Dave Eggers turns his hand to illustration for new book

Dave Eggers turns his hand to illustration for new book
Ungrateful mammals — Before becoming one of the most notable authors of his generation, Dave Eggers was a professional painter and artist. In his latest book, Ungrateful Mammals, he returns to his roots – drawing wry, eccentric portraits of animals and their inner thoughts. Read an extract here.

“So what are these artworks? I’ll explain as much as I know.

I was trained in the classical way of drawing – to be able to capture a likeness or shape in a realistic way. I wanted to draw and paint like Manet and Caillebotte, so for years I rendered people and things in a representational way, usually in some slightly surreal or (I hoped) thought-provoking setting or situation. Then I stopped painting in earnest for the better part of fifteen years.

Recently, I’ve come back to drawing and painting, with animals as the subject. I honestly can’t remember exactly when it started, but I began drawing bison from photos I’d taken in Alaska and Idaho, and once I’d finished a given drawing, it seemed incomplete without text—and the text that seemed most appropriate usually involved the bison in dialogue with its creator.

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These bison-and-text paintings evolved to include an array of mammals, and an array of dialogues. Sometimes the animals question their existence or purpose. Sometimes a passage from the Old Testament surrounds them and in some way gives them a sense of mission. But usually there exists tension between the animal and an unseen God, and in all cases I try to bring out the soul of the animal.

I can’t disguise the fact that I enjoy making these pictures. More so than when I was a student, the process is loose and uncomplicated. You may guess that some works seemed to have been created in a fever, and you would be right. Recently, a large group of animals was the product of one long painting-bender, one of the most joyful few hours of artmaking I’ve ever experienced.

I hope you enjoy looking at these pictures. They were made with great affection for their subjects and for their potential viewers. It means the world to me that you’re looking at them.”

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Dave Eggers’ Ungrateful Mammals is released today on Abrams.

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