slightly as the memory surfaced of times where this was commonplace and she had a servant for every need.
“So good to see you. It has been an eternity.” Ebb hugged Auda like the close friends they were. They had a bond of friendship that was outside the constraints of time and distance.
“Come in, come in.” Princess Auda motioned for the Marquis to follow her into her home. “I have some things for you, but first some treats.”
The Princess and the Marquis exchanged stories and reminisced over tea and then cordials and snacked on both sweet and savory tarts. Before they knew it, hours had passed and it was time for Ebb to depart. Auda took two boxes from the table in the corner and presented then to Ebb. “These are for you to bring back with you. Some of my most prized fungi.”
The boxes were labeled Lycoperdon Hystrix and Agaricus Forentibus. “I want these protected. I have the only ones of these in existence and they must not become extinct. Help them flourish back home. There are only a few dozen left here and I protect them with my life.” She then picked up a large box from beneath the table and carefully handed it over.
“This is the most important of all my dear friend. Protect the Krelt. They will thrive if you let them, but they are sensitive to toxins. Only a handful of their clan remain and I govern over them.” The box was labeled Calocera Anemonem and there was movement from within. “They are excited for the journey.” Auda smiled. “Be gentle with them. They have feelings and remember everything. There were once rivers of their rainbow tentacles and I hope there will be again on your home.”
“This is very generous. I will care for them all.” Ebb said as he left. “You will need to visit and see. I will protect them as you have.”
The Marquis made his way back to his ship and as the last of the scouts returned, he secured his precious cargo. The craft closed the hangars and as they prepared for departure, Ebb amended his report for this trip. It had been noted that despite the blue and green that covered the planet, Earth was toxic and dying and the case was hopeless. The samples they had collected would perish here. Ebb added - Report From Zone 1 - There is still hope for this planet after all. The mushroom princess Auda, keeper of the fungi, is strong still despite her age and will not permit extinction. She is not alone. The Princess indicates the other keepers are strong as well. We will return to see.
My solo show at the Laughing Pint in the Highlandtown neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland came to a close yesterday morning. I am very happy to say that I sold 12 of my illustrations. It is a delight to send my work off to a home where it will bring the owner happiness.
As of October 2016, I intend to use this blog as an accompaniment to my Facebook page and Instagram page. On this blog I will post information and updates about my work as well as once a month I will highlight an artist whose work I like. Additionally, as of March 2017, I began posting a monthly Story Entry with an accompanying illustration of mine.