David Norcross

Fresh Faces

A few posts ago I mentioned that I had been working on some cabinet cards as well as some old photographs. Cabinet cards date back to the late 1800’s and are basically portrait photographs mounted to cardboard. I actually started collecting these old photos back in my college years when I first learned about them in an art history course. You can find these little gems in old antique stores and sometimes they can be expensive. As luck would have it, I came across a bunch of them at The Scrap Exchange in Durham. The Scrap Exchange is a unique place, more like a Salvation Army than an antique store. It’s set up for crafters to come and harvest people’s old stuff. They get donations from lots of places, even some local businesses, and you can come across some great stuff at very reasonable prices. I found the postcard/photograph section and was able to buy what I wanted by the pound! It was crazy cheap.

I couldn’t wait to start painting on these photographs. First, I documented what they looked like before I started manipulating them. I feel some guilt about painting on them because I am altering an image that has been in existence longer than I have. Then, I got to work prepping them. Using 1/8 inch birch panels and some Golden Soft Gel, I glued them down, cut them out using a jig saw and shaped my edges to make them feel soft and rounded like their original cardboard housing. Now I could layer them with washes and lots of paint without worrying about my edges curling.

So far I have done 5, but I have a total of 14. There really is no rhyme or reason for the direction I am headed with them. My main objective is to create a humorous remake. My first image was of a young man posed in a manner reminiscent of a senior portrait from the 1950’s. The appearance of the man and the stoic expression on his face pushed me to paint him green and go in a monster like direction.

Screen shot 2016-05-26 at 11.25.41 AM

Next came the wrestler. I painted a sweater jersey on the young man with a turtleneck underneath. The number zero in green is meant to be a little sarcastic and also a nod to The Smashing Pumpkins.

Screen shot 2016-05-26 at 11.25.00 AM

I am having a blast working on the images and I love finding little ways to place humor in my paintings. Since I don’t know the subjects, I have no sentimental attachment to them, which allows me to be free to manipulate them however I want. For now the other photos are lined up behind my drawing table. As I work on other projects I glance at them and think about different possibilities for how I could rework the photo. When a great idea strikes I will drop what I am doing and dive back into the next one. In the end, if I can take something discarded in a thrift store and freshen it up with a new artistic direction making it worth a second look, then it was worth altering the past.

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