This view is from the middle bridge (the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge) over the Piscataqua, looking back at Portsmouth from the Maine side. Phillip Augusta, who was my partner in re:Ports. Magazine at the time, (1981) had taken some nice photos from this angle, and I used them as reference material. I moved the North Church steeple over to the right to balance things out. From this angle in real life it’s actually over above the tugboats.
At time I drew this, I had been reading a lot about “subliminal perception,” and how advertising photos and illustrations were alleged to have disturbing images of sex and death embedded in them to subconsciously stimulate consumers. Things like skulls and sexual organs hidden in the ice cubes. (I have actually found some of these in magazine ads, but I don’t know if they affect viewer’s behavior.)
So, doing this drawing, I thought it would be cool to put some four-letter words in the sky, and see if maybe people became strangely fascinated by the image. I imagined people staring at it on the wall, saying, “I don’t know what it is, but there is just something about this drawing that really gets me!”
So, how is it working? Are you strangely fascinated? At the time I was drawing it I was so worried that people would actually really notice the words that I kept covering them up more and more. So they are pretty much obscured. If you click on the image above, it will come up bigger.
Here’s something that you will be able to notice. The clouds form eyes, nose, and mouth, slanting down and to the right. With the steeple going right into the mouth. At the time, I thought a skull face hidden in the sky would be oh-so diabolically devious. Turns out, it is remarkably similar to the now famous mask from the movie Scream, which came out 15 years later.
This image has been hanging on the wall over a booth in Rosa’s Restaurant for about 20 years. I wonder if it affects patrons’ dining experiences?