Hey Oscar Wilde!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Well, I finally found the time to contribute a piece to Hey Oscar Wilde, Steven Gettis' collection of literary-figure-drawings. If you've never been to the site, I highly recommend browsing its rich archives (since 1998!), organized by both artist and subject. The basic premise: your favorite artists depict their favorite literary personalities, whether authors or characters. In my case, I decided to go with Mona Monzano, the beautiful xylophonist, from Vonnegut's atomic novel, Cat's Cradle.

I "read" the book a couple years ago and loved every minute of it — all 432 of them. I listen to audiobooks while I work, which helps me to focus the visual part of my brain while (hopefully) developing the other parts. I've been a fan of Vonnegut since reading Slaughterhouse V in high school, but somehow missed this particular novel. I took this commission as an opportunity to listen to the book again, which I enjoyed even more the second time.

Mona was an obvious choice for me, being the sublime beauty that serves as muse and motivation for so many of the book's characters. I'm happy to find any excuse to draw beautiful women, but in Mona's case, beauty overwhelms its host, causing her at one point to attempt to make herself ugly (this is only mentioned in passing — in an index obsessed with her, no less). She is the "reluctant, erotic symbol of San Lorenzo," the small, Caribbean island nation she calls home. Mona is the subject of poetry and painting, mosaic and music — she is even mentioned by name in the Books of Bokonon! Much like the narrator, I had no choice but to pursue her.


  1. That's awesome I always wondered what you listen to while you work, books on tape is quite interesting.

    In this instance the combination of the subject and the character it is based off of simultaneously occurring in your senses must have been really powerful.

  2. This is spectacular Paolo. Definitely one of my favorites :D

  3. Great piece and great story! I've had almost the exact same vonnegut experience, drawn in by Slaughterhouse 5 and have never turned back since, it'd be a close tie between Cats cradle and Breakfast of Champions if I had to pick a favorite. I'd love to see your artistic interpretation of the rest of the cast too, anyways nice work as always.

  4. Nice blog! I just discover it...
    and enjoying it.


  5. Great insights.

    I think your choice with her hair lends the portrait a mythical quality.

  6. Gregory: it was, indeed, a nice treat to have both input and output align. The last time I did that was when I was listening to the Iliad while painting covers for it.

    Leia: Thanks!

    Gitter: Thanks! I'd like to listen to Breakfast of Champions again. I seem to remember laughing out loud throughout. I thought about painting some of the other characters from Cat's Cradle, but since I don't get to draw the ladies nearly enough, I had to stick with Mona. While researching the book on-line, I found a rumor that it's going to be made into a movie. It has a lot of visual potential, so I hope they do it justice.

    Tirso: Thanks for stopping by.

    Michael: I'm glad you got that from the piece. I almost went more abstract because she seems to mean something different to everyone. Of course, in the end, I just wanted the yellow and blue for that "Caribbean" color scheme.


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