RIPE WITH INFLUENCES

I often find myself fantasizing about the past. I don't mean the recent past but rather way-back-when past. Prehistoric art, historical novels, stories, movies, and black and white pictures of long gone relatives rapidly catapult me into chimerical worlds.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, A Tale of Two Cities, Les Miserables, Goya's Ghosts, Perfume, Quest for Firejust to name a few, are books and films set in wretched times. The survival of our ancestors depended a great deal on luck. The tiny skulls of children that I saw piled up in the Catacombs of Paris were a rude reminder that few made it to adulthood. 

"Red Cross" - digital work. This hairy soul grew from a doodle. 
He reminded me of the types of characters one uncovers in a Dickens novel.
The background came from old newspapers dated 1940s found in my attic.

It is difficult to imagine an existence with little or no bathing. Humanity's odours must have been distressfully ripe, a ripeness that for many centuries was covered up with fancy clothes. 

I've always been particularly fascinated by the outfits men wore in the 1700s to 1900s. Wigs, tights, foppy lace shirts, long jackets, knee high boots or pointy shoes with heels radiated style and pizazz. Add to that the recitation of bad poetry, excessive gallantry and geez, I read like a Harlequin novel...

...except that in my case, the influence of what came before is rarely romantic. Moth-eaten fragments of the past routinely wriggle their way into my imagery. Sometimes the choice is conscious, at other times not. 

Art propagates art. Writers spin stories that awaken images in our minds. Actors bring our ancestors back to life with the help of costumes, set design, lighting, music, dance and more. Art in all its forms bores into you like a subterranean mammal that never leaves. The more dreamlike, bizarre yet elegant an image is, the more it is likely to lodge in the brain. 

Here are some of the eye worms that dwell within me.
  1. Anthony Andrews created a slew of offbeat characters in the movie The Scarlet Pimpernel. His multiple transmogrifications were often grotesque caricatures of everyday personalities. I can't forget them. Amazing how stuffing cheeks with cotton can alter a jawline. 
  2. Long John Silver from Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island was a devious, scary pirate brought to life by Robert Newton in the TV series The Adventures of Long John Silver. I watched it weekly as a young girl. The way Newton spoke and his piercing eyes had a profound effect on me. Frank Langella exhibited similar eye power in the movie Dracula (1979) and in his ads for I Love New York. Come to think of it, my dad had piercing eyes although his were a transparent, sky blue. Boys didn't hang around long if my dad happened by. One look from him was enough to make them disappear. Poof!
  3. Leonard da Vinci's brought out the essence and character of everyday people in his caricatures. They are wonderfully distorted and effervescent.
  4. Closer to home, Les Belles Histoires des Pays d'en Haut was a weekly TV show in the fifties, sixties and seventies that my parents never missed about a miserly mayor who lived in rural Qu├ębec. Jean-Pierre Masson brought him to life with his raspy voice and permanent scowl.
This image comes from silly photographs I took of my face.
I manipulated them digitally to create characters reminiscent of those mentioned above.
The background is from a partial handwritten birth record of a family member.



I love humanity's finely detailed imperfections. Our blemishes and scars map our personal history. Influences from the past and of today continue to provide a medley of interesting eccentrics (including myself) that I choose to mirror. I'll let other artists concentrate on beauty. It's all in the eye of the beholder anyway.

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