Clopricrumb moon, Germini rising: Inside the mystically silly world of Horror Scoops
Heather Buchanan's absurdist horoscopes have amassed a tremendous Instagram following
When Heather Buchanan posted illustrations of the Zodiac signs in July 2021 on her Instagram account, they were basically a joke. She gave funny names to each Zodiac sign — Consurr for Cancer, Splattitaribus for Sagittarius — and wrote traits like "so-so swimmer" and "orders off the kids' menu" around her illustrations of each sign.
But the posts blew up!
Buchanan has been an established part of the Calgary art scene for years — Avenue magazine put her on their Top 40 Under 40 list in 2019 — exhibiting her pop culture paintings of celebrities doing things like talking on the telephone or eating. She also runs a successful online shop, where she sells colourful and eccentric prints and paintings of things like characters without noses and talking fruit. And, as she wrote in an essay for CBC Arts last year, she does her art while suffering from chronic migraines.
The Capricorn — or "Clopricrumb" — artist knew she had something with these Zodiac sign illustrations, which she started calling Horror Scoops, but she still wasn't sure what to do with them. Start their own account? Just keep making them intermittently? Nine months later, she decided to commit to Horror Scoops — even if it was just for fun. She created a separate Instagram account for the Scoops in April 2022 and started putting them out every Monday. In just six months, the account has already amassed over 140,000 followers.
CBC Arts spoke with Buchanan about how she comes up with her Horror Scoops each week, where her style comes from and why she decided to make all her most recent paintings in the bath.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
I want to understand how you come up with these horoscopes. I'm a Pisces. Here's what you say Piscerrs can expect this week: "Sure, eating candy will rot your teeth, but rotting your teeth is an exercise in embracing the impermanence of all things. So really, eating candy is just super zen." I don't know what it means — I don't really care — but I love it. How did you come up with this?
I did want to make them a little spooky or Halloweeny this week. So, I started writing the words, "eating candy will rot your teeth," just to see if something else would come. There is a lot of trust in the creative process or trust in internal autofill. Our brains will just come up with something, even if it's not right.
You just write the words, "eating candy will rot your teeth," five times, and write whatever comes next, even if it's bad. You just let yourself fail, like five times. One of them might be good. And you'll be like, okay, that's it, that's a good one, we got it.
Horror Scoops is just a sample of the weirdness you bring to your art. How did you get there?
The voice inside me is unique to me, and it is big, goofy and silly. There's just something there that I have to say that not a lot of people have.
I think that's important for artists to do that, to say the thing that only they could say instead of something more generic. I was being safe and generic and a little bit afraid before, and now I'm letting the big goofball out. It's amazing how much more that resonates with people.
Like your paintings of people without noses, which are quite popular.
That sort of style came from this feeling of breathlessness, of being mid-panic attack, where you can't get enough air in. It's this feeling of utter panic, but the characters also look totally ridiculous, un-human, a little bit bananas, and just silly.
It's that play between something that is utterly absurd and light and silly and very serious. So it's exactly what a lot of my work is about. It is dealing with something serious, but it's also light and silly.
You had an art show in Calgary this past September where you showed a lot of these sorts of paintings. The show was called I Made These Paintings in the Bath because you actually made all the paintings in the bath (watch the process here)! Why did you decide to do that?
So [my art studio space] nvrlnd used to be a by-the-hour hotel, The Shamrock, where all sorts of stuff happened. It got bought by the city, and the nvrlnd folks took it over and have turned it into an amazing, amazing art space. A tiny hotel room stripped of its carpet and tacky motel fixtures makes a perfect art studio!
But because it was a hotel, there's a bathtub in every room. Because, you know, hotel, bathrooms, bathtubs. Most people just put shelving over their bathtubs because you don't need a bathtub. But I was like, there's a bathtub, I'm going to use it.
A lot of people were like, this is disgusting, it used to be a seedy hotel bathtub, don't go in there. But I cleaned out all the weird, 20-year-old hairs out of the drain.
Part of it was knowing that not a lot of people would have the chance to have the perfect bathtub set-up in an art studio, with these nice, flat walls around it that you can hang up watercolour paper on.
I had to research pigments that don't contain any toxic materials because it's definitely getting in the bathwater. Like no cadmium, no harsh metals or anything. On the tags in the show, it would say: watercolour and bathwater.
It's a weird process, painting in the bath, trying to make art in the bathtub. But it's also a fun process because it's relaxing with the heat and the steam. It's a different sort of creative headspace that it puts you in. A lot of us have our best ideas in the shower and the bath.
Did you get very pruned?
Oh my gosh, yes. I did some pretty long bath sessions, some like five-hour bath sessions. Like the sort of dry off, straight to the body lotion afterwards.
Would you do it again?
I'm going to tap the brakes on the bath painting. It's fun to do those sorts of things that are a little out of the box and shake you out of your normal routine. But it was also getting ready for an art show. You'd go to the studio, and be like, okay, to make work for the show, I have to get into a bathing suit. I can't just paint, I have to fill a bathtub. It got a little cumbersome at the end.
You have a sense of adventure in your artistic process.
I don't ever wanna be like, oh, I've never made work like this before, so I can't put this out or anything like that. I always wanna be like, I have this stupid idea, I'm just gonna make this thing anyway. I'm just going to put it out there no matter what and see what happens.
Like these little headstone illustrations [with funny epigraphs written on them], they're just one-offs. But they're really fun to make and just riff on that theme over and over. I've made like 80 of them at this point.
- Watch Heather Buchanan's time-lapse videos as she creates watercolour portraits of some famous faces
I'm just gonna keep making them until it's not fun anymore. Even though I have no idea what I'm doing with them.
I think I've sold like three prints. For all that work, that's $60 I've made from it. But I enjoyed making them. And that's enough sometimes.