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Art: Creative Creatures

This series arose from “Jane Pawsten,” one of the playful nicknames I gave my late cat Boots. Looking at her perfect profile one day, I had the thought that she would look quite fetching in a (digital) Regency bonnet. Fitting cat into bonnet was harder than I expected. Regency headgear wasn’t constructed for feline heads, and the version “Jane” wears in the finished image ultimately had to be constructed of sixteen different digital bits. But the combination of silly puns and the re-visioning of my favorite creative artists as animals proved irresistible, and I’ve been working my way through the creative pantheon ever since.


The first step is always the punny name, followed by the choice of the animal species and image. I try to mirror the human’s appearance in the animal image, often drawing on a particular photograph of that writer or artist for inspiration. Virginia Woolf became an elegant, long-snouted whippet, W.H. Auden a baggy-faced bloodhound, Dorothy L. Sayers a plump grey shorthair cat. Sometimes, of course, matching human and animal physiognomies isn’t possible. I don’t pretend that the birds I chose for Charlotte, Emily, and Branwell Swantë mimic the siblings’ individual features. But even there I tried to capture the original’s character, for example placing the slender gray swan I chose for Emily on her beloved moors and Branwell, white but soiled, in a tavern.

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