Art, Artists and Capybaras

Owner’s Blog:

I had an unpleasant email exchange this week regarding an old post on this blog. You can follow the link, but the relevant portion of the blog post is copied below. I am making the exchange public because it came as a complaint from the artist about my assessment of his work. I don’t know why he didn’t put a comment on the blog post rather than sending an email but it seems like he has a right to have his opinions heard and so I am giving him space here to do so. This will give all you readers the chance to form your own opinions based on his work and his comments.

Capybara in mural at Georgetown Library

Text from the original blog post:

And I learned that Georgetown, Texas has a totally awesome library. It has wonderful open stacks, great art in the hallways and sculpture outside, an actual café in the library with great food. But the best part is the children’s section. It has a South American jungle theme with murals painted on all the walls.

Please notice the capybara peeking out of the grass near the bottom left corner. How great is that? Of course, whoever painted it had no idea how large capybaras are because that one would be a midget. Or maybe the jaguar is a giant. Or maybe nothing is drawn to scale. At any rate, I would love to do a book reading / capybara encounter and have Caplin in front of that mural. I donated a copy of the book to the library and gave them one of Caplin’s cards. Hopefully they’ll contact me about it.

Email exchange:

Original contact email from artist:

I’m the artist for the wall mural in Georgetown Library. Yes, I do know how large Capybara’s get. I’m not sure you do however. That giant thing that you have is not the norm, not by a longshot. Notice the mural is set in the wild, and in the wild few Caps ever reach 1/3rd that size as they are the main food source for so many predators. Also, the JAGUAR is in the background, whereas the Cap is in the foreground and is a decent size as compared to the Manatee, and is at the size you’re likely to find in the wild.

Please critique me only when you know what you are talking about, and please do not use my artwork image without permission.

My response:

Tony,

Wow, you are really sensitive. And yet still wrong.

The average size for a capybara is 100-140 lbs. Caplin weighs in at around 100 lbs so he’s actually a bit small. Furthermore, I also have seen capybaras in the wild. Here’s a link to my post showing some photos: http://gianthamster.com/2009/09/wild-capys-in-venezuela/.

I don’t know where it is that you saw the tiny capybaras. Maybe they were babies. Maybe you saw the elusive lesser capybara from Panama and Colombia which is supposed to top out at 75 lbs, although I have never even seen a photo of one.

On the whole, my critique of your artwork was very positive so I think your indignation is inappropriate and exaggerated.

Thanks for reading my blog!

Melanie & Caplin Rous

Artist’s response:

Again, if allowed to get that large.  I have seen them in the wild too. And it’s well-known that they don’t get that large, usually no more than beaver-size. It’s from what I’ve seen in the wild and what I’ve read from experts, not some woman with a self-published vanity book and a pet, is that in the wild they seldom reach half their full life-span.

It’s something I’ve noted of interest about the psychology of the amateur animal ‘expert’, particularly with exotics. They know a little about a particular animal and develop this sense of self-importance, so they are quick to criticize any fact they think is invalid whether asked to do so or not. It makes them feel better about themselves.

But okay, so we have a difference of opinion, but my point was, you have no right to post someone elses image, particularly if you are going to criticize.

I expect you to take that image off your site and this is an official request by me to do so.

Tony Sansevero
Magical Ideas Illustration
www.tonysansevero.com
‘A mind stretched with a new idea,
never goes back to its original dimensions’

My response:

Tony,

Your mural is displayed in a public place and I have every right to photograph it. If you feel a need to contact me again, please do so through a lawyer.

Melanie Typaldos

So there you have it, judge for yourselves.

I admit I probably should have been more polite in my initial response. I hope I have learned a valuable lesson.

One last thing. I hate to post this because the behavior of the humans makes me kind of sick. Poor little capybara! Nevertheless, it shows the relative sizes of capybaras and jaguars in the wild. You probably don’t want to watch it all the way to the end.

YouTube Preview Image

24 comments to Art, Artists and Capybaras

  • So Tony is a touchy douche nozzle that cant google.

    Adult capybaras may grow to 130 centimetres (4.3 ft) in length, and weigh up to 65 kg (140 lb).[11][12][13] The top recorded weight is 105.4 kg (232 lbs).[14] – So says Wiki.
    (Approved: 2010/09/14)

  • Katie Starr

    I saw capybaras in the wild in the Amazon jumgle of Peru 2 years ago, and they were as large as Caplin. These were in the wild and there was a whole herd (pack?) of them. I think the artist is WAY over sensitive, not to mention rude. Apparently your very gentle observation was more than this person can handle. P.S. in the painting it looks more like a guinea pig size than a capybara.
    (Approved: 2010/09/14)

  • Christie

    Wow. What an arrogant fool.

    Aside from the fact that the capybara in the mural *is* too small, this artist also seems to have forgotten about what perspective actually means. He states that the jaguar is larger because it is in the background, and the capybara is smaller because it is in the foreground. He has that backwards. Subjects in the background would be smaller to the viewer because they are farther away. Likewise, subjects in the foreground would appear larger because they are closer to the viewer.

