Paint by numbers are known for their kitschy subjects like serene flamingos, pastoral landscapes, and snarling clowns, but those are just scratching the surface. The really weird stuff is what I hunt for in my own collection. Skeleton wearing an eye patch? Got it. Kitten dressed up like a fancy lady holding a purse? Yep. William Shatner? Check. Mork ‘n’ Mindy? Of COURSE.
The offbeat subjects of vintage paint by numbers are what makes collecting them so much fun. Anybody can get their hands on a Parisian street scene, but the real challenge is to find a vintage San Francisco scene, or anything set in outer space. Are there actual aliens in the scene? Go straight to the bank and get a second mortgage. Even on Ebay, those paintings are hard to win because their unique character really appeals to connoisseurs with deep pockets.
When a small group of Chronicle creative types got together to discuss new project ideas, the concept for a new paint-by-number kit was born. We kept a classic flamingo image in the mix, but added a new twist on the kitten painting, and threw in a hamburger which, to our knowledge, is the FIRST paint by number hamburger painting EVER. Almost two years later, we had a workable format, five awesome “modern masterpieces” from the amazing Lisa Hanawalt, and absolutely no idea how to turn Lisa’s drawings into paint by numbers.
Armed with a Wacom tablet and a never ending supply of iced coffee, I set about tracing and painting and repainting and retracing and then repainting and then retracing the art digitally until we found a system that worked.
You take the Eiffel Tower, I’ll take the poodle with the vacant stare.