Saturday, June 19, 2010

"My life is a dark, darkroom" with Clowns!

I have been cleaning up and re-organizing my studio these past few weeks. It's the only way to get at all those dust bunnies, but it also gives me the opportunity to rediscover forgotten (lost?) projects, and to remove the stuff that is no longer useful. While shuffling junk around, I unearthed a painting I did in art school (20 years ago!) It is actually my most-favorit-est oil painting I have ever done. I have been painting since I was a little kid. My grandmother was an artist and she'd make us paint still lifes of flowers. I loved my grandmother, and I love making art, but I hate oil painting and I hate still lifes! The irony of this painting that I "found" is that it is actually done on the BACK of a stretched canvas with, guess what? - a still life on the front. It's a still life of shapes with part of a still life/model on top of that. We tended to re-use canvases a lot. Not just because they were expensive, but because we had to stretch them ourselves and we were lazy! So, this clown face is on the back of a recycled canvas. I must not have expected to like it or want to keep it. And I'm pretty sure it wasn't for an assignment - those were done on the fronts.

What I am posting here is a photograph of a painting I did of a black and white photo that I took of a girl whose face I painted! Got it?

Click the image to see it larger
 In what seems like another life... I had a business, as a teenager, painting faces at local arts and crafts festivals. I also was studying Black and White photography and the Zone System with David Marr. We'd spend days making test strips to get the perfect whites and blacks and grays. I have some very "pretty" photos from those days. Needless to say, I rebelled. I set up my own darkroom at home and stopped timing anything! I would just "wing it". And that's the stuff that got into gallery shows, stolen from gallery shows(!) and even sold. I even did a series of photos exposed from microscope slides of gallbladders. They looked like faces. I know, can you believe it? And I sold one to Kodak! That's another story...

This was before Photoshop. I loved the magic of watching the images appear from a blank piece of paper. I felt like a wizard... powerful. But, I hated sitting in the dark for days on end. And complete darkness (to develop the film) did yucky things with my depression-troll. When I dropped out of SVA, I gave up photography.

Meanwhile, back in my half-clean studio...
I decided to put the clown picture up near my computer, but the raw, ragged canvas edges looked really bad. Distracting. So I trimmed them the best I could and painted them black! What a difference, eh?

Now I stare at her face while I am thinking and I look into her eyes. I am amazed at how much depth there is there. I love the details. What floors me is that I painted this way in my teens. I loved to take photos so I could paint and draw from them. And yet, I studied photography, then illustration in art school... and it took me another 15 years to UN-LEARN all the crap from school... so I could start painting this way again!

I finally did something with the original photograph - I made some postcards. So if you love this image as much as I do, you can get some cards for yourself at my Etsy shop. I hope to post some more in the near future too. I'd love to know what you think!

PS Title comes from the movie "Beetlejuice"


  1. "That is my art, and it is dangerous!"

    I've always loved your b/w photos. And Beetlejuice!

  2. Sandy--whenever you need help out of the dark--call me! = )
    Lovely post, love to stop by and read what you've been up to!



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