Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Cast Shadow, 2006, Oil on Panel, 18x24

I have never been a huge fan of Halloween. I liked dressing up when I was a kid but as I got older I felt a bit embarrassed to wear a costume. So mostly it's been a holiday that I basically didn't pay much attention to.

Until we lived in a real house in a real neighborhood in Milford, Connecticut. It was the first Halloween that Doug and I lived together and we realized that we would be getting trick or treaters. So I bought several bags of candy about a week before and we proceeded to eat all of the candy before Halloween. Clearly we had maturity issues. Instead of buying more candy for us to eat, we dug out some holographic glasses from our stash in the basement (Doug's company in Utah made them, so for some reason we had hundreds of them on hand) and we handed them out. We were told by the neighbors that the next day on the school bus all of the kids were wearing glasses with images of eyeballs, kittens, alien eyes and peace signs on the lenses. Doug and I felt very proud of this achievement!

The next year things changed. K., our nephew (he was 4) came to live with us and so we had to do a costume plus take him trick or treating. I put together a bad batman costume (I made that poor boy wear a leotard and tights) and Doug took him around the neighborhood. K. is developmentally handicapped and he has a few behavioral quirks one of which was walking right into people's homes and making himself at home. Every time they stopped at a house, Doug would chat with the neighbor for a minute and K. would slip away and disappear into the house, usually making a beeline for toys to play with. It took them hours to get around the block because Doug would have to retrieve K. from inside of each house.

We moved to Utah and started having babies. Soon there were many costume parties involving screaming toddlers in pumpkin costumes, cupcakes with licorice spiders on top and green punch with floating sour worms on dry ice, in addition to the trick or treating. When my second baby was born I decided to learn to sew in order to make cool costumes for the kids. Over the years I made many costumes including a lion, a witch, a princess, a bat, a ghost, a cowgirl, a angel, a cat and I probably made a dozen capes in various sizes and styles. Now that the kids are older, however, they desperately want store bought costumes. I have relented because I don't have as much time to sew anymore. But today I am feeling a bit nostalgic for the years when I would begin planning their costumes in early September. Tonight we will have a trojan warrior (though we haven't decided if K. who is now 17 should be trick or treating or not), a psycho clown/flame thrower in a skeleton suit (I take no responsibility for THAT one), a devil and batgirl. It was a good decision to move to a house in the country so we don't need to buy candy. Alas, Doug and I are still a bit immature: despite our efforts at keeping away from sugar, tomorrow we will be alone with the kid's candy all day and we will have to make sure it's safe for them to eat. heh.

This is a photo of the kids on Halloween 2001. I made the girl's costumes, as well as the magician's cape.


meno said...

Wait, it's immature to eat all of the candy? Uh Oh.
Cute post. I always used to make Em's costumes too. It was really fun. She's been a unicorn, Squirtle (Pokemon), a dragon, a ghost. I wish i'd taken pictures.
She's too old for that now. her decision.

Tracy said...

Yes, Meno, it is immature to eat all of the candy. I recall doing the exact same thing in third grade:-)

You didn't take pictures of the costumes?! I can't believe that! Those kind of things are perfect for future embarrassment.

S.L. Peterson said...

I'm completely impressed that you can sew that well. I don't get why everyone has to have fancy store-bought costumes nowadays - when I was little, I remember pulling costumes together from whatever was in the closet. Maybe it didn't look so slick, but it was creative!!

Oh, and eating the candy before the trick-or-treaters come is part of what Halloween is all about as an adult.

Karl Zipser said...

Cast Shadow is a striking painting.

You are on the edge of being too contrived here, but you pull it off. It was worth the risk.

Two houses, I see two people, facing in different directions. And then the "Cast Shadow", implies a psychological connection (perhaps a one-way connection) that exists despite the apparent disengagement of these individuals.

Tracy, I see the blue-lavender side of the house on the left as not touching the ground in the same place as the light side. This could be because of a shrub on the light side of the house, but the effect is one of breaking the realism into abstraction, turing the side of the house into a rectangle of color that departs from natural space. If that is your intention, great -- but then I would like to see this also elsewhere in the painting to make the break into abstraction more consistent.

Of course, it is a basic theme of your work to be on the edge of realism and abstraction. But usually there is still more of a thread holding us onto reality. With the white house, one the side, we find ourself somewhere else. An new direction, or a flaw?

