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You say ‘domestic’ I say ‘opportunist’


So the story goes that cats self-domesticated at about the same time as we began to practice agriculture. Agriculture makes granaries, granaries make mice, mice make cats. Plausible enough, but for a language quibble: I don’t think cats self-domesticated; I don’t think they changed one stripe from the Wild Kingdom version. Self-selected, more like. The ones that, on the whole, rather liked the company of man came out of the wilderness and settled in his granaries.

charlotte in pencils

The fact is, some animals naturally rub along pretty well with people (and some don’t). They say you can’t tame a Felis silvestris grampia, no matter how hard you try. But catch a Felis silvestris lybica as a kitten and he’s anybody’s. They look exactly alike, but they’re different under the hood.

I’ve been thinking a lot about aminals lately. Sorry to drag you along on my middle-age what-do-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up journey to the center of my navel, but I’ve been trying to figure out if “animal artist” is interesting enough to last a lifetime. In the course of which, it occured to me that my favorite animals are the ones that rub along pretty well with humanity. Pets and livestock, of course, but I have a real soft spot for the vermin and the opportunists of nature, too.

Partly because they’re the only animals I get to see and interact with, I guess. But opportunistic animals also have a cheerful, bluff, “hey lady, you going to eat that french fry?” kind of attitude. They can take care of themselves just fine, thanks. None of this weak, whiny, candy-ass “woo, don’t even look at me, I’m endangered” stuff.

I don’t know. You think there’s much call for S. Weasel, famous painter of rats?


Comment from Jill
Time: July 30, 2008, 3:06 pm

Aminals artist is look-ro-tif…luke-ra…makes lots of moneys.

Think rats. Raccoons. Veasels. Batchers.
Look what soup cans did for Andy Warhol.

Comment from bad cat robot
Time: July 30, 2008, 3:27 pm

put a wee bonnet on a rat and give Beatrix Potter a run for her money. Actually I see rats as more auto mechanic-types, not country gentry.

Comment from porknbean
Time: July 30, 2008, 3:36 pm

Liking your aminal drawerings muchly…especially Damien.
*envious here*

What kind of pen is that? Do you think your art school taught you much or would you have done just as well on your own?

I see rats as more auto mechanic-types, not country gentry.

LOL. They do, don’t they?

Comment from Allen
Time: July 30, 2008, 3:46 pm

The prime opportunist bar none. The coyote, it’s one of the few animals to extend it’s range significantly. They’re even present in urban environments.

Did you know that coyotes have been known to form symbiotic hunting relationships with badgers? They’ve been observed chasing prey into a badger burrow where Mr. Badger is waiting patiently for dinner to be delivered. Gives a new meaning to “Domino’s Delivers.”

In exchange coyotes get former badger burrows for dens.

Comment from porknbean
Time: July 30, 2008, 3:49 pm

bad cat robot, I think it is a fine idea for weasel to give B. Potter a run for her money. A story line on weasels and their family life, interactions with other critters – such as badgers, runnybabbits, etc – could be quite entertaining. I say children’s books with some clever twists for adults. Then market the crap out of it or have a cult-like following.

Here is an example – Brambley Hedge – Jill Barklem has done modestly well for herself.
(remove space after http)
http ://www.bramblyhedge.co.uk/

Can’t go wrong with critter art.

Comment from porknbean
Time: July 30, 2008, 3:51 pm

Allen, see yesterday’s thread. Wow, your very own Cox art!

Comment from Allen
Time: July 30, 2008, 4:04 pm

PnB, yes it’s a really cool piece of work. I had no idea what he was going to come up with. As soon as I saw that one it leapt out at me. The original is about 4″ x 9″ and I had it nicely framed.

I also sent him some of my Sangiovese. Speaking of which it’s harvest time this weekend. Which also means I get to imbibe heavily on last year’s pickins’

Now if I can get my hands on a genuine Weasel Work I’d be all set.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: July 30, 2008, 4:04 pm

Hmm. I forget where it is exactly, I think it is in Italy, but there is a village where local law dictates that all homes and structures are required to have entry and exit points for the town’s cats, and that it is illegal to keep them as pets. The cats are given free roam of the entire village to keep vermin in check. Caging, impeding or harming a cat is punished by SEVERE penalties.

Every door has a cat door, and the cats are virtually citizens in their own right.

Any ideas where this place is? I think Stoatie should blow off the British Isles and move there……

Comment from Muslihoon
Time: July 30, 2008, 5:17 pm

I hate to barge in with an off topic question, but I’m looking to buy a domain and manage it (upload pages and whatnot). Which hosting or registration service should I use?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: July 30, 2008, 5:25 pm

Wow, that is a lovely Cox painting, Allen. Is the original watercolor or digital media?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been encouraged to do kids’ books, PnB. Problem is, I hate children. And it shows. I can keep it cute for about fifteen minutes, and then the axes come out…

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: July 30, 2008, 5:32 pm

Musli: they ALL suck. I have used several of both.

