Coulrophobia is the official psychological term given to the irrational fear of clowns. When did clowns become scary? I believe there was a time, before 1950 maybe, when clowns were funny and lovable. But since then, they have acquired a bad reputation. I bet they scare more little kids than any shopping mall Santa Claus ever did.
And if clowns are frightening, clown paintings are even more so. They always creep me out. Red Skelton clown paintings, John Wayne Gacy clown paintings, outsider art clown paintings…all of ‘em. Diane Keaton even published a book of clown paintings that were swapmeet purchases. Picasso did a lot clown paintings, and he might be one of the few that I can accept.
So why have I done so many of them myself? I saw a movie once where Italian clowns were performing on a gaslight stage, and the colors were so beautiful, that inspired me. And of course Cappiello, the poster artist often used clowns in his work. Maybe clowns are okay as long as they aren’t painted realistically? Like maybe there is something automatically out of whack with painting an unrealistic character in a realistic way.
But the classical clowns from the Italian Commedia dell’arte are wonderful characters in traditional costumes that have been handed down from the late 1500’s. There was a lot of interconnection with the French, so the names of the characters are sometimes more familiar in French, like Harlequin, Scaramouche, Pierrot, Columbine. And these classical clowns are the ones I love to do.
Of course I have no such excuse for illustrating mimes. What’s next, Unicorns?