The art of comedy: Mama Spell draws up, paints the NYC comedy scene in new gallery exhibition

Opentab Do you ever see something funny happening in front of you and wish you could capture the moment? Sharon "Mama" Spell has been doing just that in recent months, and her artwork is now on display in Brooklyn at The Fall Cafe.

I asked her about her exhibition, and here's what she told me…

"A rule of thumb for any creative endeavor is to go with what you know. That's true for comedians to talk about personal experiences, letting your individual interpretation of a situation come through. The same is true for visual art.
It's a large part of why I believe Mindy Tucker has been so successful in photographing the comedy and music world. Her friends were putting on shows, and she has talent and a camera: make art from what you see before you.
In January of this year I had my first solo art show at The Fall Cafe, then booked this second one which opens November 6. I needed to make new work, but with my schedule I spent a lot of time hanging out after comedy shows. While the networking was fun, I needed to be more productive with my time. I had an old sketchbook that fit into my messenger bag, and just started taking it with me. Thought about also taking my oil pastels along, but that would be too messy. Just ended up using whichever ball point pen was handiest."

"The more interesting drawings came from capturing live performances. Many initial sketches were montages of performers on stage, 5 to 7 minute sketches (the lengths of their sets), mixed in with my own personal notes or set lists. Was able to capture their likeness even with their moving around the stage. This was a fun challenge. Eventually I started making more environmental compositions. What ended up emerging was a collection of scenes, and these are the ones the paintings are based on; like the Toulouse Lautrec of NYC Comedy.
Most of the comedians who've seen the drawings are flattered and favorably impressed. One time when I was mid-sketch, someone flippantly remarked that I was doing my 'parlor trick.' That did make me laugh because it had some truth to it. I sketch pretty quickly, getting a composition down on the page before the sitters (or I) lose interest. She was mainly remarking on that. Or, she was just hating.
It's been a while since I worked directly from real life models. I've either been working from found images (found in the texture of paint patterns) or from stencils based on photographs. I've also been making digitally based illustrations. But I feel more personally connected to these pieces than with those other works. I not only put my friends likenesses into this art, but more of myself, more of my personal voice. It's going to be harder to part with these.
The thing I mostly want to convey with this show is to just make your art. You may not have the ideal setting, tools or time, but you do have some setting, tools and time. Make it happen!"

Open Tab

Paintings & Drawings of NYC's Comedy Community

The Fall Cafe, 307 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY (F/G to Carroll Street)

Through December 17.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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