I think of seals as the labradors of the seas, their face like butter would not melt in the mouth. Of course, unlike labradors, seals have no soft floppy ears; seal ears are seen merely as holes on the side of the head.
I wanted to portray the harbour seal, or spættet sæl. It is a northern hemisphere seal that lives in the waters of the arctic and in the northern pacific and atlantic oceans. They are quite common in Danish waters, though the only ones I have ever seen in the wild were well decomposed on the Danish beaches on Æbeltoft and Møn. They don’t much like humans, so in the densly populated country of mostly islands their style is somewhat cramped.
The harbour seal is solitary, though the males have been observed gathering and calling collectively to attract the females for breeding. The aquatic mammal hauls to shore to give birth to 16 kilos of well-developed pup, which are so cute that well-meaning campaigners nearly destroyed the traditional practice of seal hunting by the Inuits.
Norse and Celtic mythology suggest that seals are shapeshifters, called selkies. The Faroe Legend of Kópakonan suggests that once a year on the thirteenth day seals come ashore to shed their skin and emerge as humans. A farmer went to the beach to experience this transformation. When naked humans emerged from the seal skin, he stole the skin of a woman-seal. When the seals returned to their skin and slid back into the ocean, one seal-woman was unable to be reunited with her skin and had to stay on land. The farmer took her home and locked away the skin. For many years she lived as his wife, until one day he forgot his key and she got her seal skin back and finally returned to the sea.
I cannot help wondering if HC Andersen had this folk-tale in mind when he wrote The Little Mermaid, with her fish tail and ability to shift shape to a fully blown human. Except of course she could live as human by choice, not because some incel male was unable to woo a wife in a more romantic and less coersive way.
This time, I’ve used a new type of vinyl for the cut, and I have printed on a form of see-through rice paper. If my seal is a selkie, I hope humans have the grace to leave the skin so it can return to the sea.