Posts Tagged ‘Robert Johnson’

To tell the truth, I had nothing in mind this morning for the blog. I was thinking that I would be too busy plowing but we didn’t get nearly as much of a snowfall as had been anticipated. We got a few inches but most of the precipitation came in an icy rain that coated everything. Not terrible, at least at my place, like some of the scenes I have seen from where the storm dropped larger amounts of icy rain that brought down wires and trees.

So, not having to get out there early to plow I found myself wondering what to talk about this morning. I went back through the archives and came across an entry from over ten years back. It’s about a piece that is in the possession of my sister. It might be my favorite among several she has , one that I always look forward to seeing when I visit her. With the pandemic, there haven’t been any visits so I haven’t had a chance to visit this piece recently. So, I thought I ‘d share it along with a little music at the end that seems to fit, at least in my head, some of the great Son House playing his wonderful Delta blues. Take a look at Big Foot Stomp, painted around 1995. And have a good day.


Singing and Mending– Robert Gwathmey

I was looking through a book containing many of the works of the painter Robert Gwathmey when I came across an image that reminded me of a small piece that I had painted several years back. Gwathmey’s painting was titled Singing and Mending and featured, like many of his paintings, a depiction of African-American life from the rural South.

This piece had a man in overalls playing a guitar while a woman mended a piece of clothing. It was the man playing the guitar that caught my eye. Perhaps it was the overalls or the position of the guitar or the bare feet but all I could think of was a similarity in its nature to a small painting that I had painted a few years ago and which now hung on my sister’s wall. It is a little oddity, a favorite that I always look at with interest whenever I go to her place. I call it Big Foot Stomp.


It was an experimental piece, a revisiting of another earlier foray in paint when I was just starting  years before. I can’t quite recall what my initial intentions were with this piece. I remember that I laid down the splattered background with spray bottles of paint, masking the lighter center with a piece of matboard as I did the darker outer edge. But I don’t think I ever had this figure in  mind when I began to paint in that center. But I’m glad that he came out in this way.

I recall painting the head first, just laying down a silhouette of paint then trying to make something from it. I remember liking the way the dark paint seemed to pop from the lighter background, making me think this was a black man and that I wouldn’t lighten it any more. It was right as it was.

The rest is hazy in my memory except for a slip in my brushstrokes that affected the size of his feet and for the decision to leave out the parts of his clothing that would normally be visible. For me, these two elements really make this little guy special. There’s something about the white space where his clothing would be that brings a spiritual element to this piece for me, as though his playing and the rhythm of his large feet on the floor are taking him to a place beyond the here and now. I think the way he rests in the splattered background enhances this.

I’ve never painted another piece like this. Maybe he was just meant to be one of a kind. He certainly feels that way. But at least in the Gwathmey piece I have found a spiritual relative to this lone guitar player.

Here’s Son House (1902-1988) and his Levee Camp Blues. House influence on the blues and, by extension, rock music, is huge. He is often cited as an influence on two other giant influencers, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. It don’t get much more real than that.

Read Full Post »

This is a new piece, Walking Blues, that is headed to the West End Gallery for the annual Little Gems exhibit, which opens on Friday, February 7. As I have mentioned here before, the Little Gems show occupies a special place in my heart. The 1995 show was the first time my work was ever shown to anyone outside of my family and a very few friends.

It was a life changer for me, the first real big step in moving from what felt like an old life into a new and altogether different life.

And it felt like that at the time. It was abundantly evident for me. It wasn’t one of those things that happens without you really feeling the gravity of what is taking place. I didn’t know where this path would lead me or if I could even stay on it for long. But I knew it was a new path that had, if I was willing to really commit and work for it, the potential to change my life in some way.

And it has.

While this coming show is actually my 26th Little Gems show, it marks 25 full years of doing this, of transforming my feelings into paint, embedding thought into material. Standing at that first one back in 1995, anxiously watching to see if anyone even looked at my work let alone showed interest, there was no idea that it would lead here.

