Anniversary Edition – You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

As Porl celebrates his ninth year flitting from imagination to imagination, from pen to paper, from scanner to book, from computer to blog, we’d like to invite you back for a little retrospective.

From humble beginnings etched onto lined paper in a highschool drama changing room to an idea reimagined more than 1000 times over 55 different countries, Porl has touched many people right in the soul. As an existential thought experiment he was quirky and inspiring, now as a character that is never the same twice he represents to us the spark of creativity that’s in everyone, their interpretations making him so much more than he could be if we’d never shared him or encouraged others to ask what or who they think he is. When we repeatedly see him depicted in ways that we just never would have thought of, it forces us to ask, can anything be pinned down and defined? Do we take our own ideas and perceptions for granted and think them not unique or  special? Do we forget how different another’s perception could be, when we think we have it all worked out?

So on this note, I invite you, dear reader, to perceive these. These are the first two drawings of our friend Porl, scribbled by his loving creators all those years ago in Karen’s daybook, not knowing at the time what he was to become. Perhaps you imagine they will be wild and creative images, artfully fashioned into the very essence of an intangible dream that no other being could perceive? Let’s take a look.Porl IHmmm. This would be more one of those dreams in which a strange being who insists that you spell his name P-o-r-l appears licking jam off a manhole cover being carried by bearded hawks and then turns to smile benignly at you just as you wake up craving toast and unsure if you’ll ever look at a horse the same way again.

But this is unquestionably an adorable image. Porl has just sprung into visual existence and seems to be loving every minute of it! And why wouldn’t he? Let’s move on then, to this:

Porl II

Convinced that what this creature is decidedly lacking is a big horsey neck, a second attempt is made to capture him, his lizard’s head now perched at the top of a long neck complete with mane. However, I can’t help but feel that this might have been at the expense of more attention being paid elsewhere.

He appears with an intriguing inscription, could that be “Porl?” or “Porl’s”? And if the latter, does it continue just under where he’s been cut out to say “got four of the funkiest legs I’ve ever seen on an animal and a tongue so big a chameleon wouldn’t touch it with yours”? I guess we’ll never know. But Porl has come a long way since then, a long long way indeed.  Witness:Porl by GrahamAnd just to echo a sentiment that has come up a few times, “If I’d known it was going to turn into something like this, I’d have drawn it better!!”

Hindsight is a beautiful thing.

Porl by Kevin Artists: Karen and Rachel, February 5th, 2001. Graham, Kev.

Porl’s Showbiz Chums

Celebrity responses have varied somewhat. The Queen was ‘interested’, Timmy Mallett said “Good Luck with your funny idea!” Mr. Bean had had ‘many similar requests’, and the Beckhams sent signed photos of themselves. We did, however, acquire some delightful Porls from a small handful of celebrities, including Richard O’Brien, Richard Wilson, and Bruce Forsythe.

Porl Wilson

Porl O'Brien

Porl Forsythe

Artists: Richard Wilson, Richard O’Brien and Bruce Forsythe

Operation Porl

One fine Summer’s day in the popular seaside town of Felixstowe, where rich Victorians still flock to this day, Sailor Karen had honed her grabby-machine-thing skills to the point where she was lucky enough to win a beautiful plush horse. Anyone else would be thrilled to bits with this acquisition and content to live out their days in ownership of such an item, but not our Karen. While staring into its wonky eyes she saw a kinda grotesque yet strangely beautiful vision: why, this horse is one half of something much better! It just has the wrong head!

Naturally we were horrified. We thought perhaps we could deter Karen from her Frankenstein-like plan by attaching some sentiment to the horse, and so we gave it a name. But we realised to our despair that this would not work, and Alvin’s fate was sealed.

At this point I agreed to help Karen fulfil her vision, as if she was going to butcher these animals, it might as well be done well.

What took place next was a noble quest to seek out the other half; the “brains of this operation” if you will. We scoured toy shops, charity shops, random shops and other shops and went through many possibilities including the head of the Incredible Hulk, stuffed animals in a posh shop whose owner told us we “couldn’t cut up his animals”, and a sock. In the last charity shop we visited Karen disappeared, returning a few moments later with a small white carrier bag. She had discovered, she told us, a small green tortoise with a head that could pass for a fluffy lizard. If she had had any doubts, they were quickly dispelled by the tortoise’s bold proclamation emblazoned upon its chest… “Go for it”.

“That’s nice” said the lady behind the counter as Karen paid, little did she know what awaited our furry friend.

And so armed with beady-eyed Alvin and the erroneously-named “Go for it Turtle”, we chose the next day for realization of the dream.

The operation was a success. Later, we took him t’ pub back home in the Swich where he met a fair few admirers, but luckily enough was not asked for ID.

Operation Porl

History of Porl

Let us paint you a picture. The year is 2001. Two young school girls, wishing they had a bigger role in the annual school show, sing their part* over and over again in the dimly lit drama changing rooms. Inspired by the very fact that things exist, they ponder: Imagine a creature with… the head of a lizard and the body of a horse. Is it a horse with a lizard’s head? Or is it a lizard with a horse’s body? No, they decide, it is neither! It is… ‘Paul’, no wait… ‘Porl!’ He is not a horse, he is not a lizard. He simply has a horse’s body and a lizard’s head. That’s all there is to it… for now.

A year later, one unimpressed Laura draws Porl roasting on a spit. A spit! A challenge is set and we endeavour to tell one person a day of Porl’s wonderful existence to rectify his sacrificial burning.

An interested Suzie asks if she can draw him, and she goes on to produce a depiction of Porl so compelling and obscure that we are forced to consider, “Perhaps Porl isn’t who we thought he was? Who can possibly capture his true likeness?” Within a few days we acquire 30 drawings. Why stop now when they are all so different and bizarre? Our task is set: 100 Porls before the year is through. One thing leads to another and six and a half years after Porl’s original conception, we finally achieve our final, glorious, goal:

ONE THOUSAND Porls

…and all because Laura drew him roasting on a spit…

Porl roasting on an open fire

*To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go