This place is hosted on BlueHost and I registered the domain through them (that can be risky with a fly-by-night organization. We had one go out of business on us in the UK and they tried to pinch our domain names).

Anyhow, they don’t suck any more than anybody else, and they’re cheap. But if you do a web search, you’ll find people complaining.


Comment from Muslihoon
Time: July 30, 2008, 5:56 pm

Thank you, Ms. Weasel! Just signed up. Seems easy enough. And lots of services for very little.

I might use it for my blog too. Maybe.

Comment from Allen
Time: July 30, 2008, 6:02 pm

I love it Weasel, the original is in watercolor, and has become a treasure to me. The “Dark Horse” logo is digital. On the actual label I include an orange bar with the year and wine type underneath.

Comment from nicole
Time: July 30, 2008, 6:17 pm

Fantastic sketch. Mucho talento.

Comment from porknbean
Time: July 30, 2008, 6:19 pm

You don’t have to like children. Do some critter stories for us big ‘tards or yourself. If the ankle biters enjoy them, consider it a plus.

Srsly, Beatrix loved critters and loved drawing them and loved being able to make books of that love. For herself first, to make money/independence from suffocating parents, and if it involved selling to children, then hallelujah open up a new bank account and buy a nature preserve.

Comment from Fennec
Time: July 30, 2008, 7:18 pm

Animal arteeest!

Who DOESN’T love animal art? That’s my “second job” and I get a big rise out of making other people happy with drawings of critters.

And there are plenty enough Rat fans out there who would just love you forever if you painted more rats. =)

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: July 30, 2008, 7:53 pm

That reminds me of an old story I read once……

Once there was a boy who loved to draw. His name was Joji.

Joji grew up on a farm with lots of brothers and sisters. The others were a big help to their father and mother. But not Joji!

He did nothing for hours but draw in the dirt with a stick. And what Joji drew was just one thing.


Cats, cats, and more cats. Small cats, big cats, thin cats, fat cats. Cats, cats, cats, cats, cats.

“Joji,” his father told him, “you must stop drawing all those cats! How will you ever be a farmer?”

“I’m sorry, Father. I’ll try to stop.”

And he did try. But whenever Joji saw one of the farm cats go by, he forgot about his chores and drew another cat.

“Joji will never make a farmer,” said the farmer sadly to his wife.

“Maybe he could be a priest,” she told him. “Why don’t you take him to the temple?”

So the farmer brought Joji to the priest at the village temple. The priest said, “I will gladly teach him.”

From then on, Joji lived at the temple. The priest gave him lessons in reading and writing. Joji had his own box of writing tools, with a brush and an ink stick and a stone.

Joji loved to make the ink. He poured water in the hollow of the stone. He dipped the ink stick in the water. Then he rubbed the stick on the stone. And there was the ink for his brush!

Now, the other students worked hard at their writing. But not Joji! With his brush and rice paper, he did nothing for hours but draw. And what Joji drew was just one thing.


Cats, cats, and more cats. Small cats, big cats, thin cats, fat cats. Cats, cats, cats, cats, cats.

“Joji,” the priest told him, “you must stop drawing all those cats! How will you ever be a priest?”

“I’m sorry, honorable sir. I’ll try to stop.”

And he did try. But whenever Joji saw one of the temple cats go by, he forgot about his writing and drew another cat.

That was bad enough. Then Joji started drawing on the folding screens of the temple. Soon there were cats on all the rice-paper panels. They were everywhere!

“Joji, you’ll never make a priest,” the priest told him sadly. “You’ll just have to go home.”

Joji went to his room and packed his things. But he was afraid to go home. He knew his father would be angry.

Then he remembered another temple in a village nearby. “Maybe I can stay with the priest there.”

Joji started out walking. It was already night when he got to the other village.

He climbed the steps to the temple and knocked. There was no answer. He opened the heavy door. It was all dark inside.

“That’s strange,” said Joji. “Why isn’t anyone here?”

He lit a lamp by the door. Then he saw something that made him clap. All around the big room were folding screens with empty rice-paper panels.

Joji got out his writing box and made some ink. Then he dipped in his brush and started to draw. And what Joji drew was just one thing.


Cats, cats, and more cats. Small cats, big cats, thin cats, fat cats. Cats, cats, cats, cats, cats.

The screen he drew on last was almost as long as the room. Joji covered it with one gigantic cat—the biggest and most beautiful cat he had ever drawn.

