Thursday, November 3, 2016

Clown Sighting on Illustration Friday OR The FatMan Goes to the Circus

     Yay! It's Friday, Illustration Friday, and in light of Halloween, which has just past, and with all the "Clown Sightings" that have been popping up around the world lately, I've decided to share an older piece that I previously had not written about.  This week's topic is STRIPES and it seemed appropriate to share with everyone.  I had originally thought of creating a character in a zebra costume and writing a Halloween story about it. However, I would have needed to have done that before Monday and 1.5 days isn't really enough time to write a story, illustrate something and then write a post and post everything.  Also, I have been thinking about another illustration I had done many moons ago...

     One thing that I've noticed that has been happening, recently, is this cultural phenomenon of "Creepy Clown Sightings."  It's one of the reasons that This particular Illustration came to mind when I read this week's topic.  Though my clown is not really a "creepy clown" nor was it intended to be, my subconscious mind must have been deliberating on him as it was the first thing I thought of, instead of a new illustration idea popping into my head, as they sometimes tend to do. I also had recently finished listening to Stephen King's It on audio book, also, so this might have something to do with why my back-burner thoughts have been gravitating towards the FatClown.

     SO Creepy Clown Sightings:  Of course me being ME, I did some research on the phenomenon to better  acquaint myself with what all the Hoopla and Circus Tricks were about.  People have been quite literally hysterical about these sightings and for one reason or another, its spread world wide into a form of mass hysteria. Just ask Wikipedia about it... ;0)

     The 2016 clown sightings refers to incidents involving alleged sightings of people dressed as an evil clown in incongruous settings, such as near forests and schools. The incidents were reported in the  United States and subsequently in other Western countries from August 2016. The clown sightings were first reported in the US state of South Carolina when a 9 year old boy told his mother that two clowns tried to lure him into the woods.  By mid-October 2016 they had been reported in nearly all US states, nine out of thirteen provinces and territories of Canada, and eighteen other countries.

     While some of the incidents appeared to be wholly unsubstantiated, or lacked evidence of criminal activity, a few led to arrests. Some people were cited or arrested for making violent threats to schools, and some incidents involved robberies and assaults on children and adults.

     By mid-October 2016, in the wake of hundreds of "clown sightings" in the United States and Canada, the phenomenon had spread from North America to Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America. 

John Caroll Lynch as Twisty the Clown 
from American Horror Story: Freakshow

     Now, I have never really understood coulrophobia (the fear of clowns).  I certainly don't find clowns really that scary or creepy, even when their visage is made grotesque.  I find psychopaths or sociopaths scary more so than clowns.  I did a bit of research also about coulrophobia,
and, mostly, people have become afraid of clowns due to the American serial killer, John Wayne Gacy, and the modern stock archetype of an evil clown popularized by Pennywise the Dancing Clown in Stephen King's It. It's also perpetuated by musical bands such as the Insane Clown Posse, Twisty the Clown from American Horror Story Freakshow, and so on and so on. In a published essay called Coulrophobia and the Trickster, by Joseph Durwin, this modern cultural archetype is studied more fully.  Durwin states that the concept of evil clowns has an independent position in popular culture, arguing that "the concept of evil clowns and the widespread hostility it induces is a cultural phenomenon which transcends just the phobia alone."

Tim Curry as Pennywise the Dancing Clown 
from It (1990 TV Mini Series)

     A study by the University of Sheffield concluded "that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable." This may be because of the nature of clowns' makeup hiding their faces, making them potential threats in disguise; as a psychology professor at California State University, Northridge stated, young children are "very reactive to a familiar body type with an unfamiliar face". This natural dislike of clowns makes them effective in a literary or fictional context, as the antagonistic threat perceived in clowns is desirable in a villainous character.

Alex Powell a.k.a. The Northampton Clown

     Such archetypes and hysteria are perpetuated by real life pranksters, such as the Northampton Clown in England. Student Alex Powell began a sort of social experiment and prank when he began to appear all over the English town dressed as a creepy clown that was quite similar in appearance to Pennywise from Stephen King's best selling novel.

