September 19, 2010

Card Sharks: Or in this case...Dogs, Cats and Lizards


Waterloo (originally titled Judge St. Bernard Wins on a Bluff), c. 1906

Over the years I have been revisiting an idea that features two anthropomorphic creatures playing cards. No doubt this idea was inspired by the famous "Dogs Playing Poker" oil paintings by C.M. Coolidge (did you know that there are sixteen total paintings?) These paintings have been considered, according to Wikipedia, "examples of mainly working-class taste in home decoration." I've always been in love with the idea of animals or monsters wearing human clothes and practicing typical, mundane activities (like grocery shopping, balancing a check book, buying carpet). Inexplicably, I keep returning to the idea of two characters playing a game of cards together - perhaps it's the idea of a casual social activity with the possibility of an outburst or explosion of anger lingering in the air.

The first incarnation of this vignette was a piece I did back in college, perhaps around 1995 or 1997 in a lithograph printing class.

Saturday Night, c. 1995

I like the idea of a "see-through" house where you can see certain details that would normally not be visible; upstairs rooms, plumbing, etc. There is a bit of anger in this one that is a tad too dark, note the expressions as well as the skull and crossbones on the Dog's shirt. Also, do these two live together? I see two separate beds upstairs that are completely on opposite ends of the room. Are they roommates? Clearly they do not like each other. This image was created by the process of engraving a drawing onto a sheet of metal and then using it to print onto paper - I also incorporated cut-out pieces of paper to shape the characters (and table) in an effort to highlight them.

Cheating, c. 2008

I found myself drawing this concept quite often. This second sketch was slightly different in that there is actual rage shown...it's definitely clear that the one character has cheated and the other (this time a Chicken) has risen to its feet to confront its companion. I began to give the characters more clothing and made the Chicken clench a cigarette in its beak. It is clear these two are a bit more working class than the previous Dog and Lizard of the original concept.

Winning Hand, 2010

The most recent incarnation is an improved, more thought-out version. Now there are added details, such as more items on the table that suggest a more relaxed atmosphere and the humor of a broken chair in which the Lizard is sitting. I also like the addition of the solitary light bulb that makes me imagine these two characters are in a basement somewhere...possibly avoiding their wives? Also of note is the fact that the Lizard is now much larger than the Cat (who clearly and most definitely is more of a working class type figure), whereas in the original idea, they were roughly the same size.

Work in progress, 2010

This is a new version in progress and I've already noticed that I've zoomed in on the action and made it much more intimate. As opposed to seeing the entire room or space they occupy, I'm honing in on the action. Also, the figures themselves are in much closer proximity to one another. I also like the idea of the Lizard character being more "squeezed" into the scene...almost as if he can barely fit into the room itself. I like the idea of it sitting in a room, knees up to its face with its head touching the ceiling. I also think I've perfectly captured the Lizard's expression. I think we know who is winning in this situation.