Paint-By-Numbers Art

Paint-By-Numbers Art
Photograph by Peter Yang

NAME: Trey Speegle | AGE: 50 | HOMETOWN: Houston | QUALIFICATIONS: Collector of vintage paint-by-number paintings, which serve as inspiration for his own work / Created a backdrop for Stella McCartney’s Paris runway show/ Collaborated with Jonathan Adler on original paper works / Has a solo show, “Trey Speegle: It’s Not About You,” opening in Manhattan in February at the Benrimon Contemporary

• Growing up in south Houston, I wasn’t satisfied with my surroundings, in more ways than one. There’s this Jasper Johns credo: Take something, do something to it, do something else to it. I’ve always subscribed to that unconsciously, and that’s how I ended up first making art.

• I inherited my collection from my friend Michael O’Donoghue, who was the original head writer on Saturday Night Live . After he died, his widow, Cheryl Hardwick, gave me the collection. He had about two hundred; now I have around three thousand.

• I’ve become a sort of reluctant expert on paint-by-numbers. I’m endlessly fascinated with the variety of subjects and compositions.

• There are just so many different kinds. Some are impressionistic, with pink trees and purple skies. Others are based on movies and television shows like The Flying Nun , Star Trek , and The Monkees . Later came Star Wars , Happy Days , and The Bionic Woman .

• I respond to the quirkiest palettes, and some, when cropped, are just the most beautiful abstractions. To make my own paintings, I draw new line work, print it on canvas, mix a fresh palette, and block out words and phrases. I used to send out affirmation cards as New Year’s wishes, like “Yes” or “It’s Now or Now.” Once I started living with hundreds of these paintings, they merged with my words. I guess that’s what living in this age is about, really—curating and recontextualizing your world to suit yourself.

• What interests me is taking something considered “lowly” and elevating it.

• About a year ago, I collaborated with Anthropologie to create a home collection using my artwork: soap sets, puzzles, plates, pilows, rugs, bedding, wallpaper. Paint-by-numbers started out decades ago as a product; now it is heading back in that direction. I just put it through my own filter.

• Art with a capital A has very little to do with the average person’s life. I like having my work seen outside of traditional art venues, using retail commerce as a type of “message-delivery system.” People seem to connect with the work.

• If you can’t afford a $10,000 painting, you can buy a $60 pillow.

• I just bought 275 paintings from one source on eBay. I really shouldn’t mention it, though! Every time I talk about collecting them, the prices go up.

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