Apr 26 2012

#362 “Pride/Prejudice”

From Hannah in Chattanooga, Tennessee

When I examine this stunning illustration by Hannah, I can’t help but to be swept back in time to the genteel countryside of England during the Victorian Era. It was a time when breeding and sophistication took center stage; a time of widespread cultivation outward appearances of dignity and restraint while underneath a seething cauldron of passion and emotion was boiling; a time of great pride in both the upper and lower classes and extreme prejudice from each unto the other. And of course, it is out of all of these social phenomena that Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin was born. Seeing as how most of you are familiar with the work, I won’t waste time in rehashing the storyline here, but I do think it is interesting to connect the Victorian sophistication observed in this picture with the overarching themes of the book and then to tie the title of the book back into the nature of the wolf itself. In essence, the qualities of pride and prejudice define the wolf all too well. It is a creature of great strength and virility, and out of these qualities excude a certain dignity and honor. But in response, the world often views the creature through hostile eyes, serving up a healthy dose of judgment that creates the constant controversy over the animal. It’s the oldest battle: self-respect vs. discrimination. The battle ground is the hearts and minds of every man, woman and child? Which will reign victorious? Only time will tell….

Nov 22 2011

#206 “Spinning a Fantasy”

From Hannah in Chattanooga, Tennessee

I’m not sure what the inspiration behind this piece was, but whenever I look at this curious illustration, I can’t help but to be reminded of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s famous poem “The Lady of Shalott.” In case you’re wondering, there aren’t any wolves in the poem, but it’s not the anthropomorphic lobo in the illustration that calls to mind the Victorian work; it’s the unusually romantic web of colors that the wolf is spinning.

You see, in “The Lady of Shalott” the lady is a mystical maiden who is cursed to reside in a castle tower on an island in the middle of a river that leads down to Camelot. The exact origins of her curse are unknown, but the malediction placed upon her stipulates that she must never look upon the world beyond the tower, lest she die. However, in an unusual twist, the lady possesses an enchanted mirror that shows her a twistedly beautiful version of all the wonderful sights and sounds of the world outside which the lady then weaves into a magical web. This, in essence, is how she lives her life. Then one day a troop of knights passes by on the banks of the river, heading down to Camelot, and there among them is Lancelot, the most charming and handsome knight to have ever lived. After taking one glance at the magnificent knight in her magical mirror, the lady is so enticed by his handsomeness that she simply must lay eyes upon the genuine article. She passes across the room, peers out of the window, and sees the striking knight with her own eyes. With this, the curse is called down upon her, and the lady knows that she is to die. In preparation for her death, she takes a boat and writes her name upon it; using the boat as her coffin, she floats down to Camelot where all the knights approach her with fear and trepidation. All that is but one: Lancelot, the knight of honor and valor approaches the body of lifeless lady and comments on her beauty. And that is where the tale ends.

Once again, I can’t say for certain that this illustration is a conscious allusion to the story, but there are certain elements that seem to fit: the lady, the web of colors, etc. But in the end, I’m left wondering if this illustration is a comment about wolves and their misunderstood nature and the curse of persecution upon them, or if this picture is more of an introspective piece. Perhaps the artist views herself as an outcast like the lady of Shalott because of her love for the lobo. I guess the world may never know the answers to these questions, but that’s ok. Not knowing the answers allows us to weave our own web of fantasy and conjecture, a web of imagination of creativity. And in the end, I suppose that is the most important thing.

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!