Painting big-eyed, vaguely cartoony maidens is creepily addictive. They’re like hamsters or My Little Thingies. I enjoy it desperately, even as I feel like I’m turning into Margaret-goddamn-Keane.

Or potato chips, for people who don’t get addicted to certain subject matters.

The longer I paint, the more I think that art has a strong involuntary component. I don’t mean unconscious, per se, which goes without saying, but…involuntary. We don’t get to choose what we’re good at. I don’t mean just the fact that I hate doing building interiors and I love squashy organic shapes–that’s pretty straightforward, somewhere between general tendencies and pure laziness on my part.

The cute is largely involuntary.

It’s a reservoir of small, cheerfully fuzzy animals, and I swear to god, I didn’t put it there.

I would never, in ten million years, have chosen to be a cute pusher. Really, I wouldn’t have. I am not a cute and fluffy person. My walls are covered in abstracts and surrealism, and the occasional strongly designed piece by Goodwin or Psuedo. My geekosphere atop my monitor contains a fairly realistic plastic wombat, two realistic plastic newts and a poison arrow frog, a Ganesh fingerpuppet and a coupla woodpecker feathers. Look at Gearworld, fer cryin’ out loud. That’s what, given the option, I would want to be really good at.

But the cute…the cute is just there. The cute has dug in. Battalions of pith-helmeted hamsters stomp through the trenches of my soul, under walls of sandbags and barbed wire, shouting orders to each other in helium voices and smoking tiny paw-rolled cigarettes. (Yes, I know, I should paint it. It’ll have to get in line.)

Whether it’s somehow genetic or a result of upbringing and various internal factors, I do not know. Maybe it was playing with all the little plastic animals that came with the Strawberry Shortcake dolls.

I don’t know. Maybe there’s just a hole in every artist’s heart, and it’s jammed full of your childhood, and all we can do is paint that.

In some of us, it’s wedged full of G.I. Joes and He-Man action figures and we paint big exploding battle scenes for the front of Dragon Magazine.

In some of us, it’s packed full of neat animals and wandering through a Boy’s Life kind of storybook spring morning, and we spend our lives painting wildlife art.

In a growing number of us, it’s jammed with Saturday morning anime and fan art from the internet. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when some of those artists mature and what they paint out of that.

In the more unfortunate among us, there’s just a hole, and we spend our lives painting the hole.

In me, it’s stuffed full of plastic Strawberry Shortcake critters and stuffed animals and real animals and the time the grasshopper jumped in my eye, and concrete walled bunkers. And maybe the problem is that as much as I may try to dig around and get to the grasshoppers and the real animals and the concrete, there’s this great tangled knot of cute packed in there like a hairball in a clogged drain.

So it’s natural that the cute is natural. I am just bemused by it occasionally.

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