Travis Louie’s Imaginary World of Victorian Monsters

Artist: Travis Louie

Nationality: American

Medium: acrylic and graphite

Travis Louie’s paintings come from the tiny little drawings and many writings in his journals. He’s created his own imaginary world that is grounded in Victorian and Edwardian times. It is inhabited by human oddities, mythical beings, and otherworldly characters who appear to have had their formal portraits taken to mark their existence and place in society. The underlying thread that connects all these characters is the unusual circumstances that shape who they were and how they lived. Some of their origins are a complete mystery while others are hinted at. A man is cursed by a goat, a strange furry being is discovered sleeping in a hedge, an engine driver can’t seem to stop vibrating in his sleep, a man overcomes his phobia of spiders, etc, . . .Using inventive techniques of painting with acrylic washes and simple textures on smooth boards, he’s created portraits from an alternate universe that seemingly may or may not have existed.

Amelia Queen of the Sea Monkeys

“She devoured the previous Queen, . . . Tentacles and all”

Julia & Her Swamp Friend

“Julia discovered him while she was collecting red-spotted salamanders in the swamp behind her parent’s farm house. She mistook the crown of branch-shaped tendrils on its head as a thicket of dead birch trees. The creature turned out to be quite harmless.  She named him Phil and took him home as a pet. Feeding Phil became a problem as he continued to grow. When she first brought him home, he was quite large at 8 feet in length. As the years passed, he grew to an unmanageable size of 35 feet and consumed about 100 lbs of trout and salmon each day. Just to take care of him, she started her own fish hatchery. He eventually outlived Julia and she included him in her last will and testament. Her grandchildren inherited both the fish hatchery and Phil.”

Oscar & the Truth Toad (Ted)

“In 1895, a large toad broke into Oscar’s house. This was not an uncommon occurrence for Devonshire in the summer of 1895. For there had been a plague of toads that season, thought to be brought on by a curse. There was always some curse or misplaced talisman causing mayhem in that town. This incident, however, was very unusual in that the toad was enormous. It was the size of pig and seemed to speak a kind of gibberish that sounded like a child trying to mimic a foreign language. It held Oscar hostage in his kitchen for several hours while it appeared to be trying to tell him something. As Oscar attempted to make his escape, the toad would “speak” louder and raise its slimy hands in fist-like gestures and a curious motion resembling throat slashing. As the sun started to come up, the toad threw its hands up as if in disgust and made itself a home in the study of the house. Oscar was both terrified and mesmerized by the experience and decided to keep the toad, . . .or more or less let it go about its business as he had no control over what it had in mind. He started to call it Ted because it seemed to utter that name at the end of every “sentence”.

As months passed, Oscar started to decipher the strange language that his toad was speaking. He also discovered that Ted had a very special talent. His presence compelled people to speak the truth. Oscar, who was not very trusting of people, began to carry Ted around on his head so that no one would be able to lie to him. From a distance it appeared that Oscar was wearing a large turban and passersby would be startled when the toad would suddenly snatch a bird in flight with its tongue. At first, Oscar was empowered by his new found ability to keep people honest and learn their secrets. It wasn’t long before Oscar became very lonely as his toad made everyone uncomfortable. Remorseful and tired of carrying around such a heavy load on his head, he convinced the toad to go back from whence it came, or so he thought. Ted was actually quite frustrated with Oscar and wanted to leave anyway. Ted was never heard from again and Oscar had to undergo a year of speech therapy to undo the strange gibberish that he acquired.”

Miss Lucy & Her “Hat Monkey”

“Lucy lived in a strange town where it was common for people to have taxidermy on their fancy hats. She didn’t like the idea of wearing a dead stuffed animal on her head so she wore a hat with a live monkey. Her monkey’s name was Percy and he used to work for an organ grinder who was run over by a horse. Percy kept his tin cup from his previous occupation and often collected change.  Lucy often got migraine headaches from the extra weight of coin.”

Emily

“Emily Fitzgerald emigrated from Wales in 1879, and worked the sideshow circuit for many years as a fortune-teller and fire-eater. Tired of traveling from town to town, she decided to move to New York and found work in Coney Island’s Dreamland. She was part of the Hell Gate exhibition. When the park burned down in 1911, she went to Chicago and developed a stage act that eventually went on tour. She returned to New York and played in the Catskills in the 1930s.”

