Ray Bradbury brings his ‘Dark Carnival’ to Santa Monica on Oct. 24

Oct. 09, 2009 | 12:27 a.m.

Ray Bradbury painting

Meet Ray Bradbury, the illustrating man.

The 89-year-old dreamer is renowned as a lion of literature, of course, but it’s his longtime pursuit of the visual arts that will bring him to the Santa Monica gallery called Every Picture Tells a Story on Oct. 24. Bradbury will be there to unveil a new giclee print of an evocative oil painting that he completed back in 1948 and has come to refer to as “Dark Carnival.”

Dark Carnival cover

“Painting has been part of my life since I was a child,” Bradbury told me Thursday when we spoke by phone. “My Aunt Neva went to the Art Institute of Chicago and she took courses there and she took me to see the paintings. I began to paint in the 1930s and 1940s and I did a lot of amateur work over the years. I visited art galleries everywhere I went in the world.”

It was restless imagination that put the brush in Bradbury’s hand most often, but in the case of the midnight vision shown above, he reached for canvas with a measure of frustration. It’s also no coincidence that the moody piece shares the name of the author’s first book, which was published in 1947, when Bradbury was 27.

The collection of 27 short stories (which had a print run of about 3,100 copies) was clearly a proud career moment for the young Illinois native but he still got a sour feeling whenever he looked at the cover — he just couldn’t stand the cover by George Burrows, a composition with primitive masks that you can see here on the left.

Dark Carnival cover

“I didn’t like the original cover that was on the book when it came out so I designed my own. I made this painting and hoped that someone would use it as the cover in the future,” Bradbury explained. (He eventually got his wish, as you can see with the 2001 Gauntlet Press special expanded edition of “Dark Carnival,” shown here on the right.)

Bradbury is such a visual writer, I asked if through the years he found himself creating stories to go with his paintings, or vice versa.

“My artwork doesn’t inspire my writing, it’s my writing that inspires my artwork,” said the author of “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles.” “All of my stories are combinations of metaphors, visual metaphors and poetry.When I was in my teen years, I tore pictures out of magazines and wrote prose poems about them. And my painting is a prose poem written about itself. My stories don’t influence that, they are separate, but other people’s pictures and paintings do.”

This is the third Bradbury painting that has been revived in this fashion by the gallery and, with its primal energy, blustery twinkle and midnight tremble, I’d say it’s the best one, too. (See if you agree, the other two prints are here.) For many years, the “Dark Carnival” painting (which, technically, is an untitled piece, but if Bradbury calls it “Dark Carnival,” well, that’s good enough for me…)  was in the collection of the author’s longtime friend, the late Forrest J. Ackerman, but now it is owned by Donn Albright, the noted Bradbury scholar and bibliographer.

Every Picture Tells a Story had the painting photographed and printed on prestige-quality paper. The edition is limited to 200, each signed by Bradbury. The prints are 18 inches by 24 inches and cost $300. Bradbury will attend the public reception at the gallery (1311-C Montana Ave. in Santa Monica) at 4 p.m.; autographed books and items will be sold. (He will not, however, be signing items at the event).

After the art event, at 7:30 p.m., Bradbury will introduce a screening of the 1983 film “Something Wicked This Way Comes at American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre (at 1328 Montana Ave., just across the street from the gallery). Here’s a trailer for that Disney film, which had Bradbury as the screenwriter adapting his own 1962 novel.

I plan to be at both events, hope to see some of you Hero Complex readers there….

– Geoff Boucher

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