“The surface of cardboard is fabulous to work on,” she said. “I love the way it feels and what happens to the paint, which soaks in a little bit, then starts to build up a harder surface, because acrylic paint dries fast.”
Strassman got the idea for working on commercially printed surfaces one day around 12 years ago, when she was bored with a model in her studio and found herself intrigued by the graphics on a Bread and Circus bag.
Her first painting on cardboard, which her gallery owner loved and quickly sold, was of Venus de Milo, the iconic, armless sculpture in the Louvre created by Alexandros of Antioch.
Most of the famous figures in Strassman’s series are from popular culture or current events rather than art history, and they were chosen in part with the viewer in mind.
“It is very difficult to be a portrait painter, because people respond to images they know, or they want you to paint their kid,” Strassman said. “I don’t want to paint their kid. But how do I put something on my canvas people will respond to?”
Her choice of subjects is suggested by famous people’s features, however, as much as their celebrity.
“There has to be something there that speaks to me about a face,” Strassman said. “Lincoln — I think he has a wonderful face.”
And while the faces of Lincoln and Willie Nelson are immediately recognizable, Strassman makes their images her own with vivid touches of color and vigorous brush strokes.
“When I’m working on an image, I’m almost challenging that image, and I feel I’m not making a painting; I’m making a person,” she said. “It’s interesting; in the process of painting, there comes a point when it seems to come alive.”