Now Joji was tired. He started to lie down. But something about the big room bothered him.

“I’ll find someplace smaller.”

He found a cozy closet and settled inside. Then he slid shut the panel door and went to sleep.

Late that night, Joji awoke in fright.


It sounded like a large, fierce animal in the temple! Now he knew why no one was there. He wished he wasn’t there either!

He heard the thing sniff around the big room. It halted right in front of the closet. Then all at once . . .


There was a sound of struggling, and a roar of surprise and pain. Then a huge thud that shook the floor.

Then a soft padding sound. Then silence.

Joji lay trembling in the dark. He stayed there for hours, afraid to look out of the closet.

At last, daylight showed at the edge of the door. Joji carefully slid the door open and peered out.

In the middle of the room lay a monster rat—a rat as big as a cow! It lay dead, as if something had smashed it to the floor.

Joji looked around the room. No one and nothing else was there—just the screens with the cats. Then Joji looked again at the one gigantic cat.

“Didn’t I draw the head to the left and the tail to the right?”

Yes, he was sure of it. But now the cat faced the other way—as if it had come down off the screen and then gone back up.

“The cat!” said Joji. His eyes grew wide. Then he pressed his palms together and bowed to the screen.

“Thank you, honorable cat. You have saved me. For as long as I live, no one will stop me from drawing cats.”

* * *

When the villagers learned that the monster rat was dead, Joji became a hero. The village priest let him live in the temple as long as he liked.

But Joji did not become a priest. And he did not become a farmer.

He became an artist. A great artist. An artist honored through all the country. An artist who drew just one thing.



Comment from iamfelix
Time: July 30, 2008, 8:45 pm

Stoaty, if I could draw like that, I would: Never. Do. Anything. Else.

Great story, Scuba.

Comment from Mrs. Peel
Time: July 30, 2008, 10:52 pm

ditto felix. And if I could sing, I would never stop. So it’s probably a good thing I’m not very talented.

Weas, I think you could do well drawin’ pitchers and writin’ stories. As pnb said, write a story for us, not kids. Hank the Cowdog didn’t start out as a kids’ series. (And of course the quality went down once Erickson started writing for kids…)

Comment from bad cat robot
Time: July 30, 2008, 11:31 pm

Also, children aren’t nearly as twee as some adults would like to think. Roald Dahl’s children’s books are quite dark in places but in ways children, little monsters, really appreciate. I think there is a Weasel-shaped niche … I doubt parents would go for them, but all us evil aunties and uncles would earn points with the rugrats. And it wouldn’t be as conducive to homicide as a drum set (or my personal favorite, a set of screwdrivers and a rousing game of Let’s Take Apart Mommy’s Vacuum Cleaner). They never ask me to babysit twice for some reason …

Comment from Pupster
Time: July 31, 2008, 12:01 am

You should totally do a daily comic strip…like “Blondie” or “The Wizard of ID” but with Weasels.

Comment from Gregory the First
Time: July 31, 2008, 12:06 am

Rats, eh? Yeah, as long as you can draw ’em like that girl-rat in C&D:RR, whatshername, er Gadget, I think?

Comment from scubafreak
Time: July 31, 2008, 12:49 am

Stoatie, you could always do an anti-catnip psa for the local feline population……

“This is your brain….”


“This is your brain on catnip….”


“This is you brain after the catnip munchies……”


Comment from JuliaM
Time: July 31, 2008, 5:49 am

“You think there’s much call for S. Weasel, famous painter of rats?”

In an era where ‘art’ can mean half a pickled shark, or an unmade bed, do you really need to ask that question…?

Plus, you’re good at it. The people who like real art will see that.

Comment from Mrs. Peel
Time: July 31, 2008, 8:16 am

Was Gadget a rat? I thought she was a mouse.

bad cat robot is right. That’s what I was getting at, but totally did not elucidate. Hank the Cowdog, for example, was originally written for adults, but kids were able to appreciate it. And kids love Where the Wild Things Are despite the fact that it is kinda dark and scary (if you think about it from their perspective). And, of course, Roald Dahl is an excellent example of dark/scary/loved by kids.

