Art Of The Insane

By: Phil Austin

Well, here you go and there you go. You’re back and I’m still here, week after blessed week. I’m Billy Flamnigan and I’m on TV and today if you’ll stick with me, we’ll find out how to achieve the kind of art on canvas that the truly insane seem to be able to paint with little or no effort or thought.

Haven’t you admired those loony-eyes-on-tramps or Jesus-riding-on-a-locomotive paintings that you used to be able to pick up for pennies but that now you can find selling for astronomically inflated prices in actual galleries in the big cities? Well, none of it is as hard as it seems. I’d like you to go along with me today and try this. Don’t be afraid. It’s just not as hard as it looks to achieve truly insane effects without going through the rigorous training that highly paid insane artists evidently have to pretend to suffer through.

I’m going to show you how to do it standing on your head, although don’t try that. It would be insane.

First, let’s take out a fresh canvas. One of my favorite techniques is to pee all over a new surface before painting on it. It yellows the background and gives the work a smell that will put you in the mood to create some Outsider Art. In fact, you’ll want to step outside every once in a while and perhaps open some windows in your studio. I’m just using my hair dryer on it here…There you go — the odor will put you smack dab in the attic or dungeon or wherever you like to imagine the mad artist painting and scraping and peeing. There, that’s just right.

Now, let’s take some paint…How about this color here? It doesn’t matter what actual color it is, they’re pretty much all the same. Let’s make a clown, everyone knows how to do that, and…let’s have him crying. We’ll use some other color for his tears — this one will probably do. You’ll notice I’m using a brush with a number on it. It really doesn’t matter what number it is, just as long as there is something written on the brush which will give you the authority to just paint away.

Now, I’ve pretty much made a reputation for not painting clowns, as I see those works coming from aging actresses or lounge singers who need desperately to get on midday TV shows, but we’re breaking all the rules today, because the Art of the Insane has its own set of rules. And one of those rules is that your painting should not be just cute or affecting. There’s nothing necessarily insane about a crying clown…unless he’s got a knife.

And speaking of getting on TV, well, take it from someone who already is on TV, it’s a tricky deal to be both insane and famous. Surely you’ve heard of Andy Warhol? That guy is more popular now that he’s dead than he was when he was alive, and people were hoping he would be dead so the prices of his work would be driven up and up. While Andy Warhol was not actually insane, he was so famous that people thought he was, and yet he could never realize the big profits he might have made had he painted Jesus on locomotives or clowns with knives. He wasted his time on detergent boxes and pictures of actors, things a truly insane artist would not look at twice.

Now, where were we? Ah, yes. Let’s have Clowny grasping a knife, kind of waving it around. There you go. And let’s just put a locomotive under him. Locomotives are dark and to achieve the effect, just mix a bunch of different paints together and, easy as pie, darkness is yours. Let’s put a pie in his other hand. You don’t want to put a Jesus and a clown in the same painting, because then you’re minimizing your potential profits. Spread your art out, don’t pile too much art in any one place.

Just wet the brush like this and roll it…There you go. I think they call this color orange, or something like that. Wipe off the brush on your pants, if you’re wearing pants, and if not, just wipe the brush between your legs, because we’re sure to find a clever use for it later on.

Now for some sky. I like sky because it signifies that we’re outdoors, but to the insane artist it has some deeper meaning that we can never know. Put it on with your trowel…Just kind of slap it back and forth. Let’s use some of these tubes of paint that haven’t been used yet. Let’s put a hat on the scarecrow…some death’s heads and a gardenia. I think that’s a gardenia, but who cares really. By the way, I don’t recommend peeing on the painting again at this point. Enough is enough.

And now, before you know it and coincidental with the end of this program, you’ve got something that will look real nice stacked up with a bunch of pictures of seagulls and sailboats at a yard sale, but will do even better at a fancy New York gallery filled with rich people who are convinced they are not insane and can therefore appreciate insanity from a respectable distance. And it will increase in value the more famous you get. So start dying your hair and getting shot by one of your girlfriends, or better yet, paint on one of your girlfriends in a bathtub as she shoots you and then duplicate everything hundreds of times and before long you’ll be the toast of Toast Island and just as unhappy as you can be, the subject of so much stultifying commentary that children of the future are preparing even now to be bored by you and your wacky antics.

I’ll see you next week, when we’ll discuss the kind of collectible Folk Art made of bottles and slag that you can turn into a drive-in chapel or grotto and sell postcards from and live like a prince in a small Airstream trailer on the grounds. This is Billy Flamnigan, for Art of the Insane.



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