My objective is to research into anthropomorphism.
The first anthropomorphic drawings I came across were in a comic book series entitled Black Sad. Black Sad is a detective/thriller/film noir novel written by Juan Diaz Canales and illustrated by Juanjo Guarnido. The idea that a serious novel can be carried by animals (especially a cat as the main character) is an interesting pivot point for the juxtaposition of reality and imagination. Susan Herbert realises this in her illustrations of famous artworks such as ‘Mona Lisa’, ‘Birth of Venus’ etc.
My work really parallels that of Herbert in the sense that it’s a modification of something very relatable and broad/famous, (e.g. famous artworks or famous musicians). The style of personifying animals through art that is driven by popular culture seems to appeal to a variety of audiences, from artwork to music, film to novels.
Animal Farm for example, by George Orwell depicted a message of those in power, with the pigs overthrowing the farmer and taking over the farm. Eventually they anthropomorphise in an emotional sense (besides merely talking like humans) and become like humans, with their flaws, jealousy, anger, greed and corruption. The pigs (reputedly the most intelligent of farm animals) took over a dictatorship, with lesser intelligent animals filling in the ranks below, Horses, Cows and Sheep (in descending order respectively). Mirroring the real-life intellect with Orwell’s conceptual character design was a clever way to allow the story to unfold easier. In my work I have chosen to draw musicians in two different animal forms, cats and dogs. This, for very specific reasons allow us to identify with the illustrations by creating a uniformity to the artists. Since the musicians I have chosen are extremely famous (to help with identification by the public) I have decided to use some of the most common animals that every person would identify with and relate to. Cats and dogs are pets to many people in western civilisation and as such are commonplace in many peoples minds, as such are the musicians, actors, and other media types that are portrayed in the press, on television, books and the internet. I am reflecting the commonality of the musicians with the high frequency in which we find ourselves interacting with these pets.
The research, in places, helped me to discover different styles of personifying animals and indeed animalising humans. Some work such as Guarnido’s Black Sad moves along a pictorial timeline, with an ever-pulsing story helping to create a divergence in art style and imagery, combining both the structure of the lines and the texture/colour of the illustrations to convey a more vivid realisation of the plot. However, except the work of Herbert as already discussed, my work seems to be quite dissimilar (although fitting into the sectors of anthropomorphism and personification of animals) to much of the mainstream art. In some ways it has distracted me from my main aim and original style, by tempting me to draw more like the illustrators that I have researched alongside this project. The influences, while from a professional and well-established community, don’t perhaps help me to find a uniquity but to produce familiar artwork as the work that can already be seen in the published climate.
This is why I chose to carry on my work in the style that I have been developing over the last few years. As different as it is from the work that’s already established, I feel that this will benefit me in my identification and uniquity as an artist and help to make my work stand out.
I feel that this project has taken an interesting route, and although I have been interested in animals and the theme of anthropomorphism for a long time, I think that I have gained more knowledge on the subject and it has helped me through my research and the subject for my final major project has gained more depth alongside it. I have also found that anthropomorphic subjects are extremely popular in art and the media, and have been for many years so there are many artists out there that use this theme as their subject, although through my research I have not found many, if any artists that have portrayed musicians in the way that I have for this project. In another way, even though there a variety of artists that illustrate this theme in many different ways, it has been difficult to find a lot of textual information on the theme that I have chosen. Also finding any artwork or illustrators that have created work that is similar to mine; I feel like I am in a more niche market. Overall I feel I could have looked in more depth into anthropomorphism and its audience/target market, and how that could have helped me in finding my own audience for my work. Though this research project has also helped me to see that my work is more unique and that ‘Anthropomorphism’ is a broad subject that has been and will always be popular, as some audiences love to put animals out of context and into a fantasy world, to break away from the norm and give animals that extra personality to sympathise and empathise with them. Even though we know that animals can’t talk and do not have the same thought processes as humans, we decide to give them those characteristics in films, tv, books and even as our own pets, to make them part of the family or to see them as equals. This subject will carry on being more and more popular as we shall always prefer the fantastical to the reality of life in some ways.
‘Watership Down’ – written by Richard Adams and published in 1972.
‘Animal Farm’ – written by George Orwell and published in 1945.
‘Blacksad’ – written by Juan Diaz Canales and published by Dargaud in 2000.
‘Impressionist Cats’ – written by Susan Herbert and published in 1992.
‘Shakespeare Cats’ – written by Susan Herbert and published in 1996.
‘Pre-Raphaelite Cats’ – written by Susan Herbert and published in 1999.
‘Sowa’s Art: An Enchanted Bestiary’ – written by Michael Sowa and published in 1996.