Lisa Call said...

Darn, Karl had to go and post something serious and thoughtful and I just want to say something about candy. What was that about immature?

I'm impressed with the sewing also. I'm a quilter and I can't sew clothes. Although I've done my share of halloween costumes, which fortunately only have to be worn once so skill is not required.

My kids are into goodwill now for costumes. My 14 year old son will be a recycled jigglypuff this year. I'm beginning to question not only him still going out for candy at his age but also his taste in costumes.

Ann K. said...

Hey Tracy---So...there are a bunch of us immature types out here eating our children's candy (both before and after Halloween)! I'm thrilled this year because my 8-year-old daughter agreed to make a costume rather than buy the awful cheapy variety. She's a popcorn box!

I really like the color palette in this painting--

Tracy said...

Stacers, I am not too sure that the quality of my sewing is all that great. I have a tendency to be a bit impatient. But they all held up for at least a few wearings, so they were decent I guess and they looked good at least.

I don't recall having store ought costumes as a kid either.

Karl, Thank you for your analysis of this painting and I am intrigued by what you've said. I am interested in the relationship between the structures but I think that I have more of a visual approach to it.

You said: "But usually there is still more of a thread holding us onto reality. With the white house, one the side, we find ourself somewhere else."

I really like this observation. I can't really say whether that aspect of the painting was a new direction or a flaw. A new direction can result from a flaw, so maybe the answer is both, or maybe it is neither.

I do like the idea of having a spot in a painting where we can find ourselves somewhere else. It's not something that I have consciously pursued but now that you mention it.....

Thank you, Karl.

Lisa and Ann, Ok, back to the candy:-)

Jigglypuff? Definitely an interesting choice for a 14 year old boy. My son's friend wore a teletubby costume but then added bullet holes and a (plastic)machine gun. Not that I approve of weaponry, but it was a pretty creative take on all that teletubby stuff.

A popcorn box sounds great!

Did we all eat enough candy last night? I know that I am feeling a bit light headed from the sugar and now (after a few more candy bars) I have to go through withdrawal again. Dang.

Anonymous said...

I just dropped my daughter off at school where everyone was trying to one-up each other as to how much candy they scored. As I read your post Tracy, I ate an Almond Joy and a Butterfinger. mmmmmmmmouchmmmmmmouch

This year we compared my wifes hourly rate at sewing to what my daughter wanted to buy from a store. The store won. Not nearly as charming, but effeciancy rules in our house at the moment. And the girl was proud.

We have a big parade in our town for the kids. They saunter down the 6 block main street behind a hodge podge drumming coven. I was lame and didn't get dressed this year. No time, etc. I regretted it. I always think that I don't like Halloween, but then I always regret not putting in at least a little effort.

Its funny. I don't anthropomhically see people in the houses. I should. I was struck by the foreground field and how much of the composition it takes up. I also found my self wondering if you leave that halo of red underpainting on everything? I'm sure it must get cropped a little in the jpg. As I zoomed in I also wondered if you scratch back into the paint for the implied doors, etc. or is that a tiny brush. Do the big color fields in the distance have quick details? It seems to struggle with the more "dead" and opaque dark green foreground.

blah. Why did I eat that shit.

Tracy said...

Only two candy bars? The little ones? That shows a lot of restraint if you ask me...

We have a parade down our main street too, but mostly the younger kids like it and the older kids ignore it. We are right in between that but ended up skipping it last night.

Ok, art questions: I do leave the underpainting showing around the edge, no real deep reason for that, I just like how it looks, it adds to the unfinished, washy quality that I like right now, plus I am kind of lazy and don't feel like worrying about painting to the edge. I like to keep my focus on the action, although by doing that I suppose it adds to the action around the edge, so go figure.

Usually I scratch into the wet paint to indicate doors, windows and other details, which are obviously more effective in person.

If there is detail in the background it is usually subtle and probably in the underpainting rather than in the color.

I think that in this piece I wanted the activity to be in one smaller area, leaving the rest as a color field, which I have done before and again a visual decision on my part. I don't know if it was successful or not, but it made the cut for the show and I like the piece. Doug doesn't like it so much, which means it is sure to sell:-)

You reminded me of the Butterfinger I have in the pity bag of candy that the kids gave me. Gotta go!

The Epiphany Artist said...

Cute Aweeee My kids are too old to dress up now ;(