Herman and Morris

“Herman found his prized huntsman spider in the basement of his parents’ house. It followed him where ever he went for most of his adult life. He named it Morris because it reminded him of his Uncle Morris, who had long spindly legs and a strange gait that often confused people as to which direction he was about to step in.
Although it was common to have large insects as pets, in Rothbury, England(circa 1875). It was frowned upon to have an arachnid as a pet.  When they would go for a stroll or take in a show at the theatre, Morris would hide in Herman’s stovepipe hat and watch through tiny holes near the top of the hat band. Herman could even hear him clapping at the close of the each performance. It made him laugh out loud every time.”

Sir Frederic Burke and His Leviathan

“Sir Frederic Burke imagined himself to be some kind of adventurer. He used his family’s vast fortune to investigate mysterious stories about mythical creatures. He had heard a tale about a great aquatic beast that was supposedly sighted in the North Sea. He chartered a large sailing vessel equipped with a cargo hold he thought could manage such a “monstrous” animal. After months searching for this elusive creature, he heard word that the beast’s lair has been discovered in a cove. When he arrived at the location he discovered a large egg just beginning to hatch.  The emerging creature reminded him of his old dog, who had recently passed away.  He swore the crew to secrecy and took the helpless newly hatched “monsterling” to his estate in Devon. Since Sir Frederic was the first living being it set its eyes on when it had hatched, it imprinted itself onto Frederic, acting as if he were its parent. He fed it a salmon and cod from the family hatcheries and before long, the aptly named Leviathan began to grow to enormous size. After a few weeks, it was as large as a steam ship. It had a bad habit of chasing after carriages and would capture them and bring them to the property as offerings like a cat bringing a dead mouse or bird to your doorstep. As the behemoth grew to full size, it would bring back large cargo ships and trains as gifts. Luckily Sir Frederic had a lot of property. Before he could fully train Leviathan to stop bringing such things home the estate had turned into playground of marooned ships. In order to pay for the property damages, Sir Frederic opened up his property as an amusement park featuring his prized pet as the main attraction.”

Miss K and Her Jackalope

“After it was established that Miss K’s imaginary friends were “real”, it was uncovered that she along with her “imaginary friends”  had robbed several banks. The Jackalope’s ability to phase through walls made any safe vulnerable. They went missing and have never been apprehended.”

The Family Yeti

“The Wallace family has always had a Yeti in their home for as long as anyone can remember. No one knows for certain how long these docile hairy beasts can live. The current family Yeti is believed to be over 300 years old. It has become a tradition for each generation to have their portrait painted with the Yeti.“

Edith

“She sang opera arias every night on a very timely schedule. She was so loud, the townspeople began to set their clocks to her performances. And at the completion of her nightly set an applause could be heard from every household.”

A Boy and His Squid

“Thomas was jealous of the amazing pets that some of his friends had at school. When his friend Oliver was having “squid trouble” he asked his parents permission to purchase one of them. His parents thought he was being silly and told him if he didn’t mind looking after such a thing, it was fine by them. When he brought it home, both his parents fainted. It was an enormous beast. Apparently, it had outgrown its enclosure and had eaten some of the livestock.”

A Girl and Her Troll Head

“Trolls generally had little to do with humans. Every so often they become unruly and had to be “controlled”. There was a time when the common practice was to behead them. The heads of older trolls possessed magical properties. Despite being separated from their bodies, the heads remained alive and. Some even grew their bodies back over time. In the 1890’s it became fashionable to keep them as pets.”

Charles and His Northern Henry

“Charles was a gardener. He was always digging and planting in his yard in North East England. The smell of the Earth was like fine wine to a sommelier. One day, while readying the soil for a new crop of vegetables a strange thing happened. When he thrust the spade into the ground it let out a yelp. He looked down and saw a tuft of hair. Gently using his hands to remove more dirt, it wasn’t long before he revealed a gigantic hairy head that smiled at him. In between smiles, it would utter, “I am Henry”. That is all it would say as Charles continued to unearth this strange being from his garden. After many hours, Charles managed to dig up the “Henry”, who stood awkwardly taller than the house.  A few months later, another “Henry” was discovered in the South West, in Devon. He was not quite as tall as the northern “Henry”. He grumbled and grimaced, frightening small children and farm animals. They were forced to re-bury him.
The Northern “Henry” was much more affable and started to learn more words. He admired Charles’ mustache. It did not go unnoticed. He would say, “mustache” and point at Charles’ whiskers. He did this several times a week for the next few months. One day, Charles hired a barber and bought a barrel of mustache wax. The Northern Henry was delighted; fore he was now able to live out his days working the garden with a well groomed mustache. “

