Face Dances

For Sharon Anderson

I had an acquaintance in Toronto who fancies herself a shutterbug. She walks all around the city snapping photos of whatever catches her eye. She does this on her own, with friends and as part of an informal group.

The city has some vibrant graffiti and murals. Someone had done one of Prince, which she snapped a photo of. Prince as he was in the first flush of mega-stardom, decked out in the white ruffles and purple sequenced jacket. The problem was, it looked almost nothing like Prince. The outfit was correct and served as a visual clue:  “you are looking at Prince”.  Had he had no shirt on (or a different outfit) as occurred in some promo photos and videos, then no one would have had any idea who it was.

A lot of stars, especially artists,  have one or two  images  ingrained in the public’s conscious. This is even more so for musicians of the pre Instagram age.  Record companies, Dj etc all had to have the promotional photos/packs. The publicity photo a pre requisite but not too often updated. Jim Morrison is forever fitting into his leather pants, shirtless or with white pirate shirt, starring back at the camera as he wonders whether it is all worth it, forgetting that Rimbaud gave up poetry to become a white slaver. Jimi Hendrix is caught up in a spider’s web of bandannas and clashing colors as he lights Monterrey Pop on fire. And Prince had the ruffles at the throat and purple sequenced jacket different in color but similar to what Pete Townsend, light years away stylistically from the purple one, wore in the sixties.

So much rock was born out of rebellion, which is why every generation still holds it dear. Lazily resorting to visual shorthand of well known outfits reduces them down to a sort of uniform, very anti-rock (rebellion).

The best art tied in to musicians/artists, they should be recognizable in a different outfit or even just the face.

What makes for an even more worthwhile work is not their recognizably but rather does the work radiate an emotion which in turn makes the viewer feel something. The handicap of doing the visual shorthand of obvious outfit is even with some of the better works, you are freeze drying the emotion(s) to what was offered up in the photo. All photos are the souvenir of a dead thing as the moment has come and gone.

Faces, not necessarily of famous people, have always called to me. To conjure up a face on paper is an important part of what I do. Emotion coming through is the most important facet of what I do.

Here are several faces, done on different types paper. The inherent properties of the papers adding themselves to my voice like spice(s) to a stew.

All are 9×12

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Pre-Trip Errata

Getting on plane tomorrow so here are some quick sketches and thoughts in between closing up stateside studio:

I just finished the biography on Alexander Calder by Jed Perl. I had not been into Calder beforehand but developed a new appreciation for him after finishing. I have shelves of books on biographies/histories of Paris during different eras which include all the artists that where then on the scene.

For modern art eras, Calder was often featured. He was portrayed in a sort of often parroted shorthand, as an impish figure who artists in all the various movements liked (surrealists, futurists, cubists et al) even though he was never formally a member of anything.

Marcel Duchamp too was embraced by key figures in many movements which he purposely never joined. Duchamp had the glamour of enigma and an obvious influence to varying degrees on many artists who came after him for generations.

After reading this wonderful book the two had more in common than would be apparent from other books. Duchamp’s mien was always sphinx like which lent a sort of gravitas to whatever he was doing.  Calder was serious about his work but had a joyous disposition. If he did not get along with somebody, then he just did not bother with them. He had artistic theories & philosophy but he was reticent and never pontificated about  them. This lent a sort of playful veneer to all that he did to casual gallery & museum goers. There was a joy to what he did, but a serious joy.

This is the second book I have read by Perl on an artist to whom I was initially indifferent. It underscores that no matter how much one knows about art or how well formed their aesthetic sense, there is always room for more exploration and to pull new things into oneself.  And as I have often said, with certain non-fiction authors, it is well worth reading anything that they put out. Jed Perl definitely falls into this category.

 

9×12 quick sketch Calder

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It was just Duke Ellington’s birthday.  To people not well versed in jazz Duke Ellington is “Take the  A Train” or that sort of sludge of sound behind really old cartoons which utilized swing music before Carl Stalling came on the scene with his innovative sonic madness.

There was always forward thinking elements to what Duke & his orchestra were doing. He was constantly evolving and adding to his vision and sonic palette.

He composed in so many forms that it’s bittersweet to think of the years where he was lumped in with other, mere entertainers. Publicly, he never seemed to complain about this. In his final decade or so when he was starting to truly get his due,  in performance he still would often include medleys of the hits as to please the crowd. Remnants of when  this  American Mozart, despite his skill land ambition had to set toes to tapping.

For beginners to his oeuvre the best place to start are his later recordings. These works are more easily acceptable to someone  used to post bop jazz (used to be called “Modern” ). In his final years, Duke seemed to be allowed to record whatever he wanted. It runs the gambit in diversity. From Tone poems to suites, to soundtracks to trios and sacred concerts to teaming up with musicians young and old that he admired but had not worked with in small ensembles (John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong)

I first got into his work by delving into the later stuff. I enjoyed that so much i started looking backwards. Years ago I would not have been open to it, but now i treasure all Duke.

There is probably at least one of his albums to fit no matter where you are in the world and what you are doing. All around the globe, my pencil in hand and the rich coloration as envisioned by Duke wafting up out of the speakers.

Sir Duke Quick Sketch 9×12

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Pocket Pad

Have been busy with a bunch of larger projects (including getting next short story collection ready!) but that would never keep me from compulsively reaching for ever present pocket pad when out and about (nor hour or two of woodshedding every night)

Give me a scrap of paper and pencil nubbin and it is one of my greatest pleasures in life, serving the process.

3×5 per side

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City Street Scene

I have the pleasure of providing images for the upcoming Kris Correya movie; 4 Stories & a Funeral. The images will start and close each segment and also appear in the credits.

The movie covers the little known outside of India music scene in Mumbai which is kept alive and evolving by multi generations of passionate enthusiasts.

“City Street Scene” 9×12 colored pencil & Paper

 

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Boogie

Honey Child wanted me to touch her face, the lines of her body, memorization as a blind man might.

I took one of the rooms higher up as I felt it safer. The trade off was that unlike some of the better rooms, my one window did not look out into the courtyard.

At night when not actively pursuing anything, the Hyenas walked softly, their paws crunched on the sand as if it were snow.

This did not seem to bother anyone but myself. To my shame, when the  sun was at its most brilliant a pair of little boys would get the disregarded scraps of leather from the cobbler.  They would then almost completely bury them in the sand, leaving them there until the end of the day.

They would then go back and dig up their treasure. Over the course of the day the sand became hotter and hotter. Each grain burnt the leather so that it became dimpled like a more expensive version of itself.

While drinking mint tea these would then be made into wallets to sell to tourists at the medina.

I had my pen and paper to keep me company but sometimes that was not enough. I would play my records but not too much as i worried of some misfortune befalling the player for which i knew I would not be able to get parts easily.

Mostly I played James Johnson, Willie the Lion, Fatha Hines. Their looping frenzy seemed of another world to the locals.  No one ever complained as they were sure that it was part of some incantation similar to that of the men up in the mountains with their rams horn instruments.

“What do you call it?”

“Boogie.”

To them, the word had a deeper, primal,  meaning and i think it was better.

Fini

 

“Boogie” (1st painting new studio) 5×8 watercolor & paper

 

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M.Tom

I am working on an essay for my next collection which touches about the mid to late 70’s which was sort of classic age of vinyl culturally.

As I worked and had music playing I decided to do something different (for me).

This is 11×14

Sordid details following

 

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