The Rabbit King

Sometimes things look clearer on the other side of the looking glass.

Unless, of course, you forget to clean your mirror regularly, in which case things can look very foggy indeed.

This entry is starting off poorly.  In a mere two sentences, I’ve already managed to give the impression that I am a bad homemaker and that today’s picture is probably going to be another self-portrait (or that it in some way involves a reflective surface).

Only in the very broadest, most metaphorical sense is the painting below about me, so breathe easily.  But by that definition, all art is a reflection of the interests and ideas of the artist.  So that’s not a very useful way to categorize this little piece of fantasy.

And by fantasy, I mean to evoke the genre, not sense of desire.

Throughout my life, I’ve been torn between the competing poles of verite and fantasy.  Part of me wants desperately to depict the real world in all its realness.  Time and again, though, I’m drawn to the domain of the imaginative, the unreal, or at least that which suggests something just beyond the realm of the normal.

The earliest, strongest, and most enduring influences on me have been exercises in imagination.  Star Wars.  Need more be said?

If you answered “yes” to the above question, then read on… If you answered “yes” out loud, then your really need to take a break from the computer and spend some time with actual people.

Perhaps more relevant to this particular piece, are the strictly fantastic influences in my early (and later) life, rather than the quasi sci-fi of that movie empire.  My great aunts Nat and Mathilda lived only a few blocks from where I grew up in Hibbing, MN.  They had a wonderful old house that was fun to explore with my brother, even though we spent a lot of time there.  It had lots of rooms as well as nooks, crannies, and knick-knacks.  One special item they owned – or rather one set of items – was a collection of fairy tales.

These were voluminous tomes.  Unlike many of the books in OUR house, these were hard-bound.  And they were *not* full of pictures – instead, the most lavish illustrations were scattered, tantalizingly, throughout the many pages of text.  These pictures were like treasures, and probably formed the impetus for me wanting to become an illustrator.

Books like Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Ring Trilogy as well as Brian Froud’s fairy pictures continued to urge my mind in that direction.  Then comic books took over (check out *this* post to see that influence).  But after absorbing the super-hero genre, weirder things like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Death and Mike Mignola’s Hellboy re-asserted the magical slant to things.

So that’s where things are headed, I’m afraid.  I’m not sure that I’m all that compelling when working in completely real-world subjects anyway.  I suppose it stands to be seen whether I’m any more so dabbling in slightly stranger fare.

This picture, of a young man I’m calling the Rabbit King is really only fantasy in it’s inspiration.  Outwardly, everything about it perfectly plausible, if not completely commonplace.

In fact, the composition is based almost entirely on a photograph (not sure by whom) of Robert Mapplethorpe in his earliest days in New  York.  Even the necklace of rabbit’s feet is original to the photo.  Famed for his controversial photography, Mapplethorpe also designed jewelry out of found objects and worked in other media, especially in the early days.

I added the wreath of dandelion fuzz (or some such thing) in his hair – and that’s probably the least successful part of the piece.  This was the first painting completely start-to-finish with my new set of Schminke Horadam watercolors.  They’re the real deal.  The colors seared my eyeballs.  Unfortunately, my habit of overworking the picture has dulled the results a little bit.

The background and right side of the torso are much fresher (fewer layers) and really show off the paint nicely.  Notice how it kind of swirls around on its own a little bit.  Nice.

The final painting suffers a little bit from being to tight with the brush.  Compare it to the first sketch I did, which was knocked out quickly:

I added the spectral lady in the background days later.  (It’s based on a picture of Patti Smith, by the way.)  I was considering adding her to the painting, but tested her out on the drawing first, and she immediately seemed unnecessary.

The Rabbit King’s mouth gave me a lot of difficulty.  I’m still not sold on it.  But here you can see me struggling with how to depict the almost-innocent, slightly petulant, mildly over-bitten contours of it.

So that’s a lot of talking about one piece of art.  And there are two more paintings in this vein on the way.  So stay tuned.  I’ll try to be more concise in the next time around.

Meanwhile, let me know where YOU think this one is successful, and – just as importantly – where it runs a bit off-course.

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This entry was published on September 4, 2012 at 8:19 pm. It’s filed under Animals, Drawings, Figures, Humor, The Artistic Process, Tools & Equipment, Watercolors and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

5 thoughts on “The Rabbit King

  1. Pingback: The Next Move « Gabriel Garbow | Artworks

  2. Ooh I LOVE this. Gabriel, why aren’t you illustrating YA novels?

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