I have been flying more lately (not my favorite, but I'm getting almost used to it). On a recent trip home, arriving around midnight, I stood at bag claim and watched all the luggage. Half the bags looked enough like mine that I had to look at every one carefully. Inevitably they come out on the belt upside down. From that view my own bag looks unfamiliar.
I had tied some yellow yarn on one side of the top handle, and I do spot it that way, but it's too subtle for midnight grouchiness. If I'd been a comic strip at that point the thought balloons over my head would have been liberally sprinkled with strings of energetic symbols, like Sarge in Beetle Bailey. In the last frame of the strip I vowed to paint something on my suitcase so I would not be doing this again.
When I considered the job I realized part of the problem is that in the crush of bags I might see one or two of the six faces, but there would be no predicting which ones. The front, with the red Victorinox button, is the only one that I recognize, and it's the one I see least on luggage conveyors. So I knew I had to do something on five sides. And I'm seeing more of the Victorinox bags... I want to prevent a mix-up.
At first I considered some stenciled symbol that would be easily spotted from a bit of a distance, so I could, "Excuse me" through the human crush to the conveyor in time to grab my passing bag. But as I thought of the symbol, I couldn't come up with anything that interested me or seemed unique enough.
Oldest's various projects for Design school inspired me to push past such a mundane solution. I thought of Chinese dragons (lungs) twining around the bag - because I've always loved them, and because they are thin enough to work between all the leather and hard plastic caps, handles, and corner guards on the bag.
So here is the result. I only did two legs each, not the traditional four, due to space constraints. I had thought to do it in color, after underpainting in white to get brightness, but I liked the elegance of the black and white, and so I just brought out light and dark with repeated coats of the white. The bag material was challenging to paint on - it's a nice tough weave.
One lung is upright, the other is head downward as the bag is set on it's rollers. They're rivers and air creatures in Chinese lore, so rightside up is arbitrary, and having them twining all around the bag is what I was after. Some part of the dragons is visible on every side but the front.
Oldest asked me, before I started drawing them, how many toes I would put on them... I immediately replied that I would use the imperial five toed lungs. But on further consideration, I like the reserved status of the imperial dragon. And I prefer the four toed configuration aesthetically.
I know they will get scuffed, stained, and worn - that's just part of the story.