Friday, May 26, 2017

Miscellaneous finds #1

This one is not from the newsgroups, not sure where it came from, it might be more recent than the other images I'm going through. It does have a distinctive old guard furry feeling to it though, not only for the crude photomorph style but also for the concept.

There was a time up until the early 1980s in which a lot of overlapping happened between ideas which are now partitioned into different genres like science fiction, fantasy and furry - at least in the mind on the nerdy fans. The artwork found in fanzines from that period often features seamless mixes of starships, sword-wielding warriors and sentient “funny animals” as they were called before the modern furry fandom emerged. Furry fiction stemmed from that unified speculative fiction. What if humans and animals exchanged places and sentient animals treated less-than-sentient humans like we treat animals? It may sound like a gimmicky question, but that’s the kind of question which fired up the imagination of early furry fans (and still does the same to many current fans).

Depending on who you ask an image like this one may feel either humorous, uncanny, downright offensive, or a mix of all these things. Or it may feel too weird to have any opinion about it. I suspect most people would pick uncanny or maybe surrealistic (i.e. not making any logical sense).

For me it is all these things at the same time, but also something more when put in context: it was, at the onset of modern furry art, uncharted territory. A kind of image which touches upon fantasies, questions and fears which are usually left behind with childhood. This is how that small child might see our very world as his developing brain is trying to process what he sees and wondering whether to put concepts such as "dog" and "human" in separate mental boxes.

Unlike other instances such as Grandville’s delightful artwork I see no satire nor ordinary humor going on here. There’s not much intentional shock value either when you think about it since it shows an impossible scene. It is instead a very matter-of-fact picture of an everyday situation, which is what makes it uncanny of course, but uncanny (as well as slightly humorous) in a way which is very specific of naive furry art. Seems to me that the most distinctive furry art is seldom about grand things like space wars or epic quests. It is usually about pretty mundane stuff, such as chilling out, enjoying hobbies, lovemaking... or waiting in a queue with a “pet” on the leash. These are the situations in which the furry imagination plays its tricks and brings on the unexpected in its own original way.

The 90s truly had to be innocent times if you could feel comfortable writing your phone number on a sexy drawing asking for vocal feedback! I wonder if the artist actually got some calls.

Not a bad picture if you like the odd mix of styles. The body and overall composition come straight from pinups of the 60s and 70s, the head comes straight from Disney’s “Bambi”, but the hair and tail have a thickness to them which is more typical of classic Warner Bros style. The fur pattern too feels like something WB would design rather than Disney. I like the white extending to the armpits, it’s a pretty sensual detail.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Finds in fur.artwork.erotica #2

I've come to love this kind of naive digital style because of the works of Chris Wayan. It is a style born out of the limitations of the media: there were no handy graphic tablets or sophisticated Photoshop brushes twenty years ago, so digital sketching ought to be hastily done with a mouse and little else. Back in the day I thought the style was just crude and sloppy but it's actually ok for conveying a sense of slight alien-ness. Anatomical research is not a concern in this manner of drawing, yet the source animal is recognizable enough and humanlike features are either pleasantly downplayed (the hands) or prompting a distancing effect (the breast).

Early furry art, much like early sci-fi/fantasy fan art, was full of silly geeky ideas like this one.

Oh man. I remember stumbling upon this very image soon after discovering the furry fandom, and it nearly made me quit in disgust as I had never seen anything like it before, let alone fantasized about it. I still don't find hyper-endowed character very interesting, but now I can appreciate why some people enjoy them. While the inherent lack of harmony in the figure makes them fall easily into the uncanny valley they have a sort of primal quality and raw physical energy which can be very intriguing.

This becomes clear when similar visual themes are exploited by skilled artists for a clear goal, as is the case with the weird hypersexual miniatures of the board game "Kingdom Death: Monster". As a general rule works in the fantasy and horror genres tend to stress the unsettling aspect of supernumeral or inhuman limbs and KD:M is no exception, albeit the artistic quality and consistency it achieves in doing so is off the scale compared to typical fantasy art. Furry art on the other hand is much more likely to spotlight the humorous or charming aspect of such body features, consistently with its basic philosophy of finding good things in non-humanity.

Like the author of the picture above, most furry artists who dealt with hypersexual characters (Doug Winger, Gideon, etc.) have stressed mostly the humorous aspects of the concept, but recent furry artists like Oouna or Darkgem and patron-fans like Zwerewolf or Liquid clearly feel the mythical quality of hypersexual characters too, although their creations are less extreme.

