Music


I should have been at a jam, painting my friends making music together.  Instead, I was at ArtWalk in downtown Bethlehem on Memorial Day Weekend (when everyone has left town) in the middle of a thunderstorm.  Sitting outside with one’s art is not the best choice in the pouring rain.  Fortunately, I was able to move inside and spend a couple of ours catching up with a good friend, Gayle, who was minding the shop at Artfully Elegant.  Thanks to Gayle, I didn’t go home and slit my throat.

When I find myself at the end of a rope ….. any rope ….. I tell myself that the answer to my problem is simply to get better at what I do.

New and old drawing tools

The trumpet parts had not lined up well in Trumpet Parts No. 87.  First thing this morning, I made myself a grid guide (inspired by the one I saw in Nikolay’s hand at a plein air event last month).  I carefully drew the bent trumpet part, checking and correcting…. checking and correcting. I even hunted down two erasers.  I rarely use an eraser.  Hah!  The parts lined up! I’m sure you can’t tell in this photo.  I incuded my Waterman Phileas fountain pen, and the great leather case (contribution from Nicole), in the photo because it’s about to make its mark on the paper.  Hopefully I haven’t destroyed the surface too much with all my erasures.  I’m not used to drawing in pencil first …. then inking.  I much prefer to start right in with ink and go where my eye leads me, even if it’s down a winding, nonsensical path.

As I near the end of this series of One Hundred Drawings of Trumpet Parts I am faced with a dilemma. A little voice inside my head continues to whisper “Do what you love and the money will come.”  Do what I love?  Should I start another 100 drawings of my bent trumpet parts?

What do I love to draw and paint?  I love drawing dancers in motion, musicians playing …. alone or with others ….. I love throwing paint and bringing nude figures out of the splotches and splatters …. I love plein air painting.  I love starting the day with an ink contour drawing of my bent trumpet parts and adding color with watercolor.

What do I love the most?  Right now I would have to say that it is painting to live music …. letting my dip pen dance across the paper and the watercolor flow over the ink to the patterns and rhythm of the music.  Is there a market for such a thing?  I doubt it.

What I find absurd is that all the other drawing and painting I do is just an exercise to get better at drawing and painting so that I can respond completely intuitively to that incredible moment of motion, rhythms and patterns I experience when listening to live music.

A huge thanks to all the musicians who have created those magical moments for me to attempt to express.

I didn’t really care about selling paintings last night at ArtWalk, I just wanted to share them with friends and strangers.  Of the two people who walked by, one of them made it worth the week of matting and the lugging back and forth of the art.  She looked at the paintings and said ” How strange ….. when I look at these, I actually hear the music.”  She pointed to one ….. “I can hear the jazz of New Orleans in this one!”

Thank you!

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Another painting from last night …. the audience eating and drinking before the performance by Walter Trout and the Radicals, Artsquest RiverJazz 2012.

Before the show began… SteelStacks Cabaret

Still more to come ….. I’m headed to the scanner now.

Painting: line drawing drawn first with dip pen using Noodler’s Black Swan in English Roses Ink followed by watercolor.

Sketchbook pages can be as fragmented as bizarre dreams, shifting kaleidoscopically from one impression to another.

Portraits and Pianos

I felt as if I had the room to myself, a private performance of musicians who came through the snow to play for me.  A bit surreal.  My mind wandered.

An empty stage and Valentines

Red metallic hearts hung from the ceiling, spiraling in the occasional draft of air that made its way through the door and around the corner.  I traded sheets of paper for my sketchbook, needing a connection between my wandering mind and my hand.  Memories of writing poetry forty years ago in the dim-lit bars of Boston crept like ghosts into the room, filling the empty chairs.  I needed live music then and I still need it now.  In place of words I draw lines, filling them with colors.  Am I addicted to the music or to making marks on paper? ….. I wonder.

Images: Top – pencil portraits of Arne Englund and Don Plowman, ink drawing of piano in the corner.

