The first show of the Yukon Illustration Coalition (YILCO) is on display for the entire month of November at the Northern Front Studio in Whitehorse. The exhibit theme, which was voted by the 12 current members of the coalition, is "Beast of the Boreal".
In this post, I am explaining the references and inspiration behind my piece, named "Who's the beast?". I want to emphasize the fact that behind each drawing, painting, illustration, there is a story; behind the lines and colours, there are cultural, artistic, or pop culture references.
Creating an illustration is a journey, and too often artists don't get to share this process with their audience. So I am taking this blog as an opportunity to do it, for this one piece.
The new and old Boreal world
In our chosen exhibit theme, there are two keywords subject to interpretation: BEAST and BOREAL. Let's start with the second one. To me, "boreal" sets up the environment in which the scene of the artwork takes place. The boreal forest is found across the North of Canada, it is the environment surrounding us in most parts of the Yukon. But what about the boreal forest of a long time ago? Most of The Yukon during the ice age used to be part of Beringia. A dry, unglaciated landmass providing pathways and food for animals. Large animals. Mammals. Mammoths.
Who is the Beast?
Have you heard of this crazy project aiming at reviving the wolly mammoth from its DNA? If I set aside my concerns related to playing with the DNA of a dead species, picturing mammoths roaming freely in the toundra is pretty dreamy... So I drew a mammoth, to make the dream alive at least on paper. A giantic woolly mammoth standing in the grasslands of Beringia, hair floating in the wind, the numerous flies around its face suggesting a pretty "wild" smell.
"Who's the Beast?" - Ink and watercolor on paper (Copyright Esther Bordet 2020)
Now, who is the cute little white rabbit perched on the back of this giantic, stinky, woolly mammoth? This is technically a snowshoe hare, a species wildely distributed across the Boreal forest nowadays, and also known to have roamed southern parts of the North American continent during the last ice age. This specific animal is also inspired from a french graphic novel character, Eusebe. In De Cape et de Crocs, by Alain Ayroles and artist Jean-Luc Masbou, Eusebe is a fearless adventurer, fighting the most scary looking pirates in one-on-one sword fights. In the comic, the cuteness and innocence of this little animal contrasts with the strength, humour and good spirit he shows in all circumstances. Eusebe is one of my favorite comic character. I find him hilarious.
Lastly, my mammoth-riding Eusebe-inspired snowshoe hare has a message: "Hello ladies". Does this line sound familiar? It comes from the famous Old Spice advertising, where a manly man-man riding a white horse on a beautiful tropical beach adresses the ladies in the room. In a fictional boreal grassland world, a cute rabbit riding a woolly mammoth may be seen as hot as the Old Spice man. It's all about perspective.
So, who do you think is THE BEAST?