Friday, November 26, 2010

New painting: The Owl and the Pussycat

Here's my latest painting; my take on the Edward Lear poem (Click to see a larger version).

It's been an interesting piece and I've learned some new techniques and experimented with different media. In the main it was painted onto a prepared box canvas using a mix of acrylics by Boldmere, Crawford and Black, and Daler Rowney. Some of the finer detail was then picked out using Winsor and Newton inks and Posca pens.

The poem is three verses long and I chose to illustrate the first:

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat:
They took some honey,
and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy, O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are

I decided, for originality's sake, to have the pussycat feel seasick. After all, cats and water rarely mix well. And then I wondered what to do in terms of sex ...
Have you noticed that in almost every visual interpretation of The Owl and the Pussycat, the owl is male and the cat female? On what evidence is that assumption based?

The poem never uses he or she, his or her. The only evidence seems to be the use of the words 'beautiful' and 'elegant', both of which could be applied equally to male or female owls or cats if they have splendid coats or wonderful plumage. I also can't help but note that 'How charmingly sweet you sing' doesn't sound like a lady talking to a bloke does it?

Then there's the fact they get married - so the assumption is that they're one of each sex (this was the late 1800s after all). However, you'll note that it's the cat who proposes to the owl and not the other, more traditional, way round. Perhaps it was February 29th? And it's not made clear who gets the ring from the piggy. In the end I plumped for 'sexually ambiguous'.
You can see a series of pics showing the development of the painting here. I've created a new blog called The Runcible Spoon and would invite any anyone and everyone to submit a piece of art based upon the work of Edward Lear. Nothing will be turned away. Everything is valid; it's a celebration of the man after all. I want to see drawings, paintings, sculptures and collages, digital art, knitted art and anything else you can think of.
It's endlessly fascinating to see how different people approach similar subjects.
Get submitting!


Jason Arnopp said...

Wow, that's tremendous, Lord Colgan! Truly inspired.

In the development pic-series, I love the way in which the cat's ears droop at the last moment. I also wonder whether the cat might have been partly modelled on your good self, after you've been mugged by a bottle of gin.

Persephone said...

Have you noticed that in almost every visual interpretation of The Owl and the Pussycat, the owl is male and the cat female? On what evidence is that assumption based?

Uh, on the verse you've quoted just above? Oh lovely Pussy, oh Pussy my love! What a beautiful Pussy you are! Sounds like a fella speaking to a girl and not the other way around. And it's not unheard of for women, even in by-gone eras, to be the ones to suggest marriage. Juliet is the one who brings up the subject with Romeo, for example. Just sayin'...

Stevyn Colgan said...

Jason - Thank you good sir. There has been much gin in my life of late ... you may be arse-achngly correct.

Persephone - Absolutely. However, I still maintain that there's no direct absolute evidence. Does it say something about our innate stereotypes? Or am I just stirring it up for no obviously good reason? Discuss.

Anonymous said...

The same author wrote an unpublished sequel in which it was explained that the owl was indeed the groom and the pussycat the bride.