Where Did All These Pandas Come From, Anyway?
Thank you, Cordelia’s Mom, for inviting me again to address your fans in the bloggosphere. I’ve had so much fun at this virtual coffee shop: meeting new people, and spreading my panda-propaganda to some unsuspecting…um I meant an eager new audience.
Pandamorphosis, my wordless picture book, has just been released.
Pandamorphosis is the story of a cat, which longs for love from her panda obsessed owner, and one night when the moon is full, and magic is in the air, she makes a wish, and a transformation takes place.
Several elements contribute to this magical tale of transformation: cats, unrequited love, the moon and magic wishes…oh yes, and we have pandas…lots of pandas. But where did all these pandas come from, you might be asking yourself right about now. To answer this question, I need to take you back almost seven years.
Creative inspiration can come from places you wouldn’t suspect. Seven years ago, it came from an article about panda research centers in China, in Atlantic Magazine. Cute pictures of toddler pandas gathered around a guy with a treat bucket, a picture of a baby panda in a tree, and the idea that somewhere in the world there were herds of little, adorable panda babies.
I am not a religious person, but I do believe there are forces in the universe that can lead and influence us.
Within a several month period after stumbling across this article, a friend brought me some pictures and information from one of the Chinese research centers about the panda kindergarten. Then I heard a story on the radio, by writer Starlee Kine, called Scanning the Pandas, about going to visit the panda kindergarten with friends. I discovered panda videos on youtube.
Obviously, the universe thought that I needed pandas, right?
Without stopping to consider why I wanted to draw panda comics, I just started. Ideas for comics leapt out from everywhere: the radio, news stories. They weren’t necessarily stories about pandas, but my pandas had something to say about all of it. Eventually, I decided to start a blog, which became The Panda Chronicles. Because that web address was already taken, a spontaneous inspiration led me to make up the address YourBrainonPandas.com. This turned out to be prophetic indeed, since my brain has been increasingly full of pandas ever since then.
With a vehicle for my comics, all I needed was readers, and what follows, I can only attribute to the magical panda force field.
It seemed that I was not alone in my adoration (OK, obsession) with these funny black and white bears. Diving with some trepidation into Facebook and Twitter, I found groups of people who loved pandas, visited pandas, and watched them on panda cams. And then panda lovers found me.
I have learned that in this brave, new, virtual world, it is not a one-way street. Many of the people who read and support my work have shared their stories with me, about how finding pandas saved their sanity, brought joy and solace, or even redemption to their lives. One look into a panda’s funny, fuzzy face and we are healed, maybe only for a little while, but sometimes that’s all you need.
I started working on Pandamorphosis at a low point in my life. The economy was crashing, my painting sales were down and I needed a new focus. A picture book felt like the right thing. I wanted to fuse my fine art skills with the humor I had found in The Panda Chronicles, to create a story filled with pandas, magic, and joy. Pandamorphosis is about getting your wishes granted, even if it doesn’t turn out quite how you thought it would.
Which, when I think about it, is exactly how bringing Pandamorphosis to the world, has turned out.
Anne Belov has been drawing and painting since the time she could hold a crayon. After receiving a BFA from The Philadelphia College of Art, she moved west and, since she didn’t learn everything the first time, went to art school again, receiving an MFA in painting from the University of Washington. She now makes her home on Whidbey Island. There are, to her knowledge, no pandas in her backyard. You can find her panda satire cartoons at The Panda Chronicles. Her one regret in life is that there is no MacArthur Foundation Grant awarded in the field of panda satire.
Anne Belov and I love to hear from our readers. You may comment on this post, comment on Anne’s links in the introduction to this post, comment on my Facebook page, or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Images by: Anne Belov