Windows into the lives of sad clowns; with artist Ana Krutchinsky
Ana Krutchinsky is a writer and longtime artist based in New York City.
In Krutchinsky’s current, ongoing project, she illustrates a series of characters and their deeply relatable stories - but, the series is more than a myriad of fun illustrations. Here Krutchinsky is creating her own pocket universe and publishing it for the world to see.
I sat down with Ana in late February to ask her how she began the series, and where she gets her inspiration.
Who is Ana Krutchinsky?
Krutchinsky has always loved art, and has been drawing for as long as she can remember. Her father, an artist, took her to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from a very young age, where Ana would sit and draw with him for hours.
She attended a performing arts high school, where she began a program that allowed underground and emerging artists to connect with one another. Krutchinsky attended college for art history, and originally intended to become an art auctioneer. After deciding that this path wasn’t for her, Krutchinsky applied to clown school, mostly as a joke. It wasn’t until after her application — and swift rejection — to the clown college, that she began her series of short stories.
Starting in Storytelling
The night the rejection letter came in, Krutchinsky wrote and illustrated stories about two characters: Gilbert and Ingrid. The stories were both roughly 10 pages, each containing a few sentences and an illustration. Krutchinsky’s writing is simple and elegant, a style inspired by authors such as Charles Bukowski and John Steinbeck.
She admired Bukowski’s minimalist writing style, easy enough for a high schooler to understand and resonate with. As for Steinbeck, Ana liked how the author “never tells us how a character feels… rather, he tells us how the emotions land. The reactions.” Ana viewed these writing styles as uniquely effective, and she used them to guide both her writing and illustrations.
Krutchinsky’s series is made up of short stories that allow us to get an in-depth understanding of characters’ personal lives, their problems, and their feelings. Her seemingly simple stories create relatable 3-dimensional characters that are somewhat based on Krutchinsky herself. Because Krutchinsky writes her characters based on her own experiences, the characters have an additional layer of humanity. Her characters have flawed, funny, and relatable lives that make the series such a joy to read.
Each story begins with an introduction and illustration of the character. Some other characters in the series include Olivia, who sits with her roommates one last time before she moves out; Harper, who feels she is not moving fast enough in life; and Mildrid, a fly who accidentally flies into a jazz club and finds meaning in her short life through music. For me, reading this series has sparked a vast range of emotions.
Roger’s is a laugh-or-you’ll-cry story. Darcy’s existentialism made me feel surprisingly at peace. Cade’s homesickness is sad, relatable, and nostalgic all at once. Krutchinsky even wrote her own story once she had built a world for her characters. Ana says that her own story “really relies on all the previous stories that were created before it.” It is the only story told in first-person perspective, and gives readers a pleasant insight to the real person behind the stories.
As she writes more characters, Krutchinsky plans to expand this series into volumes of books. In her words, writing this series feels like “writing a book in front of an audience.” When readers created lore and fan-theories for her characters, she felt honored. “I didn’t plan it that far ahead,” she admitted. Krutchinsky describes her planning process as similar to that of professional chess players: only planning one or two moves ahead.
Though Krutchinsky’s characters have a variety of life experiences, opinions, and appearances, they all have one thing in common: the iconic red dots on their cheeks. Krutchinsky has two main reasons for this design choice. 1. “It looks cool,” and 2. It ties back to the clown school rejection letter that sparked the series. All of her relatable and 3-dimensional characters are little portraits of sad clowns.
We hope you read some of Krutchinsky’s stories and get to know her characters. As you begin to resonate with them, you’ll find new ways to connect to the people in your own life. We all have more in common than we think. In Krutchinsky’s words, “we’re all sad clowns.”