How My Music Series Started

Now that the novelty of staying at home has worn off, I can honestly say screw cleaning and organizing! Even the idea that I will actually do any of it, including cooking from scratch, is gone. So I may as well just sit in the sun, read, and blog.

Life in the time of Corona Virus comes close to what I imagined life in a retirement village without the socializing might be like.

I wake up late, have breakfast, read the newspaper, and amazingly it is almost lunch.

I don’t have to run errands. In fact I am told not to by authorities and family – although I have joined the masked brigade at Costco.

Maybe now is a great time to tell you how I started my music series.

Letting Loose Jazz After Midnight 36x48 from my Music Series

Letting Loose Jazz After Midnight 36×48

For years I dabbled in watercolor and my subjects were from my environment. I took a class while Luke was at Duke University. There I learned the variety of colors and tones I could make from French Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber to Payne’s Gray. I painted boats, barns, beaches, etc. That worked for a while. As did all my drawings for the Daily Press. A subject for another time.

Then I launched into acrylics because I was too impulsive to plan my moves to achieve my painting goals. Besides oils messed with my asthma. With acrylics, I enjoyed the freedom of being able to paint and repaint and scratch out and gesso over.

It was the 1980’s and I had campaigned for women’s issues. This led me to think about doing art related to women of accomplishment.

But who to paint.

I didn’t personally know anyone outside the newspaper industry. I finally decided on JoAnn Falletta, music director for the Virginia Symphony. I knew about her and how well-liked and well-respected she was (and still is today!).

So how difficult could it be to ask her if she would be my first subject. A lot. Well it was difficult to even get in touch with her. I left messages at her office that were never answered but I persisted.

Eventually one evening I got a call from Long Beach, California and it was JoAnn on the line. I tried to impress her with my art credentials and I guess I did not appear to be a total deviant. She invited me to take photos of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra onstage at the Chrysler while they rehearsed the Buckner Fourth. No flash of course. This predated the ease of the iPhone camera so I tried to be unobtrusive with my non-digital, old school film Nikon.

Not so easy when I really wanted to be a part of the orchestra. Even behind the violins, crouching on the floor,I just wanted to do nothing but be a voyeur. But I had a self-assigned job; To capture a diminutive conductor guiding a hundred instruments played by a hundred professional musicians.

And me with a film shutter speed of 400 using only available light so I could not freeze frame. When JoAnn waved her baton the camera captured the motion, the sweep of the baton through space.

When I finally developed the film I saw photo after photo of blurs and darkness. Very little detail and little to work with or so I thought. However the loss of the crutch of detail forced me to use whatever my imagination could generate to fill in the blanks.

Motion became my signature.

Joann ConductsAction and emotion grew more important than defining my subject.

My work with VSO lasted several years. My series began and ended with Ms. Falletta. But it was my start. I carried the blurriness of motion into other subjects including other musical forms like jazz and bluegrass, and then sports, and people in the street. Even now when I find myself leaning towards harder-edged realism I look back at those early paintings and tell myself that just because one learns how to technically achieve painting realism, maybe it should not be one’s ultimate goal.

How Do I Get My Painting Subjects

Ben Plays the Sax

Several years ago I wrote down my thoughts on my art process.  Much of it is still pertinent so I thought I would share them.   Since then, I have evolved some,  have made some changes,  and will share those thoughts later.

Many people have asked me how I paint my subjects and where do I get reference material.

Although it would be far easier to have a photo to copy, most of my work evolves from bits and pieces pulled together from a vast “morgue” of reference material that I have accumulated over the years. 

My Own Photos

The majority of the photography is my own. I took so many classes in photography at Thomas Nelsen Community College, I almost had to declare a major. After a masters degree in counseling from William and Mary, I did not need another degree.

Some of my music paintings are based on musicians of the past.  The subject matter is obviously culled from photos that have appeared in the media. But I am not a slave to any photos.  My work in its final versions bear very little resemblance to the material I use.

My Quick Drawings

I have the ability to draw well and fast.  I honed those skills during the 12 years I worked as a newspaper artist illustrator.  With the pressure of those incredible deadlines,  you either did the job fast or ( but there was no “or”)  the paper went to press without them.

