This exercise got me to think a lot. It got me to think about the role of an image accompanying a text.
I thought it has been particularly difficult to support the text, showing personality, rather than just express the illustrator’s opinion.
I choose the editorial from the April 2014 issue of the magazine National Geographic.
Here is the full article, where I underlined what, in my opinion, summarizes the text and I evidenced in yellow the key concepts:
This brief editor’s note gave me many ideas. In the beginning I thought of a man treating a big carnivore (lion or similar) like a pet. While he cuddles him, the animal thinks of his basic instincts.
The second idea was about an inversion of perspective: an animal treating a human like a pet and bringing him in his habitat. A penguin bringing a man in the Antarctica, for example. Or a bear bringing his human pet into his cave and pretending him to share his habits (hibernation, for example).
I was pretty happy about the last idea, even because a bear is part of the title, but after sketching the scene and thinking more and more, I thought I was probably going too far. Moreover, the image would have needed some words to be clear, but I actually wanted the image to be strong enough itself.
I came back on the exercise on the day after, with more ideas.
I wanted to convey the idea that it is doubtful whether animals – particularly wild animals – ought to be pets. How and why should humans decide about the sorts of an animal if man is a beast himself?
That is when I thought of a chain of animals and people. But I thought looking at that the most visible concept would have been relativity and that was probably going again too far from the core idea.
My final idea came with the thought that humans cannot always decide about the destiny of an animal, they cannot do it just for their amusement.
I first thought of a fishbowl containing a shark, obviously totally squished in, dragged by a girl who has love thoughts about him. The shark, forced into the human world, thinks what he could have done if he was free in the wild.
I was not happy with the sketch and I thought to substitute the shark with another very big animal. A bear would have been appropriate – again because of the title – but I wanted something stronger, like an animal who could never been walked on a leash and who wouldn’t move even if pulled very strongly.
That’s what I came up with, my final piece:
The man is trying to walk the walrus, obviously with no success. The animal is totally ignoring the man’s purpose. The walrus thinks: Why should this guy do that? Who is deciding and for whose benefits?
I left the man like a dummy to focus the attention on the walrus and his opinion, as to involve the observer in the animal perspective.
I kept the technique simple, fineliner and watercolours.
The way to my final piece was quite long and hard, but I really like the outcome of this exercise.