"Odd situation" indeed, subverting one of the most classical cartoon tropes - dogs hating cats hating mice. It could be said that characters like Tom and Jerry endure a love/hate relationship, but barring ridiculous freudian readings there is no trace of sexuality in that cartoon. Furry art as usual adds sexuality to the characters and therefore expands their humorous possibilities a bit. So while a mènage a trois like this would be unthinkable in the context of a typical Hanna & Barbera or Warner Bros cartoon, in the sort of extended context created by fans it becomes a legitimate occasion of absurdist humor like any slapstick duel.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The dig begins

I have a pretty extensive collection of furry art dating all the way back to the early 90s, including several mirrors of long defunct websites such as Orlando or Furnation and dumps of all the images posted on the Usenet newsgroup fur.artwork.erotica. I'm a bit of a file hoarder when it comes to furry art (and art in general, and animal photos, and lanscape photos...).

I've skimmed though my archives before but now I'd like to do something more systematic. Back in the 90s, when I was browsing newsgroups while discovering this kind of art and beginning to draw myself, I had a feeling that there was something new to it, but I had no art education to help me understand what it was and I wasn't really interested in art analysis. Now that I have a few more critical tools at hand I want to go through some of that old furry art with fresh eyes, trying to deconstruct it and looking for the roots of the most interesting ideas which are still present in furry art today. There might even be good ideas which have been lost to time and may be worth unearthing! The furry fandom is notoriously self deprecating and oblivious of its own history, and while furry art certainly has humble origins - most of the early art is crude fan art or amateurish doodles - I love the art form too much to believe that its modern roots aren't worth some attention.

Two important notes before starting:

- For the purpose of this analysis I define "furry art" as the anthropomorphic art produced by people involved in the furry subculture proper, the one which originated in the early 1980s and adopted the term "furry". For everything else I use other terms such as "anthro art". I consider furry art distinguished from both previous anthro art (such as J.J.Grandville's illustrations or stories like "The Wind in the Willows") and anthro art produced in other environments (such as mainstream cartoons or contemporary fine art featuring anthropomorphism). In fact the whole point of my analysis is arguing that there are specific qualities to art created within the furry subculture that warrant such a distinction.

- I believe posting images for the purpose of art analysis qualifies as fair use. Most of the images I am going to post in this series are low resolution, signed with pseudonyms and/or so old it would be impractical to track the artists anyway. However if you find an image of yours on my blog and want it removed just contact me and I will oblige, providing you can prove that the image is indeed your intellectual property.

And now, onto the first couple images! These are from the old newsgroup fur.artwork.erotica.

Content wise this kind of furry porn has always been common, although style wise this image struck me as clearly inspired by cheap porn comics of the 60s and 70s. The two raised tails have opposite meaning: submission for the bear, dominance and sexual pride for the fox (?). Several details make the fox feel more feral than the bear even though we see very little of her body. The fox's tail is larger, more prominent and more anatomically accurate than the bear's; her claws are well visible, highlighted by the nail polish and echoed by the glove spikes while the bear's hands are tied and covered by dandy gloves. The tattoo nicely echoes the whole scene with simple symbolism (and earns a nerd point for being made on the actual skin of the fox).

The outstanding details though are the wine bottle and wine glass. As a hint that the scene is sexual roleplaying between the characters it adds a layer of meaning to the image - the sexual act we are looking at is a fantasy within a fantasy, just a facet of a more complex imaginary world.

A simple scene illustrating gay sex with a mix of manly power play (the penis size difference, the very visible anal penetration, the restrained position of the rat) and tenderness (the expression of the wolf, his somewhat gentle way of restraining and caressing the rat, his left foot lifted to avoid stepping on the rat's tail). Not much more to say about this one but I liked the contrasting impressions.

Possibly werewolves given their partially feral anatomy. Characters and bed are very well drawn by old school furry art standards. The positions and interactions are quite believable for a group sex scene, a somewhat rare quality in a genre known mostly for the abundance of power fantasy porn. I love the composition too, the feeling of suspension in space and circular flow it creates. Closed eyes and restrained expressions are something I like in sex scenes too as they suggest that the characters are fully engaged in the act and not merely performing for a viewer.

All in all an interesting celebration of lupine features and sexual fun, a precursor to the kind of picture which Blotch would later bring to great success among furries.