Tuesday, 10 January 2012

A Whale of an Unanswered Question

So, here we are, 2012, and the first question that pops to mind is: Why are we still unable to draw whales?
Now, before you think that this question is coming out of left field, I purchased a whale watching tour on discount via Zozi.com, an adventure deals site for people like me who don't spend all of Fall and Winter watching football or chasing dust bunnies back under the rug. So, my place is a mess and I don't know who's going to win the Superbowl, but I am going to Newport Beach next weekend to scan the waters to catch a glimpse of a fin or a spout or some giant monster out there in the deep. However, as I was thinking about whales, it occurred to me, our iconic image of a whale is that of a creature with a big, somewhat spherical body and a smaller tail behind. That iconic image looks nothing like a real whale.
Exhibit A: One of our most beloved 21st century icons, the Twitter "Fail Whale"

This poor fellow, albeit cute, is not a whale. Or, more accurately, if he were dropped into the midst of a pod (look it up) of whales, they probably would reject him as some kind of a mutant. Yet, if we posted up his picture on the wall of any preschool and asked the kids, "What is this?" They'd all shout, "It's a whale!"
Now, put up an image of your average humpback:

and you'd be met with probably a small sea of confused faces.

Why do we draw whales so oddly? No other animals appear so distorted in their iconic images: a dog looks like a dog, a fish looks like a fish, a cat looks like a cat. Sure, they're cartoonish and not 100 percent accurate, but the severity of the whale warp is just way too profound for comfort.

Maybe said whale shape comes from times when people couldn't go underwater to observe these creatures. They look as though they have big hump shapes while swimming, so, in fact, that whale shape may have been a hodgepodge of the shapes that they could see. Either way, now that we know what whales REALLY look like, can we start drawing them the right way?

Shamu says, "Yes!"

No comments: