I’m Rachel E. Smith- author, painter, librarian, former intern for visionary Garth Marenghi, printmaker, steno for the elite cult unit of the FBI, and herd master, doomed to walk the earth until I’m finally overwhelmed by my allergies or murdered once my allergens become a sentient Voltron-type conglomeration. Some of these things I’ve just said I am may be slightly inaccurate and/or imaginary. Moving on, this is the page upon which I have chosen to visually represent things that I definitely did and that are not imaginary, along with some notes about how I work, since no one asked.
My work is mainly intended to give guinea pigs (mine) their due. Guinea pigs are the only animal I’m definitely not allergic to and mine have been inspiring me and making their sweet and terrifying personalities known to me for long enough that I know they’re legendary animals- not just test subjects who have really helped the human race out quite a bit at this point (thank you very much) and not just rodents people confuse with other rodents who look nothing like them and aren’t herbivores, they are legends. I choose to express their legendary natures through parodies because parody is transformative and humorous. I’m taking two things familiar to me, sometimes more than two things, and making them funny in a new context. My pigs, and I only use my pigs because I know what roles they would take, can make pop culture into something much better by making it cuter, funnier, and piggier in a way no one would ever see it otherwise.
If you’ve seen me at a pop culture convention or other art thingie, it may seem that the title of my booth is a little misrepresentative of what I have, since there are a lot more guinea pigs represented than books. That’s because my books are just ebooks currently (possibly forever) and I do only have three. I finally had a postcard made with all their covers –
The Squirrelpocalypse Trilogy covers. I printed them all by hand off of screens I painted by hand with screen filler.
Pre-print Robots, post-print Interns, with discerning critic Danger Crumples. The red stuff is screen filler. Yes, this process takes forever. For-ev-er. But it’s the only way I can print without photo chemicals and I like to print.
So many hand-printed covers. So many.
Here are three of the illustrative works I’ve completed for my Squirrelpocalypse Trilogy – two WPA-inspired paintings and a silkscreen featuring the opposite of what my heroine Regan was doing during the 80s, hand-printed in shiny purple.
In addition to printing the covers for my own books, I’ve also been parodying book covers from genres that are pretty relevant to both my writing work and what I review.
1990s YA horror is dear to my heart, which is why I review that sort of book during YA Megamix Summer every year on this very blog. Danger Crumples parodies of Christopher Pike covers just make it more obvious how much I care about those generally preposterous narratives; I mean, I transformed their visuals with Danger Crumples, it’s impossible to show more humorous appreciation than including that pig, except for also including Ozymandias and Horace.
Here’s a progress shot of two of the R.L. Stine cover parodies I’ve done – along with Salem about to hunt witches.
Prey Street with Per E. Grine (and Merricat and Ozma) and Finnybumps, Finny’s series where he finally gets to scare Salem.
The 1980s horror paperback is how I would most like some of my writing to be published, so, time travel would be nice and I’m waiting. In the meantime, I parodied 80s horror paperbacks with little Ozma and her phone and her ominous neon doorway.
The original Carolyn Keene came from my hometown. Danger Crumples came from Mississippi to my hometown in a golden van. He takes mystery solving to a new, somewhat non-functional level as Danger Drew.
For the Danger Drew parody paintings, I took the book element to a new, way harder to complete level by painting the spines. It was also an opportunity for me to sign my paintings somewhere easier to see.
I did the majority of the Danger Drew paintings for my mom, who has always appreciated books and instilled that in me. One of my favorite things about older books is that they sometimes have excellent endpapers, so I parodied those too. That’s little Finny, the villain pig to Danger’s hero pig mysteriously digging. He would never wear that hat.
The Oz books were what I read in the car during a couple of summer road trips to New Mexico when I was younger and Ozma was the part of the film Return to Oz that scared me least; and then came my Ozma via the Humane Society in Milwaukee. This is the start of her painting on claybord, the other thing I paint on besides canvas.
Here she is with the finished version of the first time I painted her as a giant head.
Dead things break!
Two very important types of animals laid bare via silkscreen and paint – guinea pig and mini horse.
Most of the skull paintings I’ve done are on little 4×6 canvases and I’ve sold them as blind paintings. However, the rhino (top row, second from right), is a lot bigger.
Now, let’s all go to the lobby…
…where my paintings parodying movies are not displayed.
The first series of guinea pig parodies I decided to do was John Carpenter’s Guinea Pigs.
Here are all of John Carpenter’s Guinea Pigs all together.
This series started with The Pig, and the idea that Danger Crumples is an otherworldly animal. He was still alive when I drew the logo for the title card and entirely otherworldly, really. Before I managed to draw him, or conceptualize anything beyond just The Pig’s logo, I adopted Peregrine. Her middle name is Plissken because on the website of the Humane Society she looked like she had one eye, and I knew she was tough. She’s six years old as of the writing of this paragraph and still nipping.
She’s had to pose for so many photos with paintings. So many. This painting has never been exhibited publicly, neither has she.
