I’m just going to warn you now, you’re going to be looking at circus stuff for a while.

Although the work I am doing right now is mostly preliminary sketches from photographs, old circus posters provide a lot of insight into the way the shows first appeared to the public. I am continually surprised by how many wall-sized posters for sideshow performances feature the word “ALIVE!” Although I have no intention (at this point) of reproducing or creating circus ads, they are good inspiration for context and, in some cases, composition. It’s also interesting to note that the circuses I’ve been looking at were traveling at a time when most people lived in communities that were very insular. This meant that there were no attempts at political correctness because anything out of the ordinary was “AMAZING!” “SAVAGE!” “EXOTIC!” or a “FREAK!” and therefore, very marketable.

(All of these images come from the extensive catalog of the Princeton University Library.)

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