Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sally blowing bubbles, an homage to Charles Schulz

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, 12 x 10''
2011, #191

The idea for this painting came to me while doing a bit of research after viewing a Peanuts comic strip that appeared in the Telegraph Journal on October 19, 2009. The strip itself seemed like a perfect vehicle to use for a still life study featuring bubble gum.

Walter Diemer (1904-1998) aged 23, was working as an accounted for the Fleer company when he accidentally invented bubble gum in 1926 while experimenting with chewing gum recipes. It was an instant hit, selling 150,000,000 units at 1¢ a piece in it's first year of production. Ironically, Diemer never patented his product and did not receive royalties from the company, although he would eventually become senior vice-president of Fleer. The new novelty gum was given the name  Dubble Bubble.
In my pursuit of documenting popular culture, it was a perfect opportunity to pay homage to both Diemer and cartoonist Charles Schulz. As Schultz was also documenting popular culture himself with Sally doing a ''show and tell'' in front of her classroom.

Charles Schulz really needs no introduction.  The famous cartoonist who drew from his own life using himself, family members and friends as the inspiration for several of the Peanuts characters. Charlie Brown first appeared in a strip named Lil' Folks that ran from 1947-1950. When Schulz approached United Feature Syndicate, a comic strip known as ''Peanuts'' made it's debut in newspapers on October 2, 1950. The strip is considered to be one of the most popular and influential in the history of the medium. What is probably most remarkable, Schulz often used the strip as a vehicle to address social commentary of issues of the day happening in America and the around the world. The strip ran for 50 years. The last original strip was published on February 13, 2000,  the day after his death at age 77. The strip remains as popular as ever in reruns.

The background for the painting is the cover for a book entitled Holidays - Through the Year - Five Classic Stories, published by Hallmark. The five stories were all made into animated television specials. I can recall watching them as a child. They include: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown ThanksgivingA Charlie Brown Christmas, Be my Valentine, Charlie Brown and It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. I purchased the book during the Holidays at Hallmark. The store also had many endearing figurines on display as part of the 60th anniversary commemorative celebration of the Peanuts. For the painting, I did change the order of the characters so I could feature Snoopy, Woodstock and Charlie Brown, who would have been hiding behind the jar.
This paintings marks the introduction of the use of new technology. I purchased an Apple iPad as a tool to have better accessibility to the quality of the photographic material I use as reference material while painting. I was often disappointed when I saw the digital image in print. The luminosity of my PC monitor was often lost during the printing process, and it greatly affected the colors as well. It's an absolutely brilliant tool, which permits me to move the image around, zoom in certain sections for details, and I can even listen to music from my iTunes collection while I paint.
After a week of painting, I suffered a setback. While I was removing drawing gum used to mask certain sections, chucks of the board came along with the residue. There was no way I could remedy the problem, and had to restart from scratch. On a positive note, the lettering in the new version is much better.

Peanut comic strip trivia-
- a total of 17,897 strips were published
- it ran in 2600 newspapers at it's peak
- had a readership of 355 millions
- published in 75 counties and in 21 languages



  1. Dear Alvin,
    What a great idea to combine two cultural icons together: famous comic strip & bubble gum, with your eleganit work!
    Kind regards, Sadami

  2. Awesome painting Alvin. Thanks for posting the painting and the interesting write up.

  3. Thanks Sadami and Bonnie for your kind remarks.

  4. Great work Alvin. I enjoy seeing how you managed to illustrate so many informations on this playful composition. Interesting to read the stories too!

  5. Alvin, Another absolutely stunning piece!! You are really inspiring me to paint a more personal piece. I love that you're paintings have a story behind them and research. I just love this one!!!

  6. Amazing painting. I can't get over the intricacy of your work, such incredible detail in so tiny a space. Even Schultz worked larger. You're really some kind of painter Alvin. I look forward to your posts.

  7. I'm truly touch by all your comments. Thank you!

  8. Alvin, this one is brilliant, I must commend your skill at rendering text and typeface as this is one of my arch enemies!

  9. Thanks Nick. It does get better with practice. This one had more than usual. Schulz actually did all his text by hand, so the letters are not excatly precise, which gave me some breathing room.

  10. What a fun painting, Alvin. Every aspect of it is just perfect. You are so good at glass. Excellent work!