Rhinochops circa 1881

“Defender of Rhinos and other larger animals during the rise of big game hunting at the end of the 19th century. He was the nemesis of every hunting enthusiast from Central West Africa to Northern Cameroon. During the Boer Wars he was referred to as “Rhinochops” because of his signature look. After maiming several soldiers who were “practicing” their marksmanship on black rhinos he became a target himself. Just before WWI, stories circulated in that region, that he had strapped explosives to himself and blown up a pack of hunters in their camp. Some decades later, spectators claimed to have seen him at the Cricket World Cup in 1975 sponsored by Prudential Assurance Company.”

Dorothy and Her Damsel Fly

“Dorothy built a small house in a tree for her giant damsel fly, Herschel. Herschel came from a prehistoric species of damsel flies that could be traced back 300 million years. When he first appeared, Herschel used to fly into Dorothy’s bedroom at night when she was a very small child. He would perch on the end of her bed and watch her sleep. It was very peaceful to him. So as not to frighten her, he would fly away at the slightest chance that she would awaken. This went on until she reached adolescence and she was old enough to appreciate how elegant and beautiful he was. He stayed with her for many years, never leaving her side.  Having him around was not unlike someone owning a parrot.  He was very colorful and shimmered in the Summer sun like a flying cache of jewels and stained glass.
When Dorothy got married, Herschel went away for a few years. He returned during the first summer after Dorothy gave birth to her first child; her daughter Zoe. Like he did all those years ago, Herschel flew through her bedroom window, perched on the end of Zoe’s bed, and watched her sleep.”

Miss Miniver and Her Pet Dragon, Percy

Strange Discoveries

“In late summer of 1894, Clark Stephenson heard a loud noise in the middle of the night. It sounded like one of the trees lost a large branch and it struck the house. He decided he was too tired to investigate the noise and went back to sleep. The next morning, he made a startling discovery. An enormous insect attached itself to the left side of his house, just below the chimney. It was motionless and appeared to have passed on, but its claws were embedded into the wood siding on the house and it was difficult to pry it loose. He quickly dispatched a small work crew to remove it. It was then brought to the attention of the Royal Entomology Society, which held a special meeting to discuss this incredibly rare find. As a photograph was taken of it with Mr. Stephenson standing proudly next to it for scale, a loud gasp was heard from the members in attendance when they made the discovery that the specimen was really just the exoskeleton and a giant insect was probably flying around London.”

Grandma Cyclopse

Wendy and the Ghost of Tim

“Wendy had a fish named Tim. She used to take him on walks in a small glass jar. She claimed that he could talk and that they had wonderful conversations. When her friends came to visit her, she would comment on how splendid a conversationalist Tim was. Her friends only saw the blank stare that fishes have and the usual mouth movement, but heard nothing. They politely dismissed Wendy as being mildly insane and acted as if they could hear the voices too.”

Hilary and Sam

“Hillary Smithson, of the Cobble Hill Smithsons, inherited Sam from her great aunt Mabel. Sam was sort of a family tradition. Some families had a particular breed of dog or cat that they liked to have from generation to generation. The Smithson family had beetles, particularly, the giant Carpenter Beetles from the Christmas Islands. They were known to have a lifespan of over 200 years and became highly fashionable sometime after the civil war. No one knew for sure how old Sam was. The lawyer at the reading of Auntie Mabel’s will, claimed that Sam had been a witness to the French revolution. Sam was actually acquired during a poker game in North Dakota in 1897. Hillary kept Sam in her hat box and often walked around town with him perched on her head, as it was very common for people in her town to do so. He enjoyed the theater and would sing along with his squeaky little voice during performances at the local opera house each Saturday night.  When there was a round of applause, he seemed to smile as if it were for him, and he would take a bow as well. “

George

“In 1897, George Clark came to the realization he was mostly monkey. Max and Dora Clark adopted George when he was an infant. They sent him to all the “right” schools. He became an accountant and handled the family’s books. When his brother, Phillip, brought him to the Secret Pet Society he found out that he was really the family “pet.” “

Website: http://www.travislouie.com

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