Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A little monster appears in a picture

Tonight I want to talk about another sort of thing that needs to be edited out. In this case it is what John Carlson calls a local freak in his book on landscape painting. That is the text for this class incidentally. A local freak is something that just happens to look weird. He gives the example of a cloud that looks like a fish.

Tonights "local freak" is a standing beaver=manatee hybrid, see him? Here he is below, circled.

This is a closeup of the little guy. This is the sort of thing that when seen by primitive man gave rise to the animistic religions.

If you are a photorealist or just copy exactly what you see you will dutifully transfer this beaver-manatee onto the canvas, and it will take over your whole painting. Here I have edited him out,
there that's better!

Ives Gammell, in his book Twilight of Painting spoke of "a fish in the wall paper that having been once perceived, would no more down than Banquos Ghost". You should look over your paintings carefully and edit out any thing that looks like a little face or a little figure, or a potato. There is another reason that you can't just paint what you see.

No Beavers or Manatees were harmed in the making of this post.


Unknown said...

ha! this reminds me of a painting I did a couple of years ago. It was from a ridgeline trail, with a cluster of boulders in the foreground, and a distant view to Mt. Monadnock. When I showed it to my hubby, he said, "those rocks look like a monkey face." Once he said that, all I could see was the monkey face, so I dutifully re-painted the whole boulder group and made sure no monkey face could be found. Steve looked at it and said, "Now, I see an Indian head."
Arrggghh!! I avoid rock formations altogether now.

Gregory Becker said...

LOL that comment Deb made is so funny.
I have a painting that may be on the opposite end of this issue meaning that It doesn't have enough points of interests. It looks too boring to me.

Knitting Out Loud said...

Loved this post! Did you already do the walrus lesson?

Bob Carter said...

My mentor, Bill Maloney, calls these "Cookie Monsters". The rocky coast of Maine is great for making alligators. Sometimes it seems like half the painting session is devoted to killing them.

willek said...

Kind of reminds me of those activity books we had as kids. "Find ten clowns in the above picture". The guys that did those must have had to unlearn a lot of art school stuff to do it.
I'm now working in the Wayside Inn area. Great place to paint. There is an "as is" Inness waiting to be set down on canvas. Pretty place.

JT Harding said...

That's funny!

innisart said...

If I move to New Hampshire, should I fear attacks by beaver-manatees?

DIANE TASSELMYER said...'s definately a monkey!!!!
what a hoot!

Unknown said...

Great catchphrase, Bob! "Killing alligators". I think that goes in there with "smuggling red". That will go in my repertoire of painting mantras.....

and, ha! I just read the fine print at the bottom of the original post!

Marian Fortunati said...

This was a great post!!
AND as Deb said (she made me laugh out loud!!!!), it often takes someone else to see those little monsters. My husband saw a bear in the water (a rock) but no one could look at it again (until I edited it out) without seeing that bear/rock.

Honestly though... THAT THING you photographed really did look like a person/thing didn't it??? Very good post as always!!!

Stapleton Kearns said...


I have found a monkey face or two in my art. Always the same monkey.

Stapleton Kearns said...

When my paintings don't work. It is usually because they are matter of fact.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Oh no, the Walrus is a secret, maybe when I know these people a little better, maybe not even then.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I like that "killing alligators"

Stapleton Kearns said...

I should check out the wayside inn area. That's not too far from where I live.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You think its funny but that thing bites and it lunged at me as I was photoshopping it out.

Stapleton Kearns said...

If you move to New Hampshire you will pay no state income tax and no sales tax. You will also not have a lot of the invasive laws that other states have. You can also have a license plate with the edgy and cool slogan
The beaver-manatee hybrids are everywhere though.

Stapleton Kearns said...


The tendency to see the familiar when faced with the truly exotic will prevent you from seeing the beaver-manatee hybrids. I suggest you stop wearing your glasses.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you. I didn't see it until I was hunting through my photos looking for something I could use that was a local freak, when I saw that I grabbed it. It is a truly disturbing little bugger isn't it. There is something nasty and dangerous looking about it in my opinion. I don't think I would turn my back on it.