Studio Closeup #6

In this crazy journey called Life™️, the current state of the world and its terrifying unrest, I am at a point in my life where I need to find places where I remember being the happiest. That state of just being and enjoying and somehow create that same feeling in current adult life. That’s what I’ve been doing lately to keep away from the creepy dark edges of depression that really want to seep in. So I started digging deep and I’ve found a whole new world to escape into when this one is too messed up to remotely navigate in. This is how the museum series first came about because I was pretty much at the end of my tether with everything 6-8 years ago - and that was before the flood, before LuLu passing away, and before COVID.

Back to finding various states of happiness. I remember the reading series I had in first grade. It was a whole series from Ginn & Company and Theodore Clymer that they put out in the 1970’s. Not only do I remember the joy of learning how to read but I also remembered the beautiful artwork inside these books. Loose gestural black lines atop colorful translucent watercolor/design marker. Even today, the detail and fluidity of these illustrations are gorgeous.

The one I recall the most was “Pocketful of Sunshine”. There was Bill, Jill and their dog Lad. They had friends that were of a different race than they were - it truly was a world of discovery for me. I loved looking at it even when I wasn’t at school. Other titles I’ve been able to track down include “A Duck Is A Duck”, “Helicopters And Gingerbread” and “Ready For Rainbows”.

So, on a whim I decided to search for these elusive things on eBay and AbeBooks to see if they even still existed which I knew was a long shot. An obscure reading curriculum from the Racine Unified School District in the 1970s. Right. But I found some! The old brochures that came with one of the teacher’s manuals shows an entire filmstrip collection set that was available at the time, but I haven’t been able to track it down yet but I’m quietly determined to find it. This is when I’m thankful for and not irritated by the internet.

There will be more pieces in this series to come. This piece was a big battle between my heart (feeling the color combos) and my head (technique and composition). The art from the original books looks either to be watercolor or marker so I wanted to reproduce that childhood colored crepe paper translucency by making the acrylic paint do the same thing. I normally don’t think of acrylic paint as translucent so that was a big hurdle to overcome along with making it look “layered”. It’s also a throwback to vintage Sesame Street where I learned how to share, cooperate and that kids of different colors are kids just like me.

The off-white slightly yellowed top and bottom “bands” on these pieces represent the slightly yellowed pages of a book and the use of white space they used in the original illustrations that I never got over - the white space for the tiny illustrations and words to artfully make the entire page's design. The slightly yellowed bands on top and bottom are also chalky looking and feeling (gesso with a thin top coat of tempera paint) to contrast with the middle color strip that will be shiny and almost appear water-like after several layers of varnish are applied.

I’ll probably point this out again in the future but all these dioramas inside these pieces will have interior lighting added as well. The black button is the power source when pressed. But for now, I’ll keep including closeups of what’s going on inside the painted piece separately here on my blog. The dioramas themselves are illustrations cut from the original books. The OCD in me had a hard time cutting into these images along with preventing myself from ordering three extra copies of each book so I can have a perfectly untouched replica - yeah. I’ve been working on a few issues over here.

Please enjoy this first piece from this series. This is Jill and Nan releasing a turtle into a pond together.

Title: This Is What I Was Taught In School Part 1 (Pocketful of Sunshine Series)

Series: Museum Series

Media: Paper, acrylic paint, wood panel

Size: 11” x 14”

Year: 2020