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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Have a lot on my plate this morning, a lot of things needing to be done. But I came across this video by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, the late Townes Van Zandt, and thought I would share it. It’s called Big Country Blues and the video features the photos of primarily working class Americans from the great Richard Avedon.

It’s a compelling video, given this time in this country. I watched it twice this morning just to fully take in the imagery and Townes’ music never lets me down. I wish he were around just to hear his take on these times. He could write some sad songs, after all.

Give it a look and a listen.

 

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Mesmerized

I was looking for an image to pair with the music I want to share today  and thought this old piece might work since I’ve been showing a lot of older unseen work lately. It’s a watercolor piece from 1995 or 1996 that I never felt secure enough about to show, one with a guitar dominating the front of the picture plane and a dark character propped in the doorway.

There are a few things wrong with this piece, most notably the way the fretboard  just ends at the body of the guitar. And the dark character is just, well… a little strange. He’s either smoking a cigarette or has been recently on fire–which might explain his charred appearance– and is still smoldering.

But even with these obvious flaws, for some reason I still find myself looking fondly at this piece and liking it. Still not sure about showing it to anybody but liking it, nonetheless.

The music I wanted this to accompany is from Australian fingerstyle guitarist Alan Gogoll who is being hailed for his technique that creates bell-like harmonic tones. I came across a couple of his videos and was drawn in by the way the filming focused on his hands. I am fascinated by watching the hands of musicians when they play and his technique has a grace and poetry in the movement of his hands.

He also has a series of short Instagram videos and one very long Youtube video in which the camera is inside the guitar facing out through the sound hole. You see his fingers picking and the vibration patterns of the strings as each string is plucked. Called Stringscapes, they are pretty mesmerizing.

I am showing a short song called Mulberry Mouse first, followed by the Stringscapes video. As I said, this video is long, coming in at 28 minutes. But it is worth at least taking a look for a minute or two. Or longer. Actually, while I was writing this I took a look and about four minutes passed. I said they were mesmerizing.

You can see more on Alan Gogoll’s website by clicking here.


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I am at work on a large commissioned piece. As a rule, I don’t like doing commissions because I sometimes fear the client’s aims and expectations will somehow cloud my creative process and ultimately make the painting less than it might otherwise be. And for me, trying to please someone else’s eye rather than my own is not usually conducive to good work.

And at the beginning of this particular painting, that definitely seemed the case.

I had several reference photos that were provided by the client to give me context and as general guidelines for the kind of landscape they hoped for in the painting. I don’t normally– actually, I never– work from reference photos. I don’t know why but in this case I tried to remain absolutely faithful to them.

It wasn’t good.

I spent a few frustrating days repeatedly laying out the piece then painting it over to restart again. It just didn’t move, didn’t feel alive. It made me tense and a little angry to where I finally came to a place where I determined that I was being too fixated on accuracy and was setting aside the things that I felt were important to me in my work– rhythm, line and pattern.

This was my painting so it had to excite and please me first. I made the decision to have it do just that and began making big changes that would imbue it with the things I needed to see and feel in it. I began to move things around, cutting away elements in the composition and changing the flow of the landscape.

It began to grow in a more organic and less thought out way. Each step got me more engaged and more excited, each subsequent layer of color bringing it a bit more vibrant and alive. I worked last night on it, leaving as it came to a point where it is has all its momentum steaming forward. All of it’s potential seems now evident to me and it feels like it is a balloon filled to the absolute limit, ready to burst at any instant into a mass of color and movement.

For me, this is the most exciting point of a painting. It’s there and I just have to tear away the shell that is keeping it restrained. I feel a palpable excitement looking at it this morning.

I feel good.

I can’t show you any in progress shots because I believe this is meant to be a surprise gift. So I will instead show a very old watercolor from around 1994 which acts as a segue to a little music from the venerable John Lee Hooker and a song whose title and feeling absolutely hit the mark this morning.  It’s his boogie classic I Feel Good.  I call the painting Leroi’s Yellow Guitar.

I could paint to this all day long…

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Don’t have much to say this morning and I’m fumbling around the internet looking for something that sparks my imagination. I did come across the painting above from F.H. Varley (1881-1969) who was part of the famed Canadian Group of Seven painters, a highly influential gathering of landscape painters in the 1920’s and 30’s.

This piece is called Untitled (Mist and Sunset) and is from around 1930. It’s a bit looser than most of Varley’s other work, which I will highlight here at some point, but the expressiveness of it really spoke to me. Something very right about this piece, at least for me. Those bits of light in the center, which might be ( or not be) sunlight on the caps of waves, give the piece an ethereal feel that gives me pause this morning.

It reminds me that I wanted to mention the passing of Tom Petty the other day which was somewhat overlooked on another bad and black news day. I had been following and listening to Petty since the 70’s with Breakdown still being a personal favorite. Some of his songs have become part of the soundtrack of my life and hearing them sparks personal memories and times long past. He was always rock solid and it seemed like everything he released never let you down.

