Explanation: So I approached this drawing thinking about Dürer's ever-present rhinoceros. Dürer's rhino is a landmark in the history of art and – more importantly for me – in the history of printmaking. Perhaps more broadly, it is a landmark in the history of science and knowledge. It accordingly serves as the cover illustration of Susan Dackerman's exhibition catalogue Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge. I take this print as a teaching point every time I talk about the history of prints and the power of images, especially in terms of multiples.
(Dürer's Rhinoceros, via wikipedia)
It remains the quintessential image of a rhinoceros. Despite its inaccuracies, this image was powerful enough to shape the very idea of 'rhinocerosness' for hundreds of years after its production. One can read the wikipedia article (yes, it has its own article) for the whole story, but suffice it to say that this image – apart from looking super cool – changed the history of art, science, and knowledge itself.
And it is still effecting images of rhinos, and artists interested in interpreting Dürer's work in countless ways:
So I thus knew that I too would pay homage to Dürer. I first considered showing a more realistic rhinoceros removing the armor plates that Dürer has applied, as if he were wearing a suit of armor. This website is pretty exciting in showing the armor in its constituent parts. I then was thinking about more anthropomorphic rhinoceroses, and remembered Rocksteady, the constant companion of Bepop, from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I remember him from the cartoon, but it occurs to me that I might have had his action figure as well. I can't remember for sure.
Rocksteady (via TMNTpedia)
So I sketched out the body first on paper, then traced it onto the wacom tablet, giving me a basic outline. Since it was a sketch, at this point I hadn't added any of the clothes, but he was posed holding the gun. Then I started adding skin textures. Eventually, I had added textures to the whole thing, but hadn't added the clothes yet. This was more or less the third image posted above. At that point, I knew I wanted to post a version with all the textures visible, but the gun felt too violent, especially given what happens to rhinos in the wild, and other issues with guns happening right now in America. So I added the "Bang" to neutralize that. But it wasn't enough. I forgot about it and moved on to adding the clothes, which went well. I didn't go as far as giving him cargo pants and combat boots, but I still think it reads as Rocksteady without those, especially with the dangling turtle shell at his hips (what was that all about anyways?). Anyways, after having completed the full Rocksteady outfit, I decided to return and remove the gun (first image). It results in a somewhat awkward stance, but I am glad I did it. It is better than a rhino holding a gun for no reason. The monogram was added last, obviously inspired by / derived from Dürer's own. I also briefly considered adding a version of the Dürer rhino as a Judoon soldier from Doctor Who, but decided it would be too much work, and would cover up all the exciting textures anyways. So alas, no Judoon.
Jun Nakamura is a student, scholar, artist, and designer from Hebron, Kentucky. He is a doctoral student in art history at the University of Michigan.
All images copyright Jun Nakamura unless otherwise noted.