December 2017


Opossum, 1984, graphite on paper, 7 x 18 in. (sheet: 11 5/8 x 20 1/4 in.)


When I drew Opossum in 1984 I knew it was an oddity because my other work at the time was much different. I was primarily doing abstract paintings and this piece was a simple and realistic pencil portrait of an opossum.

The opportunity to draw the creature came about while living in a house in Pasadena, California. The house had a fenced in side yard that was overgrown with small trees, bushes, and weeds. That type of environment turned out to be the perfect place for an opossum family to reside. I enjoyed their company. The door to the side yard had a glass pane allowing periodic glimpses of the family as they roamed the yard. And on hot summer nights with the windows open they could be heard rustling about.

One day, as I was heading out to my garage studio at the back of the house, I saw an opossum lying near the driveway. I cautiously approached, thinking it may be only "playing possum". As I got closer however I realized it was dead. Saddened by the death and the opossum family's loss it occurred to me that I could memorialize the poor creature by drawing it.

I did the drawing outside with the opossum lying on a piece of cardboard. It took me a couple of days to complete. At night, and when not actively working on it, I covered the opossum with a towel so as to keep it safe. After finishing the drawing I buried the opossum in the side yard where it had spent much of its life.

When I look at the drawing now I can imagine the opossum still alive, patiently waiting for me to complete its portrait so it could scamper away.

- Brian Mains, 2017