It all felt honest and part of who he was as an artist and a person. All you can ask…

Here’s his You Don’t Know How It Feels. I guess that is the basis for all art — making people know how you feel– from his music to the Varley painting above.

Good travels to you, Tom…

 

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It was heartening to see the huge turnouts yesterday in  protests against the recent upsurge in white supremacists, neo-nazis and other hate groups. In Boston, a crowd estimated in the range of 40,000 hit the streets in response to a Free Speech Rally organized by an alt-right group whose own crowd ended up being counted in the dozens, not thousands, with estimates ranging from 20 to 100.

The organizers of the event claimed that they were against white supremacy, bigotry and neo-naziism and that they were there to simply exercise their First Amendment rights. The problem is that they have consistently aligned their cause and their political power with the groups that espouse these very things. You can’t build your coalition with these people then simply say they aren’t part of what you are as a group. You willingly let them in the tent knowing who they were– they are part of your circus.

The other part of the free speech argument is that everybody forgets that free speech is susceptible to reaction. You are free to say whatever you want but you must know that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Your expression has cause and effect.

That was shown this past week with the public unmasking of the white supremacists from the events in Charlottesville. Many lost their jobs and faced public ostracization and shaming when they returned home. I am sure there are some out there who see this as being unfair but that is part of the bargain– their freedom to express their views doesn’t not take away the right of anyone else from reacting to it. Reaction is expression and is, so long as it remains non-violent, a First Amendment right.

I go through this on daily basis as an artist which means I am also a small business owner. I have the right and freedom to say or paint whatever I want. But I understand that by doing so I risk alienating potential collectors. It’s not a problem for the most part but I am sure there have been instances when I have expressed political opinions here that have rankled those who lean more to the right. And maybe they won’t buy my work or even like it anymore. That is their right and I accept that risk because I think being fully honest as to who and what I am is a big part of my work.

So, for this Sunday morning music I chose  a song that really fits the subject. It’s Stand! from Sly and the Family Stone. You can’t go wrong with Sly. I urge everyone to stand and express themselves fully. Just leave the guns and clubs at home. If you need them to express yourself, you should ask yourself what you’re really standing for as a human being.

Have a good and peaceful Sunday.

“Stand!”

Stand 
In the end you’ll still be you 
One that’s done all the things you set out to do 
Stand 
There’s a cross for you to bear 
Things to go through if you’re going anywhere 
Stand 
For the things you know are right 
It’s the truth that the truth makes them so uptight 
Stand 
All the things you want are real 
You have you to complete and there is no deal 
Stand. stand, stand 
Stand. stand, stand 
Stand 
You’ve been sitting much too long 

There’s a permanent crease in your right and wrong 
Stand 
There’s a midget standing tall 
And the giant beside him about to fall 
Stand. stand, stand 
Stand. stand, stand 
Stand 
They will try to make you crawl 
And they know what you’re saying makes sense and all 
Stand 
Don’t you know that you are free 
Well at least in your mind if you want to be 

Everybody 
Stand, stand, stand

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I may be an admitted liar but I swear this is the truth: I had a good time at yesterday’s Gallery Talk at the West End. Plus, I think most everybody there did as well. At least, nobody threw anything or cursed at me or stormed out of the gallery. But even beyond those low standards, most everyone seemed pleased with what I will label as an enjoyable hour or so spent talking about art and other things.

It was a great turnout and it was good to see so many old friends along with many new faces. I want to extend a very heartfelt thank you to all in attendance. I know that there are a lot of other things that you could have been doing on a nice summer weekend day and the fact that you chose to spend it listening to me blather on is something I do not take for granted.

Thank you for your great warmth,openness and acceptance. And your great questions and observations. These are things that make standing up there in front of you much easier even in those moments when I am struggling to say something.

I hope you found it worth your time and hope that you will come back again next year.

I will work on new material. A little hint: it may involve tap-dancing.

Or not.

Thank you.

Okay, let’s have this week’s Sunday Morning Music. I have chosen an old Kinks song from back in 1968 that I think fits today’s entry. It’s their classic Days.
Have a great day of your own.

 

 

 

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Maybe it’s a morning for daydreaming. There’s a sharp crispness in the air this morning that reminds me of autumn mornings, gloriously cool and bright. But we’re lingering in July with the gauzy summer days of August still before us, so there is still a bit of time before those fall mornings arrive. So I’ll daydream of those days ahead.

I guess this leads me to today’s musical selection. I thought I’d carry on the daydreaming theme with a classical piece from Claude Debussy. It is titled Reverie which is just another way of saying daydream.  I chose this version from Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra because it features a nice slideshow of Maxfield Parrish paintings, all of which easily fall into the category of daydreams.

Give a look and a listen. Let your mind float for a bit and have a good day.


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