     The truth is no one really knows or understands completely why the world's population have developed this fear. Just an F.Y.I.: Coulrophobia isn't a "real" fear acknowledged by academia or professional  psychiatrists.  The term is not listed in the World Health Organization's ICD-10 nor in the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-5 categorization of disorders.  It is considered an "informal" phobia and is listed as such along with many others.  I personally have an irrational fear of zombies; not in the cute everybody-loves-zombies-now-so-I'm-going-to-say-this-to-go-along-with-a-current-and-popular-trend-kind.  I actually do have an honest fear that the Dead will reawaken out of their eternal rot-infested slumbers to walk the Earth; more so the supernatural Zombies than the Viral Ones.   The term for this is Kinemortophobia.  I suppose it stems from seeing Michael Jackson's Thriller projected on a large screen at the roller skating rink when I was very young and I still have nightmares about this irrational cataclysm.  Supposedly this irrational fear is as common as Coulrophobia and it appears on the same listing of  "informal" phobias.

     But anyway... Lets talk about this illustration...

     As many of you know, I have been keeping a list of ideas for FatMan persona's to illustrate. I usually create a new one when I'm feeling creatively stumped or just not feeling creative at all.  He is my "muse," sort to speak, and has jump-started my creative juices more times than I can think of since his first appearance back in '05.  I had originally planned 40 by the time I'm 40, but I've been thinking I want to do 50 before I'm 50 instead.  Seems like a better idea to me, plus it gives me more time to create more of  them.

     I have kept a list in my Idea Journal of possible visages that I could illustrate the FatMan as.  One of these was a Clown.  When I wrote this, I had meant a vintage more Old World European style clown; One more close to the origins of the circus than to modern day clowns.  I liked the idea of portraying the FatMan this way because there still is a little piece of me that wishes to run away and join The Circus.  I would say that this is something that most all of us has thought about, but in a recent study I read as I was doing my research on Creepy Clown Sightings, it was stated that only 6% of American adults have thought about this.  88% had not, and that is sad, because I always imagine the circus as a place of wonder and magic; a place so rich with color you could go blind from trying to see it all.

The Circus by George Seurat, 1891

     I'm sure when someone says the word circus to you, your mind immediately envision a very very large and colorful tent with 3 rings inside where various performers perform amazing acts to entertain a crowd that sits all around the circumference of the tent in stadium style bleachers or stands.  To be honest, this is only what is known as the "Modern Circus" and it has only existed for about 250 years.  Early circuses were almost exclusively demonstrations of equestrian skills with a few other types of acts to link the horsemanship performances. Performances developed significantly through the next fifty years, with large scale theatrical battle reenactments becoming a significant feature.
The 'traditional' format, whereby a ringmaster introduces a varied selection of acts that mostly perform choreographed acts to traditional music, developed in the latter part of 19th century and continued almost universally to be the main style of circus up until the 1970s.  Phillip Astley is credited as being the "father" of the modern circus, the circus you know and grew up with: a company of performers that may include clowns, acrobats, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, hoopers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, unicyclists, as well as other object manipulation and stunt-oriented artists.  Circuses originally were performed inside of a theater of sorts.

     The structures were called a circus but not the event itself.  It wasn't until 1825 in America that circuses were revolutionized by  P. T. Barnum and William Cameron Coup, who launched P. T. Barnum's Museum, Menagerie & Circus, a travelling combination of animal and human oddities, the exhibition of humans as a freak show or sideshow was thus an American invention. Coup was also the first circus entrepreneur to use circus trains to transport the circus from town to town; a practice that continues today and introduced the first multiple ringed circuses. This is the first time that circuses began to travel and it is the notion of what most people think of when they hear the word "Circus."

     Circuses are believed to have originated from Greece. In Ancient Rome, the circus was a building for the exhibition of horse and chariot races, equestrian shows, staged battles, gladiatorial combat and displays of (and fights with) trained animals. The word Circus derives from the Latin word circus (spelled the same way) which derives from the Greek word kirkos, meaning "circle" or "ring."