Like so many things, I just didn’t know.

But I am glad for it. And thankful.

Hopefully, I will be reminiscing about that first show on the occasion of my 50th Little Gems exhibit, 25 years (well, actually 24 years) from now.

I don’t know but we’ll see.

Here’s a version of the great blues classic, Walkin’ Blues, whose title I pinched for this painting. It originally recorded by the legendary Robert Johnson but I thought this very unique performance by contemporary bluesman Guy Davis amidst the stark beauty of the snow and ice of Uummannaq, Greenland, 369 miles north of the Arctic Circle fit this little gem of a painting pretty well.

Have a good day.

Read Full Post »

Spirits Within - Artwork from Charles Frizzel

A Native American grandfather talking to his young grandson tells the boy he has two wolves inside of him struggling with each other. The first is the wolf of peace, love and kindness. The other wolf is fear, greed and hatred. Which wolf will win, grandfather? asks the young boy. Whichever one I feed, is the reply.

I came across the above, a short and often told story along with an illustration from artist Charles Frizzell,  on the Facebook page called Hippie Peace Freaks.   So simply put, it speaks of the dual natures  that reside in each of us, that polarity that I often try to capture in my work.  Our actions and choices form who we are and, hopefully, we opt to feed our peaceful wolves.

Here’s a video featuring the music of the great early bluesman Robert Johnson that also illustrates the point in a slightly different manner.  In Me and the Devil  Blues, his inner demon, his bad wolf, has taken a place beside him at all times.

Read Full Post »

Michael Mattice Comin' Home Cover 2013I was on the road  so I didn’t get a chance to post that a new CD titled Comin’ Home came out  yesterday from my friend, Michael Mattice.  I’ve talked about Mikey here before, most recently in the notes after my recent opening at the Principle Gallery.  I’ve known him since he was a gangly kid of 13 or 14 tagging along with his Dad at events at the gallery.  Even then Mikey gave off a tightly focused vibe, like  he was there  in the physical sense only while his mind was elsewhere, running through an unending set of musical charts that had his full attention.  I recognized his obsessive look that said that he something deeper to express, that it was in him and was eating impatiently at him from the inside.

Mikey had started his musical journey early,  taking up the flute and piano at age 8 , adding  a proficiency at electric and upright bass to his repertoire in his middle school years.  But the guitar always held his deepest fascination.  He studied guitar at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, graduating last year.  After graduation, he toured as guitarist with Jamaican Aria Morgan‘s tour to promote her album, Full Time Love, as well as playing with the progressive metal band Yantra that he had co-founded while still at Berklee.

But time came to begin to get back to that obsessive inner voice which led to the release of his new CD yesterday that features his compositions, voice and playing.  It’s a mix of folk, blues, country and indie rock but it’s all Mikey.  I had followed his work through the years from afar and knew primarily of   his prodigious talents as progressive metal guitarist so when he passed on to me a 3 song preview of the new CD at the gallery, I was expecting work in that genre.  But from the first moments I could tell that I had only seen a small glimpse of his talent in his previous work.  It started with a song, Train Hoppin’, that is drenched in the sound and feel of the early folk blues,  recorded on the same sort of  period recording equipment that Robert Johnson and other early blues pioneers used in the 20’s and 30’s.  It is his homage to the influences that paved the way for his own work, which is shown more fully in the next two songs, Back to You and Window Pane.  These songs feel like his authentic voice  which is exciting, making me eager to hear more from this CD.

Comin’ Home is available now on  iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play, as well as a number of other online outlets.  You can also order it from his site, Mattice Music.  

Mike will also be doing a special acoustic show promoting the CD at the Principle Gallery on Thursday, July 11, from 6-9 PM.  If you can make it, this  should be a wonderful opportunity to experience his wonderful talent in an intimate setting.  It could be one of those things where you can tell your friends years from now about how lucky you were to see Mike play early in his career.

Just to show off a bit of his talent and dexterity, here’s a clip from his progressive work with Yantra.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: