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The Rhino

Why do I like to draw the rhinoceros? My figures, animals or humans, have a chubby, cuddly quality. Even my old people look like children. If I were to draw puppies and kittens they would be sickenly sweet. I like animals with some grit, that don’t look cute.

That led me to the Rhino. I had been thinking about rhinos for years since I found this picture in the Daily News.

old newspaper lipping of 4 rhinos walking together

Four rhinos walking down a road, just ambling along--four dudes out for a walk. Isn’t the rhino a solitary creature? Not according to these guys. I don’t know where they were or what they were up to. They look so companionable. They look like the bandidos in The Wild Bunch or George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice strolling down a road in Texas, but nice.

You can see by how yellow it is that I've saved it for a long time. I wanted to do something with rhinos but I knew my draughtsmanship wasn’t up to the task. So I practiced,

I think of the Rhino as a plodding heavy grumpy beast but I saw one trotting around in a large enclosure at the Bronx Zoo, surprisingly light-footed and graceful. Then I read the obituary of Anna Merz, Rhino Guardian and Champion, who built a Rhino Sanctuary in Africa. Rhinos —far from being the stupid, aggressive, ill-tempered sorts many suppose — were, in her words, beautiful and elegant. She blamed their bellicosity on their poor eyesight, leading them to charge first and ask questions later. She found that rhinos have a sense of humor and that they communicate by altering their breathing rhythms. She read them Shakespeare to soothe them.

Then I met the bronze rhino on the Plaza of Musee D’Orsay, and had a moment of perfect happiness.

the bronze rhino of the plaza of Musee d'Orsay

The elements of that moment were;

  1. I was in Paris, with Arthur.

  2. It was a chilly day but the sun was warm on my face.

  3. In a few minutes we would meet friends and go out for a nice lunch.

  4. I’d like to add my children, but they were teen-agers and the best I could say was they were safe at home under someone else’s supervision.

  5. Maybe most important, I had an idea for a new series of drawings percolating in my brain.

I went home and drew that rhino from all directions, in different settings, sometimes walking in Paris with Degas’s little ballerina.

Pen & Ink drawing of a oncoming rhino

You can see more rhinos in my Rhino Gallery.

October 29, 2018

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