Last week Margaret wrote about joy and humor in children’s book illustrations. Those images made me smile. She made the point that you need to feel joy to paint joy. I would add that you can also feel joy when drawing or looking at images that are ghastly, beastly and bad. Sometimes a smile turns into a cackle.
This week I have been painting some gruesome creatures and thinking about why it is such fun to draw them.
Possibly the beasts are a form of self portraiture without shame. I don’t want hair sprouting from my elbows but I like to paint it.
This Russian lubok from 1760 shows a woman being punished for lust. For me the moral lesson is undermined by the beauty of the image.
Likewise when J.G. Posada shows the fate of a girl who is slandered.
Victor Vasnetsov’s Grandfather Water Sprite beckons, and seems to come without a lesson.
The word Zwerg in German means gnome or midget. Here is Der Zwerg Nase by Lisbeth Zwerger. Is he rolling along forward or backward?
Sometimes the monsters are a revelation – these Unclean Spirits Issuing from the Mouth of the Dragon, Beast and False Prophet were painted in 1255.
Or they can be your own family. Here is Loki’s Monstrous Brood, painted by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire.
Maurice Sendak said that he modeled the Wild Things on his older relatives. The Giant Snorrasper is from 1962.
As Edward Gorey knows, the dark side can be delightful. And it won’t go away even if you want it to.