Dec 19 2011

#233 “Pride”

From a stranger in Issaquah, Washington

Every time that I show off this particular wolf to friends or family members, at least one person makes a comment about this wolf’s disposition as appearing to be especially prideful. This never really surprises me, because this wolf truly does seem to display all the typical signs of someone who is self-respecting. His chest is pushed outwards, his back is straight and tall, there is a noble and unashamed gleam in his eyes, his tail protrudes erectly, and his hands are placed confidently on his hips in a recognizable kind of self confident body language that says, “Here I am, world. I’m ready for anything you can throw at me, so give me your best shot.” Really, all it would take is a flowing cape trailing out from behind this creature, and he would look quite a bit like a superhero. What does surprise me about people’s reaction to this picture, though, is the mixed reviews it gets simply based on the prideful aspects of its subject. While everyone always agrees that this illustration is artfully rendered and displays great talent on the part of the artist, people are generally quite divided about their feelings in regards to the brazen pride of this wolf.

It might sound a bit strange at first, but the concept of pride is one that seems to be continually caught in a whirlwind of praise and condemnation; there are just so many mixed messages circulating about pride. As children as well as adults, we are continually inundated with sayings and stories that either warn us of the dangers of excessive pride or encourage us to stand up straight and true and to be proud of every aspect of our beings, regardless of how shameful they might seem to us. In the end, the whole issue can be quite confusing, and we can easily be pulled into a disconcerting mindset of contradictions to the point where we have no idea at all what we should take pride in or how we should show it. Surely this has got to be the greatest crime of all.

In the end I thought it might be appropriate to pair this illustration with the music video for the song “Pride” by the band U2. Even though the song has absolutely nothing to do with wolves (it was actually written about MLK), the song does seem to be on-topic in more ways than one. Besides the fact that the song thematically presents ideas related to pride, the band itself (like the concept of pride) seems to be continually caught in a comparable storm of praise and condemnation. Based on my experience, people either love or hate U2. They either praise them for their staying power and hit songwriting capabilities or they condemn them for striking a supposed air of self-importance and arrogance. In other words, the question on everyone’s mind when it comes to U2 is this: Are these guys ego-maniacs… or has their talent and accompanying success warranted a certain level of pride that is well-deserved?

The world may never come to agreement on these issues, but regardless of the lack of consensus, I’m very happy to share this illustration with you today, and I hope this has made the artist proud.

Oct 17 2011

#170 “Mr. Darcy”

From Andrea in Montreal, Canada

I’m not sure if Andrea was aware of my affinity for classic literature before drawing this particular illustration, but regardless of whether she was or not, this piece speaks to my soul in a way that few others can. The poise and elegance of these two magnificent creatures is straight out of the pages of a Victorian novel, and in fact, in her accompanying email, Andrea made reference to the notion that this wolf reminded her perfectly of Mr. Darcy from that triumph of British literature: Pride and Prejudice.

As I just mentioned, I was easily aware of the mood and setting of this piece in reference to Victorian ideals and society, but the idea of a relationship between the illustration and Pride and Prejudice was not instantly graspable in my mind. If anything I believe the standing wolf to be dressed in a military style which would lead to a more natural association with George Wickham instead of Mr. Darcy. Add to this idea that I easily imagine the headstrong Elizabeth to be sitting so subserviently, and I just didn’t see the connection at all.

But then it hit me. Andrea’s connection between the character of Mr. Darcy and the wolf was so astute, so clever and intelligent, that I didn’t even have the wits to see it at first. Ultimately, the wolf is the perfect representation for Fitzwilliam Darcy. It’s so insightful yet so simple. Just like the wolf, Darcy flaunted a tough exterior. His desire was to be seen as the Alpha Male, and he carefully crafted all presentations of himself in such a manner as to successfully thwart off any attack. He was rough, crude, violent and dangerous. But underneath this shell of abrasiveness, Darcy was also sensitive and caring. He was calm, cool and composed, and his ultimate commitment is always to the greater good. What better representation of the wolf is there?

Andrea, how could I have been so blind? The connection was there all along. Well done, my talented friend. Take a bow!