How To Spice Up a Dull Landscape Painting: Put a Monster On It
“Land Narwhal and Young” by Christopher McMahon
The quaint landscapes gathering dust in thrift stores around the country may be charming, but they lack a certain je ne sais quoi necessary to get them into the homes of vintage-loving customers. Until now. Artists Thryza Segal, Chris McMahon, and Todd Webb have all independently come to the same conclusion about what’s missing: monsters. Cuddly and blue, creepily fanged and ferociously tentacled, their fantastic creatures breathe new, bizarre life into these forgotten canvasses. Take a look through some of their work.
According to Thryza Segal, the biggest challenge involves “making the [creature] inhabit the picture and interact with its surroundings.” Often, this means using the same type of paint as the original work and standardizing texture with a coat of varnish.
Here, a steroid-enhanced yeti tramps realistically through the mist.
Thryza Segal loves terrariums—the big clunky kind you can find in thrift stores. She populates them with clay aliens. (“I’ve made thousands,” she says. “They just roll off my hands.”) Over time Segal began to notice the landscape prints also stocked by the thrift stores, and to imagine her aliens vacationing inside their frames.
“This young alien has a summer job carting aliens on tours around the Rockies,” Segal says. “She only takes other aliens, not humans, because of the insurance issues. Her fangs give her what earthlings might call a lisp, but her passengers have no trouble understanding her.”
“The original picture shows a cowboy roping a calf,” Segal reveals. That’s why the alien has a bovine shape, to harmonize with the rest of the composition. As for back story, “This alien has come to earth and is visiting a dude ranch. It has decided to lasso itself a rancher.” Tentacles are a motif for Segal, winding through every one of her monster paintings.
Segal was quick to interject when I referred to the toothy flier in this painting as a “she.” “It’s an it,” she corrected. Apparently, this gender-neutral alien enjoys water sports on its own planet, but is prevented by gravity from participating in them on earth. So it hangs around the lake and takes people water skiing. “When it feels passive-aggressive, it flies its cargo into trees,” Segal added.
The original print, “Cries of London,” features a wealthy couple handing out food to street urchins. But in this incarnation, two aliens fund their holiday by stealing from the people-verse. “They work as a team,” explains Segal. “One acts cute and distracting, while the other plays a kind of extraterrestrial artful dodger, picking everyone’s pockets.”
“Tim Burton should hire me,” jokes Segal, underscoring the quirky, otherworldly sensibility she shares with the filmmaker. The purple-haired octopus woman shown here is the alien equivalent of Sleeping Beauty: All the forest creatures, including winged eyeballs, follow her around.
“Sometimes I see a landscape with something missing and I just … want to add a dinosaur,” muses Webb. He says that the robot character is fairly easy to superimpose over existing scenes because it resembles a human. Here, it’s bummed out because it can’t eat the apple it’s holding.
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