Without the existence of Danger Crumples and Peregrine in the same place, there would be no John Carpenter’s Guinea Pigs. I tailor what I’m painting to the pigs, I don’t stick them in any roles that don’t make sense for them, which is why Finny is the Antichrist in Pigs of Darkness and Ozma looks so bizarrely sweet waiting to have her blood tested for signs of alien invasion in The Pig.
The Pig, featuring mostly Peregrine, Danger Crumples, Horace, and Ozma.
The blood test scene painting at the drawing stage; Peregrine, Ozma, and Horace circling as their “pose” with the series; and Miss Pere, star.
Pigoween. Featuring Peregrine, Merricat, and Ozma. They really wouldn’t be very good babysitters.
Peregrine and Ozma pose with the drawing for Pigoween.
And once again, Peregrine, star.
Pigs in the Fog, because it can’t be The Pig twice. Short titles sometimes cause humorous transformation problems. Featuring Merricat, Danger Crumples, Horace, and Ozma.
Pigs in the Fog – drawing stage for two and then Horace looks like he’s about to tell Ozma something surprising while posing in front of the finished works.
Pigs of Darkness. Featuring Finny, Peregrine, Ozma, and Horace.
By the end of the series, Peregrine and Ozma had their necessary poses down. And Finny, the antichrist, could not be on the same level as all the others. For reasons.
Horace truly understood how to pose with paintings.
George Romero is the next director whose work I have begun to tackle. Season of the Pigs it is.
Merri reprises her Adrienne Barbeau sweater, Pere assumes the mantle of control, Finny rodeo rides a roach, Horace gets into meteors as a non-lunkhead, Danger Crumples would always get his cake, and Ozma lets Salem play in the sand. Peegshow.
Peegshow in progress.
The only other two Romero movies I’ve parodied so far are Martin, with Horace, and Night of the Living Dead, with Ozma’s giant head going nearly Karen. She would never kill me with a trowel. For one thing, no thumbs means if she could find a trowel, she couldn’t pick it up, but in paintings things are magically possible.
I finished Horace as Martin shortly before he passed. He was still demonstrating that he knew just how to pose with the painting.
The Finning. Finny shredding hallway and Horace and Mortemer finally, in death, get to demonstrate that they were nearly twinsies.
Actual Finny is much smaller than hallway Finny.
Thaddeus and Pammy are more old school in their haunts. Yep.
Army of Dangers, the beginning. It took the entirety of the movie Sisters (the Brian De Palma one with Margot Kidder) to draw that logo.
Fully painted, smirking.
Printmaking Danger break before things get weirder!
Danger’s my hero and my main method of working throughout 2016 was to draw a painting, make a stencil, and make a print version of the painting.
Finny is my villain pig and that’s why he is Fimpus, the cutest little Christmas evil there is.
These three prints represent my early stages of figuring out a printing process I could successfully do in a living room. Old school peegs Pammy on a mammoth, Mortemer, and Danger Crumples with his flashlight.
This is what my living room looks like when I’m printing.
This is what it looks like when I’m trying to reclaim my screen.
And back to the movies.
Some entities don’t understand humor, and by entities I mean mainly corporations with lots of money. This is not surprising, however, their ability to have fair uses of their properties, legit ones, where stuff is funny and transformed and not just represented in a way that would actually distract from their property, is disheartening. The freedom to make fun of things and make them more interesting is one of the main things I value. I’ve never ripped anybody off and I protected the rights of authors and artists dead and not so dead via copyright law as part of my library career, so it was very painful to have my work taken down from sites I could gain passive, very occasional, income from based on some inability to understand what parody really is and what it’s not.
That said, I can still show everyone what I did.
By the way, the Porgs do look like a rip off of Peregrine to me, that’s how I got the idea for her to Heavy Metal valkyrie ride one. Also, villain pig Finny rides again, well, stands dynamically.
Peregrine is the only pig of mine who has been targeted for false-premise takedowns of my work. Here she is, owning it on her log pillow.
Speaking of targeting, here’s Salem as the Witchfinder General. It’s ironic because Salem is so sweet and may live for the exact amount of time the actual Witchfinder was tooling his way through the English towns.
Salem is basically the intern of my herd right now. He’s new, he’s young, he’s watched Real Genius and is the exact opposite of Val Kilmer’s character, he could be a witchfinder, and he likes that Trex.
Speaking of witches… Ozma is truly the manipulative force in the woods of my herd.
Although the goat in this painting is Black Phillip’s cousin Mose – clearly – without The Witch I would not have known that my true painting and general artistic aesthetic could be summed up in this image of Finny and Mose driving in what I refer to as “Totally Hades.”
After Horace passed, I found Salem at the Humane Society – he was also the lone guinea pig at a satellite, stuck hanging out with a rabbit nearby and no other guinea pigs. However, integrating a seriously skittish pig into my herd of seasoned veterans at being spoiled was much harder for Salem. He took a long time to warm up, and spent most of his time for at least three months bolting for his hiding places. That experience made me come up with this painting:
Potentially unsaveable community center, indeed.