Bottom – drums and empty chair, sketch of Doc Z, Valentine Decorations, ink and watercolors

Regardless of what happened yesterday, today offers the opportunity to be more optimistic, to smile a bit more and to transform my life into one that comes closer to my dreams.

Poppies outside the window

I was tempted to paint the fallen petals on the table again this morning.  Only one petal was left clinging to the three stems in the vase.  It had stretched itself across the stems like an animal skin strung for drying. Instead I turned my attention to the poppy garden outside the window, the alien-like pods bent in the gray light of a cloudy morning.

Tomorrow I give an artist’s talk at Connexions Gallery in Easton where my current exhibit of Blues Jam paintings hangs.  I am grateful to Chas Cochran, “Harpman”, who has agreed to play harmonica after the talk so that I can demonstrate my technique of painting musicians in action.  I look forward to this gathering and hope that my passion for life and for capturing the moments of music and motion will outshine my current gloominess.

I am feeling like one of the poppy pods outside the window.  I am ready to burst out into an outrageous, yet fragile, bright orange blossom tossing about in the wind, my many layers of petals catching the light of the sun and looking like a neon light against the dark green of my foliage.

I want to travel and paint, exploring this land and other lands, getting to know the people of those lands.  I want to fill my sketchbooks with the drawings that capture the essence, the traditions, music and dance of local folk, wherever I find myself.  That is my dream.

Drawn first with Parker 51 fountain pen followed by watercolor washes.

Commitment to completing a series of drawings or paintings allows moves me forward, often in a direction I would not have otherwise discovered.

Sketch One, Broken Trumpet Parts

I am committing to one hundred paintings or drawings of the trumpet parts I bought yesterday at the yard sale.  This is the first of the series.   It is the next to the last sketch in one of my many sketchbooks that I am completing before I begin, yet another, wonderful sketchbook. I’m not sure if I can keep that promise to myself.  One more page to go.  I wonder what it will appear on that last page.

Sketch One of the trumpet parts began as a line drawing in black ink drawn using my Pelikan Fountain Pen.  I applied washes with a limited palette of of raw sienna and manganese blue.

I struck gold on the way home from  the Route 46 Flea Market this morning.

Box of broken trumpet parts

I found five art books, one collection of illustrated short stories published in 1900, The Green flag and Other Stories by A. Conan Doyle, and a copy of How to Do Almost Anything by Bert Bacharach at the Route 46 Flea Market this morning.  We were headed home when a moonstone, hidden in a box of junk jewelry at a yard sale, beckoned.  We turned the car around and drove back to the yard sale.  I found the hidden moonstone….. but that is a story for another time.  I really don’t want another moonstone, worn by a stranger, in my life right now.  As I looked at the rest of the junk, trying to talk myself out of paying $3 for the gemstone, I stumbled upon this box of broken trumpet parts.  What a goldmine!

Trumpet Parts

Abstraction begging to be manipulated with pencil and paint, even more complex and intriguing than the corroded copper piping I painted a couple of months ago.  All I need is more time to paint!  Please, universe!

Two Tips from How To Do Almost Everything by Bert Bacharach:

“Put a little olive oil in the water when washing your car.”

“Ever hit a skunk with your car? Makes big trouble.  Dissolve a cupful of dried mustard in a bucket of water. Use a mop to slosh down wheels, underbody, anywhere the scent may be.  Repeat if necessary.”

I came upon a gesture painting I did a couple of years ago of Eric Ortega dancing.  Ahhhhhhh what a thrill it was to watch him dance.

Eric Ortega in Motion, Watercolor Sketch

These little watercolor gesture paintings mean more to me than the more elaborate studio paintings I have done over the many years I have been painting.  I love moments that steal my breath away.  The little paintings I do during live performances of dance and music capture those special moments of stolen breath when the air is filled with the expression of emotion through movement or music.

I don’t know how my life will unfold during the next thirty years, or even during the next three years.  My hope is that I will be able to spend my time nurturing the energy of creative people through my own expression, in drawings and paintings, of the energy they release through their music, dance, poetry, film or any other method of expression.

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