    Maybe he needs to take a refresher course about proper art technique before he has a hissy about someone commenting on his work.
    (Approved: 2010/09/14)

  • Violet

    Good grief. Not only is Christie spot on about the basic concept of perspective on a 2D surface, but the mural artist comes off as arrogant and defensive. A person can create something for others to view, but others have every right to interpret it and say whatever they want about it. Funny how that works! If someone can’t handle that, well, I hesitate to call them a professional.

    I’m sorry one person had to cop a ‘tude about something so insignificant – I love this blog and Caplin always brings a smile to my face whenever I see your posts! :D
    (Approved: 2010/09/14)

  • Petraneferu

    Oh, Caplin, I would throw myself in front of a jaguar for you! (also my beloved gps).
    (Approved: 2010/09/14)
    I hope it does not come to that! Jaguars are dangerous.

  • Sarah

    Goodness, someone is touchy… For an artist he can’t even get basics right… Things in the foreground should be larger than the background for one thing… Someone needs to go back to art school or just not put their work in a public forum. Than again, if he can’t handle this criticism, he wouldn’t survive a class critique.
    (Approved: 2010/09/14)

  • Tracey Anne

    Wow, that’s hard to believe, I’m sorry you had to encounter such unpleasantness!!
    I understand that artists can be sensitive of their work, but one would think that he would be glad to get extra exposure for his art that he wouldn’t have otherwise received.

    I can certainly accept that artists have “artistic license”, and it’s a valid point that a LOT of Capybaras in the wild wouldn’t grow to full size. (Certainly, standing in full view of a Jaguar wouldn’t be good self preservation, LOL!) But surely a REASONABLE person would have just explained that the Capybara pictured was an infant and left it at that!

    “They know a little about a particular (subject) and develop this sense of self-importance, so they are quick to criticize any fact they think is invalid whether asked to do so or not.”
    Wow, that comment perfectly sums up the artist himself!! He has a MUCH too inflated sense of self importance!

    Any artist whose work is displayed in a public place like that needs to learn to handle criticism. Heck, he should take it as a compliment that his work was noticed. And you do have every right to photograph it. You don’t need permission to photograph artistic works that are permanently displayed in a public place. You can also publish and commercialize the photograph without infringing copyright. As long as the library were okay with you taking the photo, then you have the right to share it with us.

    Thanks very much for the awesome blog! I love reading all about Caplin’s adventures. :)
    (Approved: 2010/09/14)

  • Lola

    I was going to make the same point as Christie…

    The artist can choose to ignore the rules of perspective if he wants, but then he shouldn’t turn around and use them as justification for why the jaguar is so much larger than the capybara. As it stands, his explanation makes no sense. If he had just said “I like jaguars, so I wanted them to be the central figure in my design” then we wouldn’t all be sitting here questioning his understanding of 2D art.

    Similarly, if he had made a nice comment thanking Melanie for giving his art exposure on Caplin’s blog, then maybe he could have used this as an opportunity to get
    some more paintings featuring capybaras commissioned.
    (Approved: 2010/09/14)

  • lynn

    Ricardo…touchy douche nozzle, says it quite succinctly!
    hahahah This guy is getting too much FREE puclicity as is, let’s just ignore his ignorance!
    (Approved: 2010/09/14)

  • Keren Bosse

    OK, this exchange is lopsided … a tactful, albeit, correct Melanie vs. a very (in)sensitive artist. The original artwork discussed is like a children’s fantasy to begin with, so to get all serious about it (as the artist did) is out of line. Melanie POLITELY pointed out a simple but very important inaccuracy, and she did so in a non-confrontational manner (delightful, in fact). Melanie is not a self-absorbed exotic pet owner who feels she “knows it all.” She does, however, know quite a bit more about capybaras than most. Regardless, the artist attacks, causing Melanie to wonder if she was too harsh in her initial assessment. Melanie, you weren’t. Rather than use this post to berate the artist’s uncalled-for knee-jerk reaction to comments on his work, I will simply defend Melanie’s pure class responses. Nonetheless, the artist would do well to listen to people in the future, such that he can grow in his field as Melanie has in hers.
    (Approved: 2010/09/14)

  • Jessi

    How rude! Your comments about the painting were not bad. Besides, part of being an artist of any sort is knowing how to accept criticizm! He needs to get over himself and stop being so sensitive.
    (Approved: 2010/09/16)

  • Ratfancy

    Wow – that was a really strange exchange. Shooting from the hip, that artist. Some sort of chip on the shoulder, I’m guessing. Seems to me there are a lot of wild capybaras weighing 100-140 lbs. I just saw my first capy up close at the Brevard Zoo, where the female is 105 lbs. Caplin is a “real” capybara, whether domestic or wild!
    (Approved: 2010/09/14)

  • Mongrel

    You handled that much more politely than I would have. I’m glad you didn’t cave and pull the picture.

    @Tony Sansevero- while you’re brushing up on your techniques and basic English grammar (please review the apostrophe section in particular) maybe you should learn how to handle a critique like a real artist. I’m a bit disappointed the library couldn’t find somebody with a bit more talent… that painting is pretty mediocre, all inaccuracies aside. Much too flat and washed out for my tastes, and the capybara appears to be standing underwater (which doesn’t seem to be the artist’s intention).

