Be the Artist: Painting Artist Hilights (or Remarques)

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This summer’s Be the Artist series asks the question “But, is it art?”

What is a Remarque

An artist remarque isn’t something people normally scoff at, but rather something many collectors love.

So, why have I included something as collectable and enjoyed as an addition of an artist’s personal touch to a print in this “but it is art” series?

First, for serious artists out there, I have to apologize, because as an art lover I will be taking a little much liberty with the term “remarque.”

What is a remarque? A remarque is a French word that basically describes a small hand-drawn sketch added to a print. People often love these pieces, because even though they may be purchasing a print, there is still a little bit of “original” special art added by the artist.

These remarques make the piece just a little more personal and sometimes more valuable.

Many times, children’s authors or comic book creators add their own form of remarques or “doodles” when they sign their books, giving fans of their work a little original drawing included with a mass-produced publication. Sometimes, artists take their prints and add original details over the print itself in the forms gold leaf or pen, pencil or extra color.

All of this is pretty cool, if you know they did their own work.

Sometimes, in cases of popular artists who crank out several prints of their works, they don’t always make the “remarques” themselves. Let’s take for example the late Thomas Kinkade.

Kinkade, who died at age 54  in 2012, was known as the “Painter of Light” for his vivid color technique giving his landscapes and pastoral oils a visible glow to them. He started working on this technique before he became a favorite of what I call the “Hallmark Movie” crowd, by working for animator Ralph Bakshi in the early 80s.

remarque examples
Examples of artist highlights and remarques, including simple gold an artist “enhancing” a Thomas Kinkade.

As far as the repaints, well, once Kinkade became a household name, he gathered a team of “skilled craftsmen” to repaint the light highlights over his mass-produced prints. Of course, many serious critics called him everything from a “kitsch master” to a “mall artist.” Yet, these paintings sold in large quantities, and pretty much everyone can picture a Thomas Kinkade painting when they hear his name…whether they like his style or not.

What to you think? Is this real art? Is it like getting an enhanced original edge to a print, or is it just print with paint on it?

I’ll let you decide, because we’re going to make our own!

The Project: Crazy Alien Invasion “Remarques”

I wish I could tell you I thought of this idea all on my own, but there are many really cool pop culture artists who have been doing this for some time.

“I bring you peace…or total destruction” to a peaceful winter scene. Images: Lisa Tate

That doesn’t make it any less fun to do, though, because it involves taking something seemingly “normal” or unassuming, and geeking it up however we want!

Many of the artists who have been successful with this method haunt estate and garage sales, antique stores and flea market for discarded paintings they can add to and make their own. The results are so cool, with horror icons emerging from little streams and sawmills, to science fiction and comic heroes frolicking in flowers.

I even shared a collage variation of this as a way to upcycle greeting cards, but for this project we don’t want to take that shortcut. We want to paint or draw.

First, got to a dollar store or grocery and find a small landscape cheap calendar, print, or even a small jigsaw puzzle (if you built it first). I even bet you might find, of all things, a Thomas Kinkade or similar image.

landscape prints
Dollar store finds ready for their remarque doodles.

Now, think of a favorite alien or science fiction explorer who might want to visit the area. This could be a friendly visitor like Groot or E.T., or it could be an invading Xenomorph or Predator. This all depends on how much you want to draw.

You can also create your own alien creature is you want to draw a simpler “remarque” or doodle. Aliens and monsters don’t have to be complicated.

If you have confidence, you can draw a light outline directly on the image, then paint over it with acrylic paint.

Draw an outline and paint over your outlines for your own artist remarque or doodle on an pre-done image. Make sure it blends into the environment in size.

If you are a younger artist who doesn’t want to risk messing up, find a thin piece of tracing or drawing paper and place it on the background, draw on the paper in the size and place you want. Cut it out and lightly paste in on the background. Then you can paint over it so it looks like it was painted on the image.

cutout pieces
Younger and beginning artists can draw their image on plain paper and cut them out instead of drawing directly on the pre-done image.

The key is to make it look like this alien belonged in the image all along. Make sure it is the right size for the image, and don’t cover up features you want it to hide behind (like a tree or cottage).

For the paste-on method,  add the images on before painting them. Then you can finish them off with color and details.

There you have it, a pleasant little background with an alien or monster invasion. This is also a really fun way to reuse an old calendar you might have gotten as a gift or in the mail.

Now, the question is…is this an original piece of work? Well, you know for sure the little doodle or “remarque” you made is.

Once you get in on you background, you have created a whole new story that has not existed before.

That, I think makes this extreme doodle or “remarque” both original and art.

Your remarque doodles don’t have to be complicated. These very simple monsters were seen briefly in a video by the band XDinary Hereos. Now they get their own starring role.
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