You could write the anti-Redwall, in which the weasels/ferrets/stoats/etc. are the good guys, and the mice/squirrels/hares/etc. are the bad guys.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: July 31, 2008, 8:20 am

Felix, it’s a little like doing math in your head (ha! Like I can do math in my head!). You have to concentrate so hard, it’s exhausting. And the hardest part of all is trying to make it look like it was easy 🙂

You’ve been banging out some great links, Scubafreak. I keep meaning to say that, but most of them I can’t follow until I get home because of the work filter. And when I get home, we all know what I do <makes the ‘drinky-drinky’ motion>

Pingback from Fat cat | Cold Fury
Time: July 31, 2008, 9:41 am

[…] for budding animal artist Miss S. Weasel. You’ll need lots of paint for this one, Weaz. Lots and lots. Category: Heh […]

Comment from Jill
Time: July 31, 2008, 10:38 am

How about if someone writes the story and Sweasy does the illustrations?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: July 31, 2008, 1:02 pm

Basically, that’a applying for a job as freelance illustrator, Jill — certainly something I considered. Publishing houses don’t want writer-and-illustrator packages (unless you’re husband and wife or something). They like to choose illustrators themselves from their stable of freelancers.

One of my first steady art jobs was illustrating, basically, the Bible Study manual for Old People for the Southern Baptist Sunday School Convention. Boy, did that suck, but I totally needed the money.

Comment from porknbean
Time: July 31, 2008, 1:10 pm

You have to concentrate so hard, it’s exhausting.

Why I keep putting off getting back into the drawing. Because I had little formal training, eyeball placement and the like is exhausting. Love doing pen and ink though.

That is why I asked if you think art school taught you well or if you would have done fine on your own.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: July 31, 2008, 1:28 pm

Oh, sorry, PnB. I missed the question.

Art school would have helped a lot, I feel sure, if I’d been to a decent one. I know now what I didn’t know then: RISD was a famously nutty art school and it was going through a famously anti-representational phase in my day. I saw kids come out of there drawing worse than when they went in. About the only useful thing I got out of it was a lot of life drawing, and then only when the instructors left me alone. For all intents and purposes, I’m self taught.

I’ve mentioned the Concept Arts forum before, but let me recommend them again. “Concept art” is basically art for computer games, but really it’s the best all-around art discussion forum I’ve found. People at all skill levels. You can get thoughtful critique and see amazing art from some very talented people there.

That really is about as good an education as you can get.

Comment from Jill
Time: July 31, 2008, 2:21 pm

I bet that sucked. }:^(

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: July 31, 2008, 2:35 pm

Sucked and was ginormously expensive. More expensive than some Ivy League universities, believe it or whateverIdon’tcare. It’s where rich people sent the loser youngest kid who was never going to make it on Wall Street.

I went there because my piece of shit High School art teacher was a recent graduate and told me it was the best of the best.

Comment from Jill
Time: July 31, 2008, 3:12 pm

Totally off topic: we had new concrete driveway cuts poured at work today…>singing< “I put mah han’prints inna connnnn-crete…I put mah han’prints inna connnnn-crete…la…la…la…mao chicka mao mao maoooo…”

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: July 31, 2008, 3:31 pm

Hahaha…Jill! Your place in history is cemented!

Uncle B? Working a little late tonight. My boss needs a few DVDs burned, and my burner keeps locking up partway through.

Comment from porknbean
Time: July 31, 2008, 3:34 pm

That is too bad about the art school. Just think of the money you could have saved. But, talent-wise, and self-taughtness, you are good. Combine it with your sense of humor or not, you have excellent marketable potential.

I was put in an Honors Art magnet school my Jr. year, half days. While it was supposed to be a special avenue for talented art students in the public high schools, my teacher rarely showed up. Wound up having to scramble to get a portfolio put together for some college scouts as college never entered my mind prior. Unfortunately for me, the more prestigious schools (Wash. U.) looked closely at our transcripts too. Us city kids, where curriculum was watered down to spit, didn’t have a chance. Yes, PnB, you show promise artistically, but following the simple curriculum requirements of your school has left you lacking in the math and sciences. I agreed but upset when I saw that they did have ‘minority’ slots available to students lacking the same curriculum.
Oh well.

I was self-taught too. Doodled my way through public school since there wasn’t anything else to do.

Comment from Jill
Time: July 31, 2008, 4:24 pm

It is! http://www.flickr.com/photos/jilldini/2719898329/

Comment from iamfelix
Time: July 31, 2008, 7:17 pm

Felix, it’s a little like doing math in your head (ha! Like I can do math in my head!). You have to concentrate so hard, it’s exhausting. And the hardest part of all is trying to make it look like it was easy.

I can believe that — I have labored long & mightily and never produced anything a fraction so fine. And kittycats, IMHO, are teh hardest: they need to look regal and more than a bit fierce (even the housecat kind).

Comment from nbpundit
Time: August 1, 2008, 6:18 pm

Yer in the wrong bidnezz…


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 1, 2008, 6:23 pm

Ha! I’ve been doing 3DStudio since the mid-’90s (when it was DOS!). All my attempts to build a weasel have, sadly, failed 🙁

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