Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Critcs (for Critics)

August 14th, 1915 was the birthdate of Max S. Klein. Klein invented Paint by Number in collaboration with Dan Robbins, a painter who created the initial sets in the 1950s. Paint by Number craft sets consisted of brushes, premixed paints, and a canvas or board that depicted a pre-drawn image split into hundreds of tiny sections numbered with a different color. Fans of the fad selected the correctly-numbered colour and filled in the section, revealing the painting one piece at a time. It involved great attention to detail: if you painted one section the wrong colour, it would mess up the painting – just as a small error in typing the word critics only creates the confusing non-word, critcs. In letters to the periodical American Artist, critics bemoaned the mindless conformity involved and saw Paint by Number as a symbol of the downfall of American culture. Perhaps it was, but as a child in the 80s with zero artistic talent, I simply appreciated that they would let me paint a horse that looked like a horse, instead of an alien creature that resembled a half-dog, half-rat (which is how my original paintings turned out). Fans (or critics) can search the extensive catalogue at the online Paint by Number Museum to see the wide variety of kits made over the years, including a scene from the Grand Canyon, a portrait of President Kennedy, a 9/11 memorial and of course, plenty of horses.

(Image of Paint by Number horse from Paintbynumbermuseum.com)

Leanne Olson

No comments: