Click on photos to enlarge.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Raccoon Art

Rest Stop, Gemma Gylling
For most of this past winter we've had an unwanted houseguest living (take your pick) in our crawlspace, in our basement, or in our garage. We've even taken to calling our little illegal alien "Bandit." (For ease of use, I'm going to consider him male.) Bandit is an average size raccoon and if he had a middle name, it would be "mischief." My wife first noticed his likely presence back well before last Christmas, hearing strange noises of something going "bump" in the night. Then we noticed he'd taken a tour of our kitchen with time out to "poop" on our couch. Strangely, there seemed to be no evidence of his looking for food. A night or two later, I was sitting here at the computer and the thing actually crept up on me in the dark and rested both front paws on my thigh, much like a dog begging for food. It's hard to say which of us was the most startled, but in any case he quickly departed at a dead run. Since than he's torn up insulation in the basement ceiling; ransacked my antiquated darkroom; and dragged down a number of items from a closet in my studio. We had an exterminator go "coon hunting" in our crawlspace. He met the varmint but to know avail. A few days later I cornered the little bugger in our basement and chased him out an open door. Alas...he came back. We set a trap with an open can of tuna as bait. He took the bait (can and all). He's apparently a smart little rascal and to this day still makes his presence known from time to time.
Raccoons are wild animals and would prefer to stay that way.


Raccoons are fascinating creatures. Artists such as Gemma Gylling (top) and Belgian artist, Carl Brenders (below) have often been captivated by their masked face and unpredictable nature. Closely related to the Giant Panda, their culinary tastes are far less discerning, everything from dirty baby diapers to yesterday's garbage. And, although I've referred to ours somewhat whimsically, they do NOT make good pets. They are utterly impossible to train, let alone allow the coon to live freely in your home as you would a normal pet. Raccoons are feisty, nasty, vile animals, quite willing to fight (and bite) anything, dogs, cats, as well as one another. They'll fight you, too if they feel cornered.


The coonskin cap, mid-1950s
I first became aware of raccoons through Davy Crockett...or rather Walt Disney's version of the historic Tennessee woodsman as played by Fess Parker. Davy Crockett became something of a children's hero armed with his musket, clad in leather, and wearing a coonskin cap. Bolstered by the three-part Disneyland series which ran in 1954 and 55, I'm guessing a great many raccoons gave up their lives so we kids could be properly attired to fight Indians and defend the Alamo.
Because of their distinctive facial markings, racoons are fun, easy, and quick to draw.
Raccoon-1, watercolor by Suren Nersisyan
Although relatively simple to draw, like pandas, cats, dogs, and a few other oft-drawn creatures, it's quite easy for an artist to encounter the pitfall of adhering to only one or two successful angles and crea-ture poses. You will note that many of the sketches above, and all three of the painted examples below (including my own) rely on a single, sym-metrical view of the "face." Such a stereotype is the first stop on the slippery slope to monotony.
If you're looking here for the cute, little iconic, cartoonish renderings of the raccoon, or any of the animal, search under clipart. Given all of the constantly changing poses drawing from life entails, an artist needn't rely on photos taken by an unimaginative photographer. Zoos are wonderful places for artist to sharpen their skills drawing animals from life. Outstanding photos of wild animals rely all too often on chance--the photographer being in the right place at precisely the right moment. An artist drawing animals from life has choices as to angle, pose, lighting, and overall composition seldom available to a wildlife photographer. Below are two similar paintings of the raccoon face, my own Rosemary Cooney (left) and that of the Italian artist Roberto Rizzo (right). Both of us have handled the stereotypical raccoon face differently in order to break free of the mundane.
Copyright, Jim Lane
Rosemary Cooney, Jim Lane
Raccoon' Lair, Roberto Rizzo


Manda Nay Crochet
All together now: "Awwwwww."

No comments:

Post a Comment