It's been seventeen rambunctious years since I began the Mariner Series - seventeen years filled with
incredibly good fortune, most of which never happened: In fact, I may be one of the most
alternately privileged and humble, notorious and unacknowledged, admired and berated
artists you've ever met.
Still, the Mariner Series has come a long way since I made those quirky little mermalien
sketches, the sole purpose of which was to lift an emerging artist out of his down-and-out
funk long enough to maybe put some food on the table for a change. To my never-ending
shock and wonderment, the Mariner Series has become one of the most widely collected,
longest lasting and successful bodies of artwork in history*. Now, with the recent
unveiling of PLANET ZOOTOPIA, I've come to realize just how horrific a study in the
virtues of chasing a dream can be...
Just a few short years ago I was nothing if not ever-expectant regarding success, much like
that doggedly determined dodo in The Dreamsmyth. I could see myself rubbing my
mental hands together in anticipation of finally realizing the life I had imagined, firmly
believing I had a thin thread of hope to cling to as I set sail in my little dreamboat.
It’s been my experience, as I pilot my leaky vessel of hope, that chasing any dream of
artistic and entrepreneurial freedom is more akin to sitting down with the irony gods in a
game of thimblerig than plotting a course up some fixed corporate ladder. It's a hard
lesson, learned only with a significant amount of humility: you chase after your dream,
hunt it down, capture it alive if you can, keep it shackled to the bedpost and feed it
regularly till one fateful morning you wake up minus a bedpost and you're right back to
Life loves irony.
By design, Planet Zootopia represents the very essence of the yin and yang of this pursuit:
live every day as if it were your last and live forever (as the dodo knows all too well);
love without condition but be a slave to your passions; prudence is a lousy handmaiden,
so throw yourself into the fray with wild abandon and let the chips fall where they may -
in the end you will have few regrets because it is your own life that you've filled up with
that dream, and the life you've made belongs solely to you.
I'm often asked questions like, 'Hey Pat, why fish?' or, 'You're kidding...dodos? Seriously?'
not to mention, 'No offense, but that looks like Joe Camel,' and my personal favorite,
'I get it! Jar-Jar Binks, right?'
To finally set the record straight, here's my official response: All the inhabitants of Planet
Zootopia - from aardvarks to zebras and every dodo, camel and mermalien in between -
are anthropomorphic symbols: representations of the archetype we think of as the ego or
'self.' And what better vehicles than the tenacious little puffin, the gruff-and-tumble
crustapien or the rakishly flamboyant andromedarian to illustrate with narrative and to
show you with imagery a stylized reality in which the ordinary features of our world are
brought into focus with wild exaggeration, the relationship of the imitation to the object
it imitates being something like the relationship of synchronized swimming to dog-paddling.
On a more personal note, I am neither an atheist nor an agnostic; neither Christian nor Muslim
or Jew; neither Republican nor Democrat or Libertarian; neither liberal nor Conservative
or moderate. I'm just a fella with an open mind - so open that sometimes my brains fall
out. While I identify with none of the above group labels per se, some of the exceptional
qualities intrinsic to and unique in each one have been instrumental in making me who I
am, i.e., I am an atheist and a Christian (yet neither), etc.
Life loves irony.
I neither subscribe to theories of predestination, nor do I condone notions of a
preordained future that foretells events; I reserve a special brand of contempt for
anything forecast by reverse prophesy. I dismiss out of hand the presumption that each
of us has some special calling or sacred assignment in life, other than that of our own
choosing, and I reject all superstitious beliefs, especially those rooted in the cults that
arise out of a fear of death. But I do embrace the possibility that each of us has the power
to create the person we wish to be, that the only limitation imposed is the degree to
which we exercise our own imagination and then act upon it: Vision without action is a
daydream; action without vision is a nightmare.
Confronted with the unhappy apprehension we feel when coming to terms with our own
mortality, some of us are tempted by a selfish compulsion to extend our lives beyond the
last act, to leave a little token of ourselves behind - something that tacitly proclaims,
'I was here!'
Poppycock and codswallop.
To my last breath...
I will strive to illuminate the world by enlightening the fertile minds of all who seek truth,
both young and old, by yanking the damned blinders off any credulous fool that swoons
at the mere mention of a belief in the truth of Supernaturalism, and I'll invite them all to
join me as together we stand in awe of a life of our own making and the natural world in
which it is inextricably embedded. Ars Longa, Vita Brevis - Art is long, life is short, or
perhaps, Ars Gratia, Vita Brevis - Art for the reason that life is so short: time to get busy!
But I digress.
Set foot on Planet Zootopia and you're bound to take an anthropomorphic jaunt into
the subconscious - a subtle yet thrilling, at times whimsical way of rejiggering one’s
sensibilities in order to see the world - and ourselves within it - in ways seldom imagined,
that we may better understand why we are the way we are.
The reason I draw, paint and sculpt, just as I write, compose and lecture, is to share with
you some of the wonder I’ve found, to uncover some of the mystery shrouded by the veil
of primitive sentiments and to unmask the truth about who we are and where we’re
As for the dodo and his archrival, the camel, I consider them to be the quintessence of
sardonic bellwetherers, but in unison, they're a whole flock and herd of happily well-
adapted (though still short of wing and long of hump), reason-driven beings who
occasionally fall prey to their own fatuous flights of fancy. Perhaps this is what endears
them to us, for we see reflected in them a little of ourselves; pragmatic by day, footloose
and fancy-free by night.
The ideas embodied in these urbane folktales-married-to-art may not change your life,
but perhaps you'll pause long enough to contemplate a good point or two and discover
something you hadn't imagined till you suddenly found yourself facing down the beaky
visage of an ordinary dodo - or perhaps, the matchless wit of the dromedary camel.
Irony notwithstanding, I should add that I believe Planet Zootopia will eventually find a
home in the hearts and minds of all who seek it, and possibly those unwary enough to be
taken in by surprise.
Finally, I must confess to you that at the outset of the Mariner Series I had a grand vision
for the mermaliens: a concept for a CGI, feature-length, live action/animated film. Just a
couple of years after I sold the first of what now amounts to hundreds of paintings sold, I
began a spec script with the working title of Aquaria Rising, complete with storyboards
and character sketches.
This project has become yet another ball in that never-ending game of thimblerig, but it
is a story that deserves to be told, and as such, I have reconfigured it in the form of an
illustrated novel, 'Mask of the Ancient Mariner.' It is by far the best thing I've ever done,
my magnum opus, and I intend to see it through - to be a fool for it come what may, in
true andromedarian style.
I trust these vignettes will help unwrapilate our minds to wild possibilities and teach us to
appreciate the wondrous-strange experiences we share with one another: ultimately, to
take off the purpose-colored spectacles and cognisize our true place in the 'verse - a place
into which we've only recently awakened. This humble little flock of dodos and their
diversigent coterie stand as a testament to our embrace of many of life's trials and
tribulations while striving to live the life we imagine for ourselves.
For all of you to whom these presents may come, to my esteemed collectors, closest and
dearest friends one and all, you are the reason I carry on, consumed with this elusive
pursuit of a dream; without the continuing endorsement of my work through your
generous benefaction, I might as well pack it in. So, thanks!
With warm regards, Patrick Pierson
*the history of Planet Zootopia, of course