Trust the Process
The Packers vs. Cowboys fans meme
Many of you have asked for deeper insight into my process, and Substack provides a great platform to go more in-depth. This broadcast screengrab went viral during the Packers vs. Cowboys game, and a number of people tagged me in the image:
The first step is figuring out if the image is even worth working on; in this case it’s clearly compelling and funny enough where if I came up with a good match, it would justify the time spent.
There wasn’t an exact painting that came to mind (other than in another slightly different version of the screengrab, the Packers boy had an expression similar to depictions of Marsyas), but the scene evokes a lot of similarity to the art history theme of Merry company. A common genre of the Dutch Golden Age, they tend to showcase a full spectrum of emotions on one canvas (rare to find in paintings from other periods), and oftentimes feature figures either passed out drunk or soon to be.
One of my favorite artists of that time is Jan Steen, who has a number of paintings that fall squarely into the Merry company canon. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, where a number of his works are featured. So, upon seeing the screengrab, I went into the folder I have of paintings that I’ve photographed - it’s ordered by date taken, which in turn means it’s ordered by location - and started to look through my shots from the Rijksmuseum and Alte Pinkothek, hoping I had something that could work.
This painting of his - the Drunken Couple, from the Rijksmuseum, confirmed that I was looking in the right place, but I didn’t have anything else that fit the bill, so I started looking through his catalog online. His work: The Wine is a Mocker, from the Norton Simon Museum in California, was close, but I wanted more emotion from the figure that was going to be matched with the Packers fan.
After a bit more digging, I found what I was looking for, ‘Peasants drinking and smoking in a tavern,’ attributed to Jan Steen. I spent some time searching for a higher quality image, but had to settle on something that was fairly pixelated.
I normally wouldn’t post something this blurry, but given the comparison was to a screengrab and less about the quality of a professional photograph vs. the humor of the moment, I let it slide. And I figured it was worth doing this write-up because it’s a good example of not immediately knowing the exact image, but using Art history and knowledge about artists and their styles to find something that works.
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