Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Animal personification revival!

In one of my recent blog entries I briefly looked at the upcoming WGSN trend entitled 'future folklore'. The over-imaginative illustrations in this trend featured mythological creatures and animals impersonating humans, creating characters that could have walked out of a nightmare or surrealist painting.

I have been doing some further research into this trend and have found that personifying animals by dressing them in human clothing seems to be increasingly popular among artists and illustrators. 

Popularity of animal personification peaked in the Victorian and Edwardian era. Questionable taste levels, obsessions with taxidermy and book publications such as Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in wonderland'(1865), 'The tales of Beatrix Potter'(1901 on-wards  and 'The wind in the willows'(1908), all led to a fascination with the notion that animals could take on human characteristics. This could also be due, in part, to the substance abuse which was so common in the Victorian era- Laudanum, opium and heroin were all widely prescribed to cure everything from headaches to kidney stones. It is highly likely that animal personification was a product of the drug induced imaginations of Victorian creatives- Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and Lewis Carroll(no surprise there!) were all known to be drug addicts.

This theme is continued in a well know painting by Cassius Coolidge(1903) who was commissioned to paint a series of artworks featuring dogs playing poker, hardly a canine trait!

Cassius Coolidge 'Dogs playing poker'.

While researching this blog entry I came across the  photographs below which were taken from the 'Grand Ole Bestiary' on etsy.com (a bestiary, also know as a bestiarum vocabulum is a compendium of beasts made popular in the Middle Ages). Animal heads have been added to Victorian portrait photography, transforming the once serious photographs into humorous examples of animal personification. 

Grand Ole Bestiary- http://www.etsy.com/shop/GrandOleBestiary

Illustrators and painters are also jumping on board this human/animal revival ,painting animals in formal dress and occasionwear. Ryan Berkley and Yago Partal are two of the many illustrators who seem to have this trend perfected, Berkley in particular adds so much character to the animals in his illustrations through the garments he has chosen to dress them in.

Yago Partal- 'Zoo portraits' http://www.zooportraits.com/

Ryan Berkley http://www.etsy.com/shop/berkleyillustration

While googling animals dressed as humans, I evidently spend far too much time on google, I came across a complete contrast to this trend. Although still focusing on surrealism, Gesine Marwedel uses body painting to turn the human body into an animal. As with the Victorian portrait photography it takes a second glance to understand how these photos.

Gesine Marwedel- http://www.gesine-marwedel.de/gesine-marwedel/english/

Gesine Marwedel- http://www.gesine-marwedel.de/gesine-marwedel/english/

With the increasing popularity of this kind of surreal animal imagery I decided to do my own take on this trend for work. In one of my recent factory visits to Manchester it was highlighted that companies had been asking to see artworks depicting animals taking on 'gangster' characteristics. This was said to be a move on from the recent geek theme where all animals in imagery used in apparel seemed to be wearing glasses.

Below are some of my favourite 'ghetto' animals found through researching this idea. My favourite has to be the hip-hop rhino and hippo.

When creating my own designs I had to take into account that they were to be used as knitted jacquards and unfortunately this meant that I had to keep the designs quite simple- surprising how much more difficult it is to create a simple design than a complex one. The designs need some further work and I need to create some different colourways but I think they could look quite effective on a knitted jumper.

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