Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fascinating Early Color Film

Recently, an old friend of mine and a brilliant artist (George Vitorovich) turned me onto an amazing visual find that he came across on

It’s clip from a very early, full-color Kodachrome film made by Kodak in 1922 to test new film stock and color processing. 

Not only is it mesmerizing to view a color film from ninety-one years ago, but the gesturing of the actresses themselves are equally compelling.

A studio actress mugs for the camera 91 years ago

I’ve mentioned in countless interviews and articles over the years how influential early cinema has been on my work. From portraiture to abstract, whether via traditional imagery or collage, I either consciously or subconsciously incorporate narrative elements into the painting.

I feel that I can trace this current in my work to my experiences as a young child be absolutely captivated by the imagery from the silent films that were shown on the local PBS affiliate.

In the early days of film, actors had a completely different way of interacting with the camera than we are used to experiencing today. Every movement and facial gesture held meaning.

Whether this way of gesturing and posturing before the camera arose organically from the stage or whether it came forth via instruction being shouted through a directors megaphone, I can’t say.

But, it’s undeniably there captured on film.

One can’t help but be pulled into the performances by the actresses. The line between a color test and a surreal voiceless yet visual message from the past becomes blurred when watching the clip. 

These performers seem to be reaching into your psyche and tapping you on the shoulder with a soft celluloid touch. In essence, these women with their fluttering eyes, fragile smiles and vamping longing are colorized ghosts from a distant cinematic past beckoning to connect to your emotional essence.

Perhaps, the non-vocalized  emotions are buried yet even still deep within our being. There must be some connection as it is easy to identify what the characters are emoting in the clip even without scripted words. That recognition arises from internal knowing. This clip is emotionally akin to blowing off the dust from the cover of an old book found on the back of a forgotten shelf.

The pages may be dull and yellowed, but the words are still crisp in your mind as you read them. The only difference here - there are no words to read…

View the clip here and you’ll experience the odd, surreal and potentially magical sensation for yourself… 

While the first “talkie” film appeared in 1927 and the majority of studio films followed suit by the middle of 1929, the manner of interacting via exaggerated before the camera continued for several years until actors began to reevaluate to the new technology and their relationship to it.

Eventually, the ever evolving relationship between the actor and the camera has taken us to where we are today. Though hard to believe, eventually, our current cinema will inevitably fade into the past and prove to be the fascinating fodder for distant generations. 

Until then, we can feast upon this treasure of a  clip which indeed truly is “bewitching”.

The full length article on can be found here:

This 1922 Kodachrome Test Footage is Strangely Bewitching

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Another one bites the fairy dust…


Center stage.

A man is standing on a soapbox. He clears his throat.


Man (with gusto and gesturing) : "Surely there must be more important news items in the world for CNN to cover as their lead headlines on their website other than the suicide of a troubled, faded country music artist with a one-hit-wonder ribbon from twenty years ago and a South African Olympian now on trial for murder.

In my humble opinion, this once worthwhile news source has gleefully skipped over the line into “infotainment” and tossed rose petals in the air while doing so.

It's a small wonder that so many citizens here in the states are so uninformed and care so little about truly serious issues. They are lulled into complacency by an American Idol mentality that has tinted almost every major news source in this country. To deny this is to shove one's head deep in the sand."

I don’t know how to fix this massive problem in our culture, but I do know of a good way to start. Stop giving in to the yellow journalism that has been re-branded as news.

Stop being a deer in the headlights of every bright, flashing, rainbow colored unicorn bearing, candy-coated news item that taps you on the shoulder.

The next time you find yourself drawn into the beam of blissful ignorance and complacency – channel your inner-Cher and try a little of this action on yourself.

What you will eventually start to realize is that there is a much bigger world around you that needs your true attention – and not only that, you’ll feel better not taking on the energy of those stories.”

Spotlight dims.

Man steps off soapbox.

Exit stage right.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Artistic Flashback Wednesday…

Today’s featured work “Espy” -

"Espy", acrylic on canvas, 42" x 42", circa 2005 was one of those works that began as one thing and then evolved into something else.

Initially, this was to be one of my traditional portrait paintings and not a work with text, large planes of color or drips. While I was applying an initial color glaze to the work, I accidentally used too much purple.

acrylic on canvas
42” x 42”
© 2005 Michael Sprouse All Rights Reserved

The result was garish and very difficult to remove from the work (anyone who has worked with purple pigment can attest to its staying power). While contemplating the now very purple addition to the work and how to take care of it, I suddenly had the concept of rain running down a window pane. Like falling dominoes, my thoughts went back to a wonderful old brownstone in DC that I lived in many years ago that had spectacular and original stained glass from the 1890's. When it would rain, the patterns and the colors that would form on the walls during the process were quite impressive.

It was then that I decided to work the painting with a backstory of a young woman staring through a stained glass pane of a doorway during a rainstorm. She is intently watching someone or something and she is lost in a flood of memories which are represented by the journal entries that have been superimposed over the portrait. The dripping is symbolic not only of the rain, but of the passing of time and the mutable nature of memory.

This work was sold to a private collector out of The Arts Company in Nashville, Tennessee.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Eatery of Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

This sobering news item gives new meaning to the phrase “eat your heart out” with a side of hand hewn, seasoned irony fries to boot.

Apparently, A regular patron and unofficial spokesman for the Heart Attack Grill has died of an apparent heart attack, the restaurant's owner said on Monday.