bucolic country scene with words BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING in foreground

Be a Great Artist! Or Just Vaguely Resemble One…

January 17, 2013 by Maria Goodavage in

bucolic country scene with words BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING in foreground

I don’t know about you, but my talents do not lie in the visual arts. Stick figures run away screaming when they see me coming.

So it was with great happiness that I discovered that the artist featured in the upcoming Independent Lens broadcast, Beauty is Embarrassing (10 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21, check local listings), has an app out that can make an “artist” out of just about anyone.

First, a little background on the film. It’s a crazy, quirky feel-good documentary about Wayne White — one of America’s most important (and profanely hilarious) artists.

White’s fingerprints are all over just about any type of art you can imagine. He’s impossible to categorize, which is part of his appeal. You’ll have to tune in to see the breadth of his work and enjoy this man, who’s also a first-rate raconteur. But we’ll tell you ahead of time that White’s word paintings, which feature pithy and often sarcastic text statements crafted onto vintage landscape paintings, have made him a darling of the fine art world.

The image above, with the film’s title, is one of the less profane versions of this art form. He buys landscape paintings at flea markets and paints big, bold, 3-D words and phrases on them. Some say it’s schtick, but this man is a truly talented artist, and happens to collect enviable sums for these works of art. Call it what you will, it’s pretty cool stuff.

Which is where his app, Words With Wayne, comes in. It can make you look like a good artist, even if you’re like me. I recently downloaded the app — it’s free! — and had way too much fun with it. It’s easy to use once you figure out how to use the sliders. I spent an hour or so uploading images from my iPhone to the app, typing in words, maneuvering them, and creating my own versions of White’s word paintings.

I never thought I’d say this to anyone, but here goes: Would you like to see my etchings?

Here’s one based on a  photo I took at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk while my daughter was spinning around up there with a friend. The words are in keeping with a theme of the movie.

Swinging chair fair ride with LIFE IS ART words in foreground

My teenage daughter, who loves to paint, ended up doing a painting of a similar swing ride — one from her imagination. Turnabout is fair play, so I installed these words on her painting in the app.

painting of fairground swing ride with ART IS LIFE in foreground

I then tried to use an embarrassing photo of my husband sleeping in the driver’s seat (thankfully not while driving), but the app stretched him out a little too much, so I substituted him with our happy dog running out of a cave by the beach in San Francisco.

Running yellow lab with words DOGS KNOW HOW TO LIVE! in foreground

Fun! Dogs really do know how to live. Just then, my colleague Michael Kinomoto decided to try the app himself. I figured he’s probably not an artist. He does everything else well, from tech stuff to being the go-to guy for everyone’s questions to being a fine producer. Surely he couldn’t be “artistic,” too… Then I saw his creation. Wayne White, move over!

grassy scene with words WAITING FOR THE BUS in he foreground

Michael’s perfect rendition of a White made me realize that I hadn’t really tried to emulate a Wayne White word painting. So I took one of my many beach photos and created the one below. If any talent had been involved, I’d have been proud of the outcome. It’s not a White or even a Kinomoto, but I like it.

Sun setting into ocean with words KNOW YOUR DEPTHS in foreground

I’m impressed that Words With Wayne could make me look like I have a shred of artistic talent. Thank you for putting this together, Wayne and crew. I could have done this all afternoon. After all, this is part of my job. But the clock was ticking on several deadlines, so it was with a sigh that I took a photo of my desk setup and created my final word painting.

lamp, painting, computer screen with words GET BACK TO WORK in foreground

If you’re so inclined, download the app and show off your “skills” to the world: We’ve created a Pinterest board of Wayne White’s word paintings. We encourage you to share your Words With Wayne creations there. In fact, mine are on there now. It’s my first art show. And most likely, my last. I hope you will join me.

Maria Goodavage