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The Wolf and the Whip-Por-Will

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

lf, Dog 1976

By Jamie WyethWo

Watercolor, 18” x 24”

Whip Por Will, 2018

By Emily Olson

Watercolor, 12” x 18”

As a shapeless sun melted the last few minutes of daylight over a dense forest leaving branches reaching and thickets massed like stained glass, a wolf came upon a whip-por-will. Hungry from a fruitless hunt he licked his chops at the prospect of this unexpected snack. He got poised to pounce and eat the little bird, having the element of surprise in his favor. The whip-por-will, who seemed wounded skipped about quickly and met the wolf in his eyes. She did not run nor attempt to flee, but instead held fast the gaze into the wolf’s eyes. The wolf was taken back by the little bird’s resignation. “You’re not much” said the wolf, “but you’ll give the strength to keep hunting so that I may provide for my pack.” The whip didn’t move, and her gaze became more pointed to the point that seemed to pierce the wolf’s heart.

Snarling and scratching at the leaves beneath his paws, the wolf was confused by the whip’s resolve. “I must eat you!” the wolf said through snarling teeth. “I will consume you!” “Don’t you realize I am the apex?” “I am feared through these woods and I’m the strength, and the vicious truth of nature!” “it’s killer instinct little bird, it’s not personal…it is my instinct that compels me and places me toward the top of the food chain.” “Those in my pack will respect my prowess and know me by my heart!” “I am the fields and forest and the blood of earth. I am the howling wind that blows through the meadows and I am the claws of the cliffs. And now little bird I must end you so that I can be. In a blink and a chomp, it’ll over…”

The whip-por-will still didn’t move. In the face of the wolf’s snarling jaws, the little bird tilted his head to the side and said, “I’m sorry.” The wolf then paused. “Pity me? I don’t need your sympathy!” snorted the wolf. “Oh, but you do” quipped the whip. “I know you better than you think.”

“I know the cruelty and the lack of humanity that exists in your den. I see the results of all your fruitless hunts, the empty feeling inside when all your left with is muddy boots. I know the wind you think carries you actually withers your spirit and leaves you panting with exhaustion. I see the solemn silhouette crying out with pangs of hunger and loneliness to a moon that never answers you, except with rain. From high above, I see the relentless treachery of the hunt through an unforgiving landscape. The blood in your fur and the scars on your hide. You don’t know the strength in mercy and the inner peace that comes from living humbly. The beauty of a home that’s fragile and small but fortified with love, and that keeps your family close above all the savagery in the world. To sing below velvet nights and satin days. I see the paths you track, Wolf, and I know where they lead, to days lived out unfulfilled and hungry and withered down by the chase.”

The wolf’s rigid frame softened. With his posture melted he laid flat with his head down. The whip hopped forward close to the wolf’s head and began to sing. The both fell asleep to an echoing lullaby and a glowing column of moonlight.

The next morning, the wolf awoke to a bustling pack ready for another day of hunting. Had he dreamed about the whip-por-will? He looked off into distance through the treetops, and one song seemed to resonate over the cacophony of the noisy woods.

I’m not sure what the moral of the story is. Perhaps we are more than our common tendencies. We all want to be the Wolf but need to be the Whip-por-will. Living simply and seeking beauty while keeping what’s most precious to us close. Providing humble means while trying to stay above the violence and vitriol of the world. Perhaps the moral is empathy. I don’t know but there’s a painting in there somewhere.

Wolf and Raven Write a Poem, 1997

By Bobby Padilla

Oil on Canvas, 8” x 14”

I am a surreal symbolist painter, which makes me a storyteller. Anyone that uses symbols or objects to tell a story must choose those symbols wisely. Writing a little story can ease the challenge of such devices. You can explain things at your own pace. Painting however forces you to articulate a story in one frame. While some intended meanings get lost in the translation, an artist is responsible for conveying most of the intent. Elements like mood and choice of symbols play a part in the allegory (a story using symbols). Imagine walking into a room where people are speaking a different language. You don’t exactly what is being said, but you can tell if they are happy or angry or sad. Thus, using the right symbols to represent something deeper or to convey a statement is just as valuable an element as choice of colors or composition.

Allegory of Spring, 1978

By Salvador Dali

Mixed Media

A painting can mean different things at different stages of your life. The same painting can mean something different to you the older you get. As your visual vocabulary expands so does the depth of meaning in the paintings you create. Some symbols fall away only to be replaced by newer ones.

The Lovers, 1987

By Leonora Carrington

Mixed Media, 18” x 26”

So, for a moment, imagine my little fable of the Wolf and the Whip-por-Will, how do you see that as a painting in your mind? What elements are more important to depict? Surrealist are indeed artist, but they are poets, writers, set designers and musicians. While you can render a painting, the result is a standalone singular image. That picture must be worth a thousand words.

Moses, 1945

By Frida Kahlo

Oil on Masonite, 16” x 20”

Three Lives converge, 2007

By Bobby Padilla

Acrylic on Arches Heavyweight Paper, 18” x 21”

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