10 Great Artists’ Famous Calling Cards


Here at Flavorpill, we love looking for patterns in the culture around us — and patterns there are aplenty. This week, we’ve been thinking about the trademarks that often span artists’ bodies of work. Like a stamp on an official document or a secret code rapped through a bedroom door, many artists, directors and authors have these calling cards — trademarks that they either slip into their works on purpose or that just tend to crop up time and time again in their work. Whether they’re tributes, fascinations, or just stylistic choices that the artist never tires of, we think it’s fun to look for these identifying marks. Click through to read about the calling cards of ten artists across fields, and let us know which easter eggs and trademarks we’ve missed in the comments.

Wes Anderson — The Slow Motion Finale

Anyone who likes movies can tell a Wes Anderson film a mile off — it’s in the color scheme, the special tactile quirkiness, the Owen Wilson — but we were surprised to learn that he has ended almost every one of his films (with the exception of The Darjeeling Limited) with a slow-motion shot. There’s also, as far as we can tell, almost always an underwater scene of some kind.

Chris Van Allsburg — Fritz

As a kid, this writer had a full collection of Van Allsburg’s books, and always made a game of finding Fritz, a little white bull terrier with a black spot over one eye (“a most unusual and appealing dog”) hidden in each one — sometimes as a real dog, sometimes as a toy or picture or other artifact. Fritz is based in part on Winston, a real-life dog owned by Chris Van Allsburg’s brother-in-law, who “had an accident that sent him to the big dog kennel in the sky at an early age.” Aw.

Alfred Hitchcock — The Cameo

No one loves the director cameo more than Alfred Hitchcock. He first appeared as an extra in his 1927 film The Lodger, and since that time made it his trademark, and can be spotted in 39 of his 52 surviving major films. He even has a cameo in Richard Franklin’s Psycho II, despite the fact that he had been dead for three years at the time of its release — his silhouette appears in the shadows in Mother’s bedroom.

Al Hirschfeld — Nina

The legendary caricaturist and illustrator was known for hiding the name of his daughter, Nina, in almost all of the work he produced since her birth in 1945. Hirschfeld would work the name sneakily into the illustration, hidden to everyone who wasn’t looking, and then write a number after his signature reflecting the number of “Ninas” in the work. Apparently, the idea was so popular that the U.S. Army would use his cartoons to train their bomber pilots’ sharp eyes — a practice that Hirschfeld found rather upsetting.

Kurt Vonnegut — Kilgore Trout

Good old Kilgore Trout. Originally created as a fictional version of science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, but also generally read, especially in later works, as an alter ego for Vonnegut himself, Trout appears or is mentioned (or even merely indicated) in many of Vonnegut’s major novels. He is not very popular.

Todd McFarlane — Felix the Cat

Eminent comic book artist Todd McFarlane used to sneak Felix the Cat into his drawings, hidden anywhere from the back of jackets to taxi ads or jam jars. Apparently, this practice originated as a tribute to a friend who, suffering from Post-Traumatic Syndrome, always kept a Felix close at hand. When the friend told McFarlane that he didn’t like superhero comics, McFarlane asked him if he would read them if he drew in Felix — his friend agreed, and the rest is history and comic book easter eggs.

Terence Cuneo — The Mouse

In most of his works created after 1956, celebrated British painter Terence Cuneo hid a mouse — sometimes cartoonish, sometimes lifelike, generally tiny, but always there, hiding like Waldo in plain sight. Yes, even in his portraits of famous people. That’s a pretty adorable trademark, we must say.

John Waters — Mink Stole and Mary Vivian Pearce

Plenty of directors like to cast the same actors time and time again, but like so many things, John Waters has taken that idea to its most extravagant: both Mink Stole and Mary Vivian Pearce have appeared in all fourteen of Waters’s feature films. Divine hangs out a lot too.

Thomas Kinkade — The Letter ‘N’

The letter “N” is hidden in almost all of the polarizing “Painter of Light” Thomas Kinkade’s paintings — incorporated in honor of his wife, Nanette. Much like Hirschfeld, Kinkade indicated the number of ‘Ns’ in any given painting below his signature.

Tim Burton — Blondes, Spirals, Black and White

Basically all of these things.