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Picture of the Week #5

September 19, 2014





Years ago I attended a three day seminar by noted illustrator/painter Marshall Arisman. Arisman had made a big splash in the world of illustration with work featured on the cover of Time Magazine, as well as other major publications at the time. Arisman’s work was unique in that his figures were grotesque yet impossible to categorize by race. If a magazine featured a cover story on child molestation, the editors were determined to avoid offending particular ethnic groups. If the molester was portrayed as white, white folks would be offended. If the molester was portrayed as black or Asian or Hispanic, those people would be likewise upset. Arisman’s work offended everyone equally. It’s been said that Renoir never painted a sad or ugly picture; Marshall Arisman never painted a pretty one. Just Google him and you’ll see what I mean.



You might not think it from his art or appearance, but Marshall Arisman was one of the funniest people I ever met.



On the second day of the seminar as we were all standing at our easels working feverishly to impress him, he asked us to set down our brushes so he could have our undivided attention. He proceeded to inform us that all of our work was pretty, and he challenged us to create ugly art. For most of us, and I include myself, this proved to be a challenge, although some painters were able to render ugly subjects…beautifully.


I’m reminded of this because of my most recent painting. I found a picture online of a youth arrested for killing dogs. As an animal lover I was appalled, but this guy’s face haunted me and to get him out of my mind I decided to paint him. When finished, I noticed I’d left too much space on his T-shirt. The bottom portion of my picture looked incomplete. Trimming the painting was out of the question since it was painted on canvas board.


I showed the portrait to Mrs. C. and she was less than pleased with what I’d done. It’s easy to see why she was less than enthusiastic. The pale fellow looks like evil incarnate, the type who’d set his parents’ bed on fire while they were sleeping. His red-rimmed eyes are hooded in shadow, and above his weak chin and pouty mouth is a long hawkish nose.


“You’re not hanging that in our house!” she said. “He looks like a cold blooded killer, a shark.”


An idea popped into my head for something I could add to the T-shirt to complete my picture. At first I worried it was overkill, but the more I studied it the more appropriate it seemed.




Shark Boy will probably spend time in the back of my closet unless I can think of a purpose for it. I’m not sure if this is an ugly painting or a picture of something ugly painted beautifully, but I have a feeling Marshall Arisman would be pleased. 








What a PERFECT vehicle for a short story about a malevolent painting! I'm sure something like that has been done, though, huh?
By: Al Penwasser on September 19, 2014
yeah, offer it to the police station for their 'most wanted' wall. :)
By: TexWisGirl on September 19, 2014
He looks awfully familiar. ;-)
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 19, 2014
As a white male, I find this painting very offensive.
By: Cranky on September 19, 2014
Stephen: I've been having computer issues, and the previous post just vanished. I believe Mrs. Chatterbox has a point. This portrait simmers with something sinister. I don't think this guy would ever be interviewed by Jay Leno! But as always, well done!
By: Michael Manning on September 19, 2014
He is creepy looking. And of course, if that's how you picture a dog killer, he certainly is.
By: Hilary on September 19, 2014
He's SCARY!!
By: fishducky on September 19, 2014
He makes me sad for him, because he's so evil looking. To me, it's an ugly picture.
By: mimi on September 19, 2014
He looks awfully familiar. ;-)
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 19, 2014
Yikes. He looks so aggressive and PO'd it looks like a mug shot. Maybe instead of the "Sharknado" pic, you should have drawn in a black board with his name and prisoner number, and a height chart behind him. lol
By: Lexa Cain on September 19, 2014
It's beautifully painted. The man is certainly evil looking and I'm reminded of a painting I have seen that is possibly the most horrifying painting I've ever see. The artist committed suicide soon after painting it and used his own blood. It's the most disturbing thing I've ever seen, thus, your own painting doesn't seem so bad after that.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on September 19, 2014
Yikes, he looks one dog away from starting on people. Creepy.
By: Akansas Patti on September 19, 2014
Pass the eye bleach, please. I wish to unsee that portrait.
By: Val on September 19, 2014
I'm sorry, but your "ugly art" needs some work in comparison to Arisman's. Yeah, everyone's a critic--huh?
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on September 19, 2014
Oh yes---this dude is FREAKY looking--it's the eyes. I think you accomplished what you wanted hereâ¦.
By: marcia @ Menopausal Mother on September 19, 2014
After reading the discussion about your painting, I was really surprised when I saw the painting. I don't see the guy as particularly evil.
By: red on September 19, 2014
I'd say it's beyond ugly. It's horrifying. I'd be scared to cross him or the shark. Then again, he has pretty eyes. Surely, he has potential. Maybe he just needs a good woman.
By: Robyn Engel on September 19, 2014
ah yes! Jaws!!! What a nasty piece of work he is.
By: Kathe W. on September 19, 2014
I am with Mrs C on this, great painting so filled with understated menace but not a painting I would choose to have on my wall. Perhaps you could call it Toilet Art because I am sure it would alleviate constipation problems......:) Great piece!
By: John on September 20, 2014
Wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley! May be useful for the cover of a book on a serial killer.
By: tomsightings on September 20, 2014 sure captured the sinister look! You are such a talent!
By: Eva Gallant on September 20, 2014
Whew. Definitely something ugly painted beautifully. (And I wouldn't let you put it up on the wall either.)
By: Mitchell is Moving on September 20, 2014
There's definitely something haunting about your painting! And I agree with tomsightings, it would make a great book cover.
By: Pixel Peeper on September 20, 2014
Oh, it's exquisite(ly horrible.) I love it.
By: Catalyst on September 20, 2014
Uhm, I don't know what it is, but he totally looks like Adam Sandler, that's crazy. I think it's a nice painting but I agree with Mrs C, I wouldn't want that hung on the walls either :)
By: Hey Monkey Butt on September 20, 2014
And animal abuser, huh? I suggest you feed the picture, and the subject of the picture, to the shark pictured.
By: Scott Park on September 21, 2014
By: Janie Junebug on September 23, 2014

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