Sebastian The Loggerhead

Over the past few weeks I developed the character of my sprirt animal. My mom likes to call me ‘turtle’ because I tend to do things relatively slowly, and I’ve slowly come to terms with the fact that my spirit animal would most likely be a turtle. I selected the loggerhead to be my protector animal because I once swam with one in the waters off Akumal, Quintana Roo and felt like it would be a good match. I called him Sebastian, but am not sure if that really suits him. He turned out to be a pirate and trapped-in-nets turtle saving renegade.

Originally, I set out to make Sebastian out of paper mache, and ended up with a pretty strange looking mask (which I have yet to finish). The idea was to create a representation hybrid representation of myself and Sebastian. His head poking out of the bottom of the mask wasn’t entirely successful, but I wanted to incorporate more than his shell into my mask. I do believe if I were to finish the painting of his shell, and detailing of his head more of his personality would come through and then the neck/head combo wouldn’t be so offputting.

Realizing paper mache was going to be too labor intensive to complete defining Sebastian’ character, I resorted to sketching. However, upon sketching, I immediately realized it was almost impossible for me to give Sebastian a personality without making him look/act like a cartoon character. Unfortunately, even if Finding Nemo wasn’t a direct source of inspiration, those surfing turtles made their way into my attempts at sketching out Sebastian. I must say, I think personifying animals is a bit troubling. Is there a good way to go about it? To be honest, knowing what a loggerhead turtle eats and where it lives gives very little insight into what it thinks and what type of personality it would have. I felt anything I projected on Sebastian was rather beneath a totem/protector or any real animal, for that matter. How can we, as humans, give animals a voice without making them say what we want we want them to say?

Interestingly for third part of this assignment, I worked with my classmates Aly and Leisje to figure out an ecosystem for Sebastian and their animals an Amazonian Parrot named Riley, and a Pygmy Hedgehog named Imke. Aly actually has a parrot named Riley, and he is able to speak and express his wants/desires to her. So, I guess it is possible to put words in an animal’s mouth without them being totally fictitious. Together, we made an imaged ecosystem to meet the needs of our drastically different animals. We each sketched and colored a floor within the apartment building and then put everything together to create the finished result. It was fun drawing and coloring this imagined building in New York City (sort of like HBO Voyeur for animals) where only animals live, but, at the same time, it also seemed a bit silly to do so. We had to get so far from the idea of a real animal to create something which worked for our own chosen familiars. However, I think the result (despite a few consistency issues), could make for a vivid and engaging children’s pop-up book. We did try to incorporate as much factual habitat information about our animals while still making the apartment work so that the image could serve as a rough guide about the needs of our specific animals.

If I were to continue this project, I would definitely try to inject a bit more reality into the representations of our animals and their ecosystems. I would also probably move to less digital format like the pop-up book.

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