And now for something completely different:
It’s Pickles. Sometimes I come across things that are already parodies that I then must also parody to some extent out of respect and adoration. In this case, the 1970s children’s instructional book sensibility of Steven Rhodes’ parody works was a perfect place for a sweet guinea pig who ran like a rhinoceros and was born into my care to reveal that she has mind powers. The silkscreen was done in fire red ink. On certain colors of paper it hurts to look at, which is awesome.
That’s Pyroguinesis, Kyle.
The Pickles Pyroguinesis pieces oddly provide a point of vengeance for a practice that I read about while doing my main paper for the one graduate student-level anthropology class I took (I love skulls, can’t work with dust, plus the timing to get my double Master’s at the time wouldn’t work how I wanted it to when I was getting my MLIS). My paper was on the use of guinea pigs in the before time aka the long long ago and I found a summary from a Spanish dude about the Incas rubbing a guinea pig all over a sick person and then cutting it open to see what part was inflamed, as clearly the guinea pig would either help diagnose or cure the person – foreshadowing for lab work, anyone?
So, anyway, what they didn’t mention was whether or not the guinea pig was alive when they rubbed it all over the sick person. So when I was drawing my slides for the presentation of my paper (I hate Powerpoint and it wasn’t required…) I drew one skeleton rubbing a very worried looking live guinea pig on a very dramatically posed sick skeleton. Later, I learned from a book with a chapter about guinea pigs’ contribution to the sciences (a lot) that they were alive during the rubbing process just like I thought. Pickles has now set that idea on fire. She wasn’t rubbed on anyone to diagnose or help them. Her species has helped enough. Public service is rarely well rewarded for those who do it well, that’s clearly the message of Pyroguinesis in my parody.
Here is as good a spot as any for these two paintings of my hero pig Danger Crumples and my villain pig Finny that both utilize neon purple in oh-so-slightly different ways.
Now for TV!
A pigtacular pop culture transformation would not be complete without some reference to my other love, television.
The first television parodies I completed involved, who else, Danger Crumples.
The finished version of this painting sold before I got a chance to take a picture of many TV parodies together.
The day I painted seven Dangers, into TV and movie and book parodies. It was very hard.
These Danger Whos are the first TV parodies I made specifically for public consumption.
Weirdly enough, TV is where Finny made his little foray into hero behavior. Loner weirdo hero behavior, but that’s why I love Samurai Jack.
He ran from all responsibility. He was just mad I didn’t make him Aku. It was like I didn’t even know him.
But I do know my Finny well, which is why he became a Findigo, the Finny Beast, in my Hannibal parody.
Tea towels for those who eat the rude or just want a cute Finnylope in their kitchen.
Another pig I know awfully well habit-wise is the ever bird-adjacent and excellent at napping Peregrine. Her house is grey on the outside, therefore making living in Grayskull cuter was not a stretch. Also, she’s in charge of the herd. Her wisdom abounds. Via naps.
Danger Things established that the book cover team of Ozymandias, Danger, and Horace can segue into television – and that Pere looks awesome in glasses in Pere-Barb.
The living pigs inspect their representations. Strange.
Danger Things II: Strange Things are Afoot brought in the fresh face of Merri-Catra and gave Pere the chance to show off with her initial pumpkin as the only living pig in the painting.
We do love the dead around here though… hero pig.
We also love billiards. Or, more accurately, I also love Twin Peaks and my ladypigs.
Ominous synthesizer tones.
My ladypigs are not what they seem.
I conceptualized and painted “Thank you for being a friend” aka Golden Guineas because this herd – Finny, Peregrine, Ozma, and Horace – were together for two full years. Two full years of random surgeries and ridiculousness, but, they epitomize the ideal of a guinea pig herd and can also demonstrate that while wearing wigs and playing cards near the lanai.
Two of my most fun TV group paintings – iPiggie and Peegs in Shirts.
Peegs in shirts brings several nonconcurrent guinea pigs together in the name of wearing t-shirts and driving around solving children’s mysteries. Horace, Pammy, Thaddeus, Ozymandias, Danger Crumples, and that wily Finny are all in. Peregrine is too cool since she’s parodying one of my favorite concepts in toys and chalkware over time – the smoking pet.
Ozma-Liv knows she’s way cuter than my Liv toys and Major Finnywhite demonstrates what it’s like trying to get him to pose remotely like how he is in the painting.
If you’ve read this far, just know that I’ll occasionally update this page with yet more, so your audience work is never done. However, there are rewards. The cuteness you experienced and the lack of friends made along the way.
Thank you for reading and viewing, here are two (for now) pictures of the merch that goes with all this work to shows with me, what I made and what I ordered edition:
Posters and postcards – and blind paintings, which I paint, have someone skilled wrap up, and sell for $5. Sometimes people want them. Sometimes they confuse people. I cannot predict shopping for things you can’t see trends.
The mark of true artistic achievement to me was being able to order Merricat on a throw pillow, but where there’s Merricat there must be Peregrine.