After finding "Shadow of My Hand" posted on some random person's site as "Something Nasty," and one of Dave's paintings winding up in a competition mislabeled as "Crap on a Table," I'm adopting a new policy of zero cleverness in my blog post titles. "Huntsman and Herdsman" is another painting inspired by Fern Hill, a poem about childhood by Dylan "Chillin'" Thomas. The phrase, which refers to Cain and Abel, references man's conflicted relationship with the rest of the animal kingdom. On the one hand, man as the protector; on the other, man as a predator. Our duplicitous role as stewards and destroyers of animals is something that everyone struggles to understand as a child, and as an adult too. Paul, the boy who modeled for me, is perfect for this painting because a) his parents are raising their kids to respect animals and nature without glossing over the fact that animals are food and that often their fate is at our mercy (as a family they fostered the kitten in the painting--a rescue who would have faced a life of starvation and disease without intervention), and b) his belly.
|ROUGH SHOT. Not for reposting. Jerks.|
The other challenge, of course, is the fact that it's a painting of an adorable boy with an adorable kitten. I think every painter dreads the moment when someone says, "You could sell that to Hallmark!" Neither does it help that Dave rarely approves of my paintings of children until they are finished. Every time I asked if the painting was any good, he'd say,"Well, it's a painting of a cute kid with a cute kitten," and raise his eyebrows with ominous significance over the rim of his tumbler of White Russian.
I certainly didn't want the painting to be cute. It's supposed to be a serious subject, this confusing world of death and life of which humans seem to be the oftentimes unwilling arbiters. And in the end, I'm glad my attempts at gold leaf failed. The darkness and loneliness of the background make Paul's gesture something more than simply sweet. He's not just holding the kitten, he's protecting it.