My interest in the Chimera began with Jorge Luis Borges’ The Book of Imaginary Beings. Borges considers that “As a beast it was too heterogeneous; the lion, goat, and snake (in some texts, dragon) do not readily make up a single animal.” He provided the quote by Rabelais, which I included in my picture, as evidence that the Chimera was too impossible even among mythological creatures. I loved the idea that such a critter could represent all that was utterly improbable. I imagined it as a being without fixed form, constantly changing, metamorphosing restlessly, although always including some element of dragon, lion, and goat. I featured the Chimera in several of my self-published works.
It turns up in my doodles too and the reason for the title of this blog is connected for me in my love of doodling. One trouble I had trying to be a free-lance cartoon illustrator for several difficult and financially unrewarding years was my tendency to prefer doodling over assignments. I had a partnership with a gag cartoon writer who literally produced reams of gag captions for which I was supposed to provide cartoons. Enormous resistance came up when I tried to apply myself to this labor. It seemed to take all the fun out of drawing. I regret now that I couldn’t apply myself and change my attitude. I admire those cartoon artists who labor day in and day out and are utterly committed to their art.
When I began to doodle aimlessly, sometimes at least, the magic of drawing would possess me –I would become a vessel for some force which seemed almost exterior to me. The results, when this spirit moves me, are not always successful, but the process is always great fun.
So the Chimera represents impossibility and it’s spoor could be droppings -excrement, to be sure, but also tracks and other physical traces that show a tangible trail of the unbelievable and fantastic across a piece of paper.
Below is an example of this kind of “Chimera Spoor” doodle. It tells no joke. It illustrates no easily comprehended story. The motley cast of characters who inhabit it are unknown even to me. There’s an element of the grotesque, even an aspect of the sinister, but I like to think the cartoon silliness of the figures dominates. In any case, I didn’t try to control the outcome. They just grew out of the pen.
For me, one premier challenge in trying to get my cartoons in some hopefully publishable form is to keep the spontaneity and unexpected spirit of these doodles in a story that is a more structured narrative.
In my new comic, the one comiXology accepted, Multiverse Comics and Stories, I do at least have both doodles and more convention stuff existing side by side. The Chimera at the top of my blog, the one the janitor is complaining about, has been fished out of the new comic. In a post coming soon, I will write more about this comic and how it came to be.