He was to be an addition to an altered Altoids tin paying homage to a classic American film. In keeping with the mood of that film though, I realized he should be in black and white, so it was back to the folding board for me. The second time around you think I would’ve been quite proficient at the folding and cutting. NOPE. Those tinny talons became nothing but a challenge to my patience. After three attempts and several days, I finally had an acceptable specimen.
I first saw the movie Psycho when I was a kid. Of course, the most memorable scene in Psycho is the shower scene. While it is the scene many of us think of first, it wasn’t my intent to recapture that particular setting. For me, it was the eerie setting of the parlor, with its shadows, tense ambiance and of course those ominous birds looming in the background; trapped, hinting at not only what was to come, but also of characters seen and unseen. My little feathered friend was to be the perfect prop for that scene.
Then, a funny thing happened. While rummaging through the bins of one of my favorite “junk” stores, I came across a small glass tile. The feel of it was smooth, the view through it was tinted, but just enough so as not to distort an image placed behind it. Its slick surface and tint led me to think of a window, a voyeur and finally, the slickness of shower tiles. It was also the perfect size for the inside of an Altoids tin.
Looked like it would be the shower scene after all…
I decided to recreate the shower scene using the glass tile, but I also felt the need to capture a hint of that creepy parlor idea. However, I thought an owl perched in the shower would be a little odd. I had to find another element to use as the backdrop for the setting, which meant I’d have to switch out my owl for something more fitting for the scene.
You may remember Norman spying on Marion Crane through a peephole hidden behind a painting which hung in his parlor, or perhaps “study” is a better word. According to my research that painting was Susanna and the Elders and is based on a biblical story from the book of Daniel about a woman bathing in her garden. Susanna is spied on by two elders who threaten to turn her over to the authorities for the crime of adultery if she does not have sex with them. Throughout history this scene has been studied and painted by many artists, but I chose to use Artemisia Gentileschi’s interpretation. Artemisia went through her own trials and tribulations at the hands of a man and a biased judicial system as well, in fact it is believed she painted her version of Susanna and the Elders (at the age of 17!) as an expression of the turmoil she experienced.
Aside from the history of this particular painting, I liked it because I felt it perfectly referenced both the parlor scene and the shower scene. I wanted to use it as a collage that would bring the two scenes together. I made a black and white copy of the painting, cut it up and began playing around with the pieces. I was happy with how the billowing robes became an extension of the shower curtain and how Susanna’s torso and right hand fit nicely with Marion’s head and left hand.
I debated whether to use the red paint. We all know how gory the scene was, I didn’t think it was necessary to recapture that element, but I did end up choosing to use a bit of red, for no other reason than to give a little color.
A Little Background
I had this Psycho themed idea in my head for a while, I spent months collecting bits and pieces; keys, tapestry, curtain hooks, even an actual fly. I also spent a lot of time researching the movie Psycho as well as the story and painting of Susana and the Elders. Over a period of 4 months I spent several hours arranging and rearranging the pieces only to toss it all aside then return to at a later time, usually with something new to add. Weeks would go by with no progress, but it was always in the back of my mind.
I tend to get stuck on an idea and develop tunnel vision, ignoring anything that might be a another alternative to my original idea. I’m also a little impatient and want to complete a project in a day. However, after being taken in a new direction with this, even after having to switch out the main focus of the idea, I’ve learned to be patient and I’m beginning to feel ok with the fact that I have many unfinished projects, which I will finish someday.
I share this part of the process not to pass myself off as a tortured artistic genius and I realize this piece lacks any artistic qualities at all; it doesn’t serve to educate, raise awareness or challenge an ideology and in all, it is simply put together using basic skills. But, in the process of making it, I learned patience, to pay attention to my surroundings as I’d hunt for that one thing that would bring all the pieces together. Though my owl didn’t make the final cut, the process of putting him together (more than once) also taught me patience and perseverance – and that I really do enjoy working with paper. I’m learning to not let frustration defeat me. The final product looks nothing like my original idea, but that is part of the process as well I guess. I believe all this has a purpose and someday I may figure out what exactly that purpose is.
I’d really like to hear about your creative process. Do you have a special formula for bringing an idea to fruition? What have you learned about yourself through the creative process or on the path of creative / artistic self-expression?