We feel a deep affinity for animals. This cartoon by the Australian artist Norman Lindsay, called "Near Relations," shows people who look like chickens—or are those chickens who look like people?
Yesterday we explored a few of the problems we run into with when we try to design animals so that they express human emotions and perform human actions. We’ve seen the challenges presented by birds, cows, donkeys, and even rodents with their beady eyes.
Here’s an experiment from my sketchbook. I did this drawing while listening to my son and his friends play traditional music. While the kids played fiddle, accordion, and tambourine, some dogs and cats circulated around the room.
Instead of drawing the musicians as they appeared, I tried to imagine the dogs and cats (and a squirrel I saw outside) as if they were scaled up and holding the instruments.
As you can see, I drew the dog’s feet “digitigrade” rather than “plantigrade,” meaning I lifted the heels off the ground. But I forgot to redesign the slippers. The hands are just paws. They’re OK for the sketch, but they wouldn’t work if you had to animate the characters. And I was a bit ambivalent about the costumes. I put the dog in socks and a T-shirt, but left the costumes off the rest.
In the last installment tomorrow, I’ll share some examples of an alternative to anthropomorphism, which you might call “animal-morphism.” (Above, Rien Poortvliet)