     So now that I had decided what sort of Clown I wanted to illustrate from what certain era in the history of circuses, I had to begin drawing him.
I sketched several versions of him based on some amazing vintage photographs that I had found.  I studied the make up and the costume and sketched around until I found a combination of the two that I liked.  Now that the Fat Clown was drawn I just needed to draw all of the performers that would "wrap" around my FatClown.  To be honest, I originally was just going to illustrate the FatClown alone inside my Big Top, but ultimately decided that it would make him seem more like a "Sad Clown" and that is not what I was wanting for him.  I wanted him to emit joy and whimsy and color... lots and lots of color. lol.


1.)  The head completely in profile.
2.)  The eyes are always closed.
3.)  His bangs have a small curl.
4.)  His lips are always small and suggest a hint of a mysterious smile.
5.)  He is framed by an arched checker-board frame.
6.)  He floats centered in the composition among a Background filled with elements and symbols pertaining to him/her.

     I included favorite performers and animals that I liked to see at a circus: a juggler, an elephant, a tight-wire walker, a seal, a trapeze artist, a giraffe... and a duck (because I think there should be circus ducks. lol)  I will admit that working on a composition filled with many characters is challenging... every time.  I wanted to create dynamic movement that would evoke the feeling of the circus environment that most of us have come to think of when we think of circuses and circus performers.  I also needed them to compliment the FatClown without overpowering him.  Since you sometimes can't get everything right the first time you do something, I employed an old illustrators handy dandy trick that everyone should feel free to use.  I used several sheets of tracing paper and sketched my individual characters on each individual sheet.  I could then begin overlapping them and moving them around until I found the best placement for each character.

     From here, I created my "Final Sketch."  I inked the illustration, scanned it in to the computer.  I had some idea of what colors I wanted some of the elements in the illustration. I knew what colors I wanted to use for the FatClown and I also knew the color of the interior of my Big Top Tent... I just had to figure out exactly what colors to use for everything else.  I remember it did take a few versions of the color composition before I really had my "guide" for color in the final illustration.

     I then began the long yet relaxing and joyous part of this particular medium... digitally painting.  Honestly I just get lost in painting and before you know it, hours and hours and hours have gone by.  I did keep a log of sorts of the progress of this piece.  You can see below what was accomplished at the end of each night I worked on this illustration.

     In the end, I was very pleased with my Fat Clown. I find him neither scary or creepy; just charming, quite charming.  And that pretty much sums up what I can say about this piece.  Since I created it a while back, I'm fuzzy on the some of the details of working in progress on him.  I really wanted to talk more on why he's been in my mind lately and, since I never previously wrote about him, thought I would share him with you all today.

     I hope you enjoyed the illustration as mush as I have creating it.  Also, enjoy the rest of your weekends.  Try not to get lured into any cars or wooded areas by suspicious and/or creepy clowns.  Your survival may depend on it; constant vigilance.  lol.   Think of nice happy clowns, perhaps, I don't know. I'm not sure of  how you fight an irrational fear of clowns.  Personally, I think it's rather Silly to be afraid of something so SILLY, but I will not judge. I'm afraid of zombies, remember. lol.

     I will leave you all with this last interesting thought (at least I find it interesting and rather amusing.)
A few weeks ago a friend of mine, on Facebook, made a reactionary post to other peoples reactionary post about the Creepy Clown Sightings.  They had stated that they were tired of hearing about people
whine about their fear of clowns and then just typed the words,"CLOWNS! CLOWNS! CLOWNS!"  This is funny, and I commented this on that post. However what is even more funny and amusing is that just typing the word "CLOWNS" disturbs on;y those with the fear of the word "CLOWNS" and not the Clowns themselves.  In other words, just type/shouting the word "CLOWNS" affects logophobics, those with a fear of words. So they would find the word "CLOWN" more terrifying than they would find an actual Clown terrifying.  The post wouldn't affect the coulrophobics at all (whom were the ones being addressed in the post.)  Coulrophobics would respond to an image of a clown, not the typed word.  I had posted a response to this affect, but my friend didn't find it amusing that much.  I realize that the humor is obscure, and that my friend is quite intelligent and that they would have known what I was talking about... They just didn't find it funny lol.  I on the other hand couldn't stop finding the humor in that irony.  I laughed to myself about it for at least 24 hours, if not 48. ;0)

     Anyway lol   I hope you all enjoy the rest of your, hopefully, Creep-Clown-Free Friday.

Until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, 
keep making art.

No comments:

Post a Comment