My Process

I start with multiple photos usually laid out on my studio floor.  From there I develop a small color sketch.  Many of my music paintings are quite complex.  I am placing and rearranging the musicians until I am satisfied with the layout.

Then I introduce color. Many old photos are in sepia or black and white so the colors are selected by me.

The dancers series began when my husband and I took ballroom lessons for 3 years. We attended the dance parties and the ballroom exhibitions  (this was before the advent of digital cameras so I took lots of really bad photos and then I camcorded some dances). As I needed more info I would pause dance competitions on TV to see the moves I might want to paint.  An artist cannot take artistic liberty with dance positions. 

An art director once wanted to reverse a dance image for a magazine cover. Fortunately I got to review the changes first!   Because I cannot put the ladies right hand on the man’s left shoulder!  I can change attire and colors and design and exaggerate, but there are reality issues. Reality applies to musical instruments as well. I believe my work nudges abstraction, but always has a core based in reality.

My Color Choices

I do not use traditional color wheels.  I paint rather spontaneously and impulsively. An artist has to know the rules and then be comfortable breaking them for the goal of movement, power, and personal color.

My Methods

I have used latex gloves so I can paint with my fingers.  I have used sponges and old credit cards and modeling paste – whatever achieves the goal of painting something that excites me.

Post Holiday Letter 2016

The holidays have come and gone- almost- and the survivors go back to their version of normal.  With the prevalence of family photo Christmas cards I now see how wonderfully (as Garrison Kellor says) above average your family members are.  And there must not have been any disasters this year. They look too happy.  I am now aware of  many wonderful places there are in this world that you have  visited (though after you factor out the insecurities of actual traveling there and the adventure of global travel in the age of terrorism I am less in awe).

So backing up.   Holiday stress  all started before Halloween, way back in October.  And then adding in another stresser called President election campaigning 2016 which had started almost 2 years before.  As if the usual end of year holidays weren’t stressful enough.  Then we jump into the Christmas season.

I won’t get into the commercialization of Christmas (I say Christmas but you all know what I mean- the whole shebang. Everyone gets caught up in it ). In my family we also have November and December and January birthdays and anniversaries which only add to the excitement.

It is now written into our DNA that we have to buy presents (darn Magi, why didn’t they  just stay home) .  When did buying  more and more stuff before the old stuff was used up or broken become necessary to life in this country?  For the hard- to- buy -for we have thousands  of gift cards available. Encouraging us to buy more stuff we don’t need.  Is there a land of lost gift cards?

Anyway enough rant. Time for a new tradition- my post holiday letter.  I have in the past enjoyed writing my family’s Christmas letter. Tried to make them funny and surprising.  Do you remember Luke discovering the painless cure for male pattern baldness?

Celebration is not the word I would use to discuss my recent birthday unless  surviving is cause for celebration. All those infirmities we heard our aged folks talk about are now our main points of discussion. 

Oh well, my role models continue to be the 86 year old nun who still runs Ironman races and the 78 year old woman who is a weight lifting champion. No, I do not do those things, but they are still my role models.

You all want to know if I am still painting. Yes, I am not infirm and can still hold a brush. Don’t want to rest on my laurels. So prepare for something new. Sadly I never was asked to be in the Miami Basel Art Fair. I guess my non-socially significant dancers and musicians and figures are not edgy enough. Always wondered about the word edgy. Makes me feel insecure. But yes, I paint therefore I am. Descartes? And the best is still yet to come.

When you have few minutes during your online surfing, every once in a while, check out my website and Facebook. If I am a future Georgia O”Keefe you don’t want to miss out.

This year might be good for art sales – who knows how many people who are tired of hanging onto their money might be realizing insecurity is the new normal and thus buying something that makes you happy  is a good thing. I will be glad to oblige. I will even be offering the opportunity to purchase art that has been scanned and can be printed as giclees. Yes, a French word for high -end printing.  The finished product is amazing.  Stay tuned for more details on their availability

So long for now.  Have a happy, merry, joyful new year.

Lion Fish III

Pin It on Pinterest