If you are a baby boomer, you know about these.  As a person who is now a visual artist, paint by number kits and coloring books were the things that stimulated me when very young.  Looking at a paint by number painting makes me think of Mr. Wizard and John Gnagy, meatloaf and mashed potatoes.  They are visual comfort food.

I have been buying them for years now, and around the boonies of South Carolina, they are not valued as in some big cities.  They are cheap, cheap, cheap.  Something is wrong with me and I cannot have one of anything, or even five of anything.  I have to have them ALL, it is that simple.

Yesterday we found two at the local flea market.  They were very nice but were in these gawd awful Chinese frames with pieces of barbed wire on the perimeter.  We bought just the paintings, and the dealer was thrilled because she loved the frames and wanted to “work on them ” a little bit to make them even better!

These paintings mostly came in pairs with frames and hanging devices included.  Paint came in tiny vessels with a brush, and the numbered cartoons for the paintings were printed on a range of supports from thick paper to hard canvas-like.

The frames that the paintings are shown in here are not their originals as we could not tolerate the barbed wire.  They were from a paint by number kit however, but the paintings were a little water damaged.  Below is what I do with those paintings.

There is a big plywood box covering the water heater in the bathroom of the studio.  Paintings that are not in good pairs, that are a little damaged, or that are less than pleasing subjects go here.  I staple them on, and will soon have the big garish but necessary thing covered.

For yesterday’s find,  mats were cut to make them fit the frames that were too big.  So they are in “real” paint by number kit frames, just not their originals.  Look at the hanging device for these:

A kind of sideways cup hook!  This device was used on both frames.

We have in the new bathroom a “water closet” by a strict definition.  It is here where the nicest examples of paint by number paintings are hung.

Also included here is a typical South Carolina sweetgrass basket.  The paint by number pairs are composed to refer to one another compositionally.  They are engaged in visual conversation, and balance each other when hung.  The pair above is framed in a typical 1950s hard wood frame with an abrupt profile we don’t see much of now.  On the web, I have seen this same pair with a different frame.  My cost was five dollars for the two.

These two have matching plastic frames, and one was under glass when purchased.  They are in great shape, and the subject matter is on the rarer side.  I paid a dollar for the two.

This composition in a strange neoclassic style is unusual in my experience.  I bought this from a dealer who has become a friend and so paid more than normally–six bucks.

This was us!  Check out; this looks fun.


2 thoughts on “PAINT BY NUMBER

  1. I really enjoyed this blog. I remember paint by number kits and was taught to disdain them with great passion by the art professors of my youth. In retrospect they deserved to be treated as a stepping stone to learning about color, composition, what happens when colors touch, shading and what it takes to make a piece of art “believable” as opposed to a hack job.
    I looked at the paint by number collage wall when we last visited and thought it was a visual treat. I can’t wait to see the room addition and visit the wc.

  2. you know harry, glenn and i were just talking about this this morning. a often used technique in teaching design is to reduce an image to three or four values. teaches you to look more critically. this is exactly what paint by numbers are! would i buy a contemporary piece of art made like this? no. google paint by number “images” and you can see more modern ones. it is the mixing of youth, play, the old world of b and w tv that make these winners for me!

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