Art Post: Clair C's Gentle Satire

04 Aug 2014 |

Very occasionally here at [adjective][species], we take a bit of time to highlight a furry artist. In this case I'd like to talk about Clair C, aka Gokart, who creates subtle and joyful art.

Clair has already contributed some art to [a][s], providing a happy purple zebra to grace a relatively inconsequential article I write about zebra domestication. It is a simple drawing, but one I found almost unfathomably delightful. Her sketch captures an essence of life in its minimalist lines, becoming something larger than the sum of its sparse parts.

Since then I have had the pleasure of exploring her art. There is a lot to explore. She is prolific, and long may that continue. Her art, largely comics and character studies, convey a kind of happy contentment or muted joy.

Purple Zebra
Purple Zebra

In our furry world, there isn't always a clear delineation made between an artist and an illustrator. Many of our high profile artists are very skilled at creating essentially realist pictures of fictional furry characters: their drawings represent the way things might look in the real world. Such pseudo-realist art (Blotch, say) is important to furry, because it portrays a world in which anthropomorphic characters live and breathe.

There is an understandable drive towards greater realism in furry art, and many of our high-profile artists aspire to psuedo-realism. Such art is valuable and requires great skill. But realism is not required for a work of art to have value, and indeed realism can come at the expense of nuance and complexity.

Clair's art is drawn with a simple style, yet with great skill and insight. She has an eye for small details that see her worlds and her characters exist beyond the page. I see similarities between her work and that of (Norwegian cartoonist) Jason—they both create sparse, uncluttered worlds, allowing emotion to come to the fore.

Such minimalism allows Clair to express complex ideas. Her work tends to be whimsical, and is often satirical, and so humour is rarely far from the surface. But she doesn't deal in punchlines. She trusts the reader to read between the lines, to find small joys and small sadnesses hidden just below the surface.

There are dozens of examples I could have chosen from Clair's recent output I could have chosen to accompany this piece. For my first, I've chosen a personal favourite.

Sick Unicorn Comic

Here, Clair is gently satirizing an old internet meme, the (delightful) "unicorns fart glitter" trope. She's chosen her gross bodily function—vomiting—and made it a beautiful rainbow.

Her personal twist is to take the focus away from the fantasy of the glittery rainbow, putting it on the very real and unglamorous experience of vomiting. She brings her unicorn into the real world by making him anthro, putting him in a dingy apartment with drawn curtains and sparse furnishings, and giving him the flu. Our unicorn is poor, lonely, and sick.

The juxtaposition of the colourful rainbow vomit and the poorly unicorn evokes, in me at least, a combination of pity and laughter. We all experience a bit of magic when we do or see something exciting and new: maybe visiting a new town, or starting a new job. But the magic disappears over time and soon enough the magical new thing in our lives becomes part of our routine, the wallpaper of our life. And so it is for our unicorn: his rainbow vomit might be magical to us, but to him it's just nausea.

Clair's sick unicorn vignette is a perfectly pitched balance of the touching and the ludicrous. She explores the unicorn trope from many other angles in her art—it's worth exploring her archive just for those.

For my second example of Clair's work, I've chosen a page from her ongoing Harvest Moon satire.

Page from Harvest Spring

In her comic, Claire takes us through the first few hours of Harvest Moon gameplay. Her story, while closely following the gameplay of Harvest Moon, is divorced from the unreality of the videogame universe. Her protagonist acts as an stand-in for the reader, bemused by the strange and arbitrary rules of the game, but happy enough to play along with them.

Reading her comic (titled Harvest) is closer to living, rather than playing, Harvest Moon. Clair gently shines a light on the illogic of the Harvest Moon universe, as her protagonist swaps rocks for chickens, encounters locals with lovehearts hovering above their heads, and spends all day watering a handful of seedlings. Our protagonist takes this strangeness as it comes, just like you do when you play the game, but with a hint of bemusement towards the whole experience.

Harvest succeeds where Scott Ramsoomair's Pokemon satire (Super Effective) fails. Ramsoomair also takes the reader through the first few hours of a game that is set in an illogical universe. But instead of allowing the absurdity to shine through, he is forever reaching for a punchline. Super Effective is laboured where Harvest is delightful.

Harvest may be a satire, exploring the silliness of Harvest Moon, but it also acknowledges the fun of playing the game. Clair is clearly a fan, and her love for the game shines through. She has taken Harvest Moon—a work of art in its own right—and used it to create a valuable but very different work of art, just as great satire can do.

I asked Clair about her gaming, and she was kind enough to share a picture of her collection.

Clair's Consoles
"As far as favourites go I will have to say N64, Gamecube and Dreamcast."

Clair lists her influences as Scott Campbell (from Double Fine Productions), Steve Purcell (creator of Sam and Max), and Lewis Trondheim (who created the Dungeon series with Joan Sfar). She also recommends Jen (on Tumblr), Rory (on Tumblr), and Sloane (on Tumblr), who are the creators of Wolfen Jump.

Finally, I asked Clair to share one of her character studies.

A Fox!
"I liked how it turned out, plus I enjoy drawing foxes."

Clair is, unbelievably, open for commissions. She is on Weasyl and FA. She also offers bonuses for subscribers on Patreon.

The Spring season of Harvest is available online and as a physical comic.