We hope to introduce you to all the great etsy sellers to be found right here in Toronto. Here at the T.E.S.T. blog, we plan to interview them all. This is the 23rd in our series, just in time for Hallowe'en, a monster-filled interview with Sheena of Dinos Died of Boredom.
When I first read your shop name, Dinosaurs Died of Boredom it evoked for me a sense of playfulness. Upon seeing your work besides the obvious, that you like to explore interpretations of well known iconic images. I would like to ask;
Describe your process:
I start off by finding a nifty person or monster that would look cool in watercolours. Then I make some tea. I paint said subject while drinking said tea. Wait for it to dry. Photograph the painting and then post on etsy. I will often put a notice on my facebook and tumblr pages about the ‘fresh off the easel’ painting and then probably have another cup of tea. Since I already mentioned the social media outlets, why not do a a bit of shameless plugging?
my dinosdiedofboredom facebook
dinosaurs died of boredom tumblr
Dinosaurs Died of Boredom Blog
What inspires you and draws you to working with iconic imagery?
I have an absolute obsession with retro. It started as a little kid bopping around my living room to Elvis and watching Leave It To Beaver when I came home for lunch. The first two CDs I ever bought were Elvis and The Beach Boys. As a teenager I started wearing vintage clothes and growing more of an appreciation for the cultural significance of the past several decades. I was always watching TV shows from the 50s-80s (loved The Munsters, Brady Bunch, Three’s Company, ALF…). I could always spend hours in a thrift or antique shop. When I was about 16, I read Frankenstein and Dracula and that set me on a path of deep love for monsters (which continues today, as can be seen by my mostly monstrous collection of paintings). Life moves horrifyingly quickly and shows/items/relics/images from an era gone by are like pieces of the past frozen in time.
Do you feel your work is a continuation of the pop art aesthetic of such masters as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein?
I’m going to go ahead and say yes. I certainly could never compare my pieces to the likes of Warhol and Lichtenstein, but I will attest to the fact that without pioneers such as them, who knows if there’d be a place in the landscape of art for quirky and kitschy paintings like mine. The pop artists of the 50s/60s really helped breakdown the distinction between high and low culture, revolting against what was typically considered fine art. As can be garnered from my lament of all things retro, I’m a big fan of pop culture (mostly from the 20s-80s). I watch a lot of film and TV (my day job is actually in film and TV) so, like Lichtenstein and Warhol, my inspiration is heavily drawn from sources of popular culture in music, movies and television.
What criteria do you use when selecting your images?
First, it has to look good in the style that I paint in (a lot of negative, white space).
Next, the subject matter has to be awesome. I love the classic monsters, so I tend to feature those creatures quite frequently. I also lean towards historic figures who have made my life a little better or more enjoyable in some way, whether it be a scientist, an actor, a musician or an artist.
It seems that you are using 'Dinosaur' as a metaphor for something that is past its time much the way we refer to, "dinosaur rock bands' for example.
How did you arrive at, Dinosaurs died of boredom?
Interesting way of looking at it. I suppose we can harken back to my aforementioned love of retro if we want to create a metaphor with the past. I never quite thought of it that way, but I like it.
“Dinosaurs Died of Boredom” actually came from a book… I have this very old book called “Strange Stories, Amazing Facts” and it is full of just what the title implies. One of those strange stories/amazing facts is the theory of Paleoweltshmerz that expresses a possible explanation for the extinction of dinosaurs. It claims that dinosaurs became so disillusioned with their ancient world that they died of boredom. I think that that is such an interesting and hilarious theory that I use it as a daily philosophy to live my life. Don’t die of boredom.
Please further define Paleoweltschmerz regarding your paintings.
Well, essentially I started painting so that I don’t die of boredom (as the dinosaurs may or may not have).
Biggest artistic influences:
Two influences who I think got to me subconsciously are Basil Gogos and Alex Pardee. It wasn’t until after I opened my etsy shop that I looked back on some of those gentlemen’s art work and I realized how they both, unbeknownst to me, crawled into my head and truly impacted my style. Gogos was an absolute master of monster art. In the 60s and 70s he painted bold portraits of ghastly ghouls, monsters and horror film actors. Most of his work was for the cover art of monster movie magazines. His dazzling use of colour and dramatic lighting create the effect that these creepy creatures are about to crawl out and get ya. He paints these ghouls in vivid colours, creating a neat juxtaposition between macabre images and happy colours, which I tend to do. Alex Pardee is in the new generation of monster artists. He also uses bright, jovial colours for his spooky drawings and there is a terrific sense of humour that comes through his art. The paint dripping off the page is an effect which he frequently employs, as do I. Again, it wasn’t until my shop was up and running for a few months that I looked back on some of Pardee’s work and I was astounded to see that, without consciously realizing it, I most likely swiped that idea from him. That’s part of the thing about pop culture, isn’t it? It’s so invasive; it penetrates your thoughts and ideas without you having any idea that it’s actually happening.
Working on now:
I’m working on a blog that I’ve started up. Seeing what the action is on this crazy blogosphere I’ve been hearing so much about. In terms of upcoming subjects for my paintings, I recently saw an excellent rendition of The Crucible performed by Ryerson University students and it has reminded me of how much I love Arthur Miller, so I think I’ll add him to the roster.
You can find more of Sheena's work at the aforementioned Dinos Died of Boredom Etsy shop, the dinosdiedofboredom facebook, dinosaurs died of boredom tumblr, and the new Dinosaurs Died of Boredom Blog. She was interviewed by Tosca of nanopod, in October, 2011.