Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hooded Sheep

* disclaimer: This post is long, but you might just enjoy it. ;)
The Ritual

Every year I visit the San Diego county fair at the Del Mar race track grounds. Mostly I go to peruse the art, look at some plants, enjoy a caramel apple, a gingersnap, and a fresh lemonade. Oh, and to stare at multitudes of animals, not excluding the human variety.

Past Years: Dreamy Impressions

Boer Goat
I've seen pygmy goats at the fair since I was a little kid. For years I wanted to have just one as a pet, and to be honest I would, even now, love to see one climbing on random things in the backyard and eating weeds down to nubs. Someday... (But that goes into a tangent on my childhood desire to make pets out of all animals in a miniature scale. That included the tiny deer family members called Duikers at the San Diego Zoo.)

One year I discovered that I intuitively know how to greet a llama. I went down a whole line of them, each animal leaned in towards me as I leaned towards them and then they each inhaled delicately.  I then witnessed them doing the same with another llama going down past the line of stalls. 

 So, on the whole it was always an idealized experience with fair animals. I was able to put the fact that some of these animals, the chickens, the cows, and the pigs, were going to be slaughtered out of my mind.  I didn't hang around the meat market animals too long.

This Year: Reality Check

This year, unexpectedly, almost every animal I saw was a meat market animal. We came on the last day of the fair, and it seems to have been scheduled for 4-H animals. Endearing posters were hung from the top bars of many animal's stalls. Polished happy looking teenagers proclaimed from the paper in large type that her (they seemed to be all girls) animal will be great served up baked, grilled, BBQed, or any way you like it.

I saw floppy eared Boer goats, as cute as any pygmy pet goat. They are bred for meat. There were steers for beef. I saw degraded veal calves. The pigs! (Or should I call them pork.) This may sound ridiculous, but I never before observed how human their eyes look. I had always seen them from a distance, or as piglets plundering a tired sow's belly. I knew that pigs are smart, but I just tried not to think about it. They have human eyes. I have the pictures to prove it. One flopped down in front of me to rest, as I talked to it (yes I talk to them), he watched me with soulful eyes. Those ghostly pale brown eyes in mind, I have since pulled myself away from ordering a carnitas burrito.

The Proof of Human Eyes

The Payoff For Reading This Far: My Idea

Finally, we come to the market lambs, of a particular meaty breed. They are shorn close and then wear either tight fitting body suits or hooded robes to keep there coats clean for showing. Above their stalls were their prices by the pound. This is where I, finally, tell you the idea for my current project.

The last couple of years I have noticed the hoods that sheep wear after they have been shorn. I think it is hard for an American not to make the visual connection with the Klu Klux Klan robes. In the past I took a couple of so-so pictures of them and had fleeting thoughts about making the photos into an illustration, but I never felt the need to actually do it.

This year, because the fair creatures have taken me to macabre imaginings I want to express that indirectly in an illustration. So, I'm using hooded sheep to make a comment on the Klu Klux Klan. You can draw some obvious conclusions about the idea from there. This is a bit of a departure for me in subject matter. I'm trying to keep the image fairly simple and bold with chiaroscuro lighting. It should be moody in the final. Here is the sketch I like so far:

Hooded Sheep

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Thanks for your interest in my art. I'm very curious to hear your thoughts. Cheers!