Thursday, June 12, 2014

Beth Orton – Something More Beautiful

Beth Orton, 24" x 16", oil on canvas paper, 2014
Something More Beautiful, the number 3 from the previous top 100 is back in the list. After supplying the number 1 for two consecutive years, Beth Orton plays this year a modest role with just this one song in the bottom half of the list. It's a great song nevertheless, and it's always fun to paint her. This is the twelfth painting I did of her, by no means a record, but it's the most since I started reproducing these paintings on this site in 2010. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Steve Lacy – Momentum

Steve Lacy, 24" x 16", oil on canvas paper, 2014
Momentum is the title of a record by the Steve Lacy Sextet recorded in 1987. Beside Lacy the sextet include his wife Irene Aebi, Steve Potts, Bobby Few, Jean-Jacques Avinel, and Oliver Johnson. The group was based in Paris, but most musicians are American. Steve Lacy was from New York. A seminal figure in contemporary Jazz he was a prolific recording artist. More than a hundred records were released under his own name, and then a hundred more as a contributor or side man. Momentum, a  recent thrift store find, is the first I own. The cover, as is often the case with contemporary jazz records, features a work of Abstract Expressionist art. The artist Oliver Agid is French. The portrait was done in a few hours, emulating the Edith Piaf portrait of a few weeks back. The silhouette is Cat Power's (see previous post).

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Cat Power – Names

Cat Power, 24" x 16", oil on canvas paper, 2014
There are several Cat Power songs in the list this year. Recently I pulled You Are Free from the holdings to be included in a small stack of records next to my player. You Are Free is my favorite Cat Power record but I hadn't listen to it in a long time. Most of the songs from the LP have featured in my Top 100 but curiously enough it was the song Names that made the biggest impression on me this time. Names had never featured in a Top 100 list but is as beautiful, intense, and interesting as some of the mainstay songs. The song is a counting song in which a series of children are described who progress in age—one year for each new name. The process of the painting is rather curious, as I seem to switch between styles and processes and attitude about three times a