Originally published in 1998 as » Daily Drawing Nr. 31

Again, one picture back in time. This one is done right before the one presented yesterday. People crowd the canvas. Steep high format. You might not notice from that bad, small scan, but there is a snake there sneaking around the head of the hero, and a dark green beast sitting on his shoulder, being caressed by the young blonde, and it is not a dragon, not a devil’s dog, it is a cat.

This cat is very much catlike. One of the wonders of this world: Everything is extremely specific in each of its appearances, you know at once what is is, or rather: Your right brain knows it.

You only see the shadow or the silhouette or even a part of the object and you know: That’s it. You can even go ahead and distort it, as is the essence of caricature, and still you know for sure: This is characteristic and specific for that.

In fact, you can produce pleasure by exaggerating or inventing different forms for known objects, and this is done every day by our cartoonists who in turn earn their income in doing so because people like to see it, proving my point.

Here is an example from » Ted Goff: Nobody looks like these people, but that’s just the point.

Modern art has pulled much strength from inventing forms, much more than old art. Well, this is not really true. I have to restrict this statement to art from the renaissance to the end of the 19th century. Egyptian art is not at all realistic and has invented powerful forms for all sorts of objects. Medieval art has invented powerful forms mostly for religious topics. Eastern art has developed Icons, Far East art is especially known in the western world through Japanese woodcuts, influencing Western art since the end of the last century.

Of course, realistic art invents forms, too, and you can study the variety of forms at any gathering of people. At Sundays, when I push the wheel chair of my father through the park of the spa he lives, I enjoy greatly all those faces and bodies I can see there.

There is a drawing of Leonardo da Vinci that comes to mind where he studies extreme faces, but I couldn’t find it in my library, so I looked at Mark Harden’s Artchive, but he didn’t have it either, but Carol Gerten had a study sufficient to prove my point (click on image to get Carol’s online blowup).

In » Art Journal 1.3 and » Art Journal 1.4 I talk at length about distortions used in traditional art and what can be achieved through it, so nothing is really new and alien. Forms are used to attract attention, and inventing forms is fun and interesting, even the industry knows it and spends a lot of money on design because design sells.

Now let’s get back to the cat in our image. When I scanned all my works for reference I began categorizing, too. There is a category animals with a subcategory cats. This is interesting. With such a categorization you can see when a certain motif turns up the first time, how it is used later on etc. There are three paintings with a cat, this is the last and most realistic. The first is just a silhouette, the second a fairy tale animal assisting a fortune-teller, as it seems. Remember, I am not inventing and illustrating as could be assumed with this woman, I watch as pictures come and am surprised as you are.

This last cat is sketched no more at will as anything else. Compared to the next two pictures shown with » Daily Drawing 1.29 and » 1.30, it is safe to assume that it represents something similar to the dragon or devil’s dog.

But what I am aiming at this morning all the time is the following observation: You presumably know by now that I admire Max Beckmann very much. He used cats in his paintings, too, and it is very strange that all his cats have to be labeled as cats. You wonder what this might be, and after some contemplation you convince yourself that he must have meant a cat, but this cat or whatever it might be has not much catlike at all. I’ll give you two examples, clippings from images to be seen in full size online by clicking on the image while online:

The first looks rather like a green monkey, the second is hardly to be recognized as cat at all. When I observed this during an exhibition centering around his famous masterpiece “The Night” in Duesseldorf, I wondered what this could mean.