  • grumblebunny

    What really sticks in my craw is this: “you have no right to post someone elses image, particularly if you are going to criticize.”

    Not only is this artist remiss in his zoology, he hasn’t the slightest grasp of legal reality. I think Melanie and Caplin showed remarkable restraint in their replies to his emails. I’d have simply filed him under “dolt” and danced, laughing, into the sunset.

  • Alex

    The most strange exchange about the art I’ve ever seen :)) He was not critisized in the first place. It is obvious that the picture is not strictly realistic, more like a fantazy, in the second. Melanie, you were polite and friendly more than the guy deserved.

  • Mansie

    This artist is arrogant. Let’s just keep the positive vibe going in all you do. Cheer and smiles all around.

  • Jenni Crisp

    I wonder if the ‘artist’ is thinking of a Mara not a Capybara. That would explain why he thought that Caplin was over weight (see Caplin’s recent reTweet of new Mara’s at Longleat, UK). Still doesn’t excuse being rude though does it.

  • Sara

    Wow, not only is he overly sensitive about his poorly done, and disproportionate (things in the background should be smaller, you fool, not larger, like that monstrous cat.)mural, but to think that an artist hired to paint public buildings could be so ignorant about his own rights (and lack thereof) is just sad.

    His instance that capys are so tiny makes me wonder if he’s confusing them with nutrias, which look very similar to a capy, and are indeed about the size of a beaver.

    Also, there is no apostrophe in a plural, such as “capybaras”. If you’re reading this, Tony, spend some more time IN the library, not on the outside of it. Seems you have a lot of learning to do.

  • Milana

    Wow, what a jag. It appears he’s a ~SpEcIaL sNoWfLaKe~ who needs his ass patted every step of the way. If you can’t take critique, don’t claim to be an artist.

  • jill

    I recently wrote Mr. Sansevero a little message, we will have to wait and see what his response will be :)

    Mr. Sansevero,

    I recently read your tacky response to Melanie Typaldos regarding her blog about your mural in Georgetown libary. I would like to point out that she showed no contempt in her observations, she was just stating the fact that the capybara in your mural was portrayed a bit smaller than they actually are. She was not making a mockery of your artwork Mr. Sanservo, just an observation. I actually think it is a very nice mural, as I am sure she did. However you are incorrect in your statement that capybaras do not reach that size in the wild. I am a zoology major and I know a thing or two about the animal kingdom. Capybaras do on average range anywhere from 100-140 pounds in the WILD. I believe Ms. Typaldos has done a very innovative and creative thing by writing a blog as seen through the eyes of Caplin. It is obvious that she truly loves him as a pet, not for using him as a ploy for media attention! As for her posting a picture of your mural, it is a part of a permanent public display and is therefore allowed to be photographed! As an artist (and a human being) you are supposed to embrace and accept others ideas and opinions, whether they be positive or negative. If you think her criticism is harsh I would hate to see how you will handle REAL criticism. My advice would be to grow a bit more of a backbone if you expect to be a successful artist, as criticism comes with the territory. As for your inept knowledge of wildlife, maybe you should stick to your paintings and leave the facts to the experts!

    Sincerely,

    Jill

  • Ann

    Equating lifespan with growth period is just ridiculous. A little Google research shows that a capybara is full grown and ready to mate at around fifteen months of age. All the capybara has to do is survive for around year and a half to be fully grown. Life in the wild can be rough and a lot of animals do not live much past that first year or so, but some must survive to that critical age of fifteen months or we would have no more capybaras.

  • Ann

    I should probably add that if only “a few” survived to mating age, as the artist claims, then the mating population would be very small indeed and capybaras would end up with a limited gene pool with which to breed from and become very inbred, threatening their survival.

  • Erik

    As an art student, currently enrolled in an art school, I find this to be both incredibly shallow and juvenile, as well as a depressing representation of the art community on the whole.
    For the most part, we’re taught to respect and handle critiques of our artwork. It’s part of our daily life, and I fail to understand how so many people become professional and immediately assume that they’re above criticism. Others have said it too, he makes a poor argument for his bizarre use (or lack thereof) of perspective and proportion between the animals. That hummingbird is the same size as that Capybara. The water line to depict the aquatic animals just arbitrarily ends at either side and depicts grasses and flowers which are not submerged. The Jaguar’s head is too big, the trees all lean awkwardly to the left. I could go on, but the point is that no one is perfect.
    If he didn’t want people calling him out on his hierarchical proportions and somewhat random foreground / background use, he ought not to have used it. -Even though it’s ENTIRELY ACCEPTABLE in a children’s mural in a Library.-

    I am ashamed that this man has decided to act the way that he has. It makes us (artists) look snot-nosed and self-important, and it’s pathetic. I have a high opinion of the process of making art, but we are not higher caste beings for what we do.

  • MoonBird

    Right on. Thanks for posting this; stumbling across your blog totally made my day. I adore capybaras, and your blog makes me, and evidently, a lot of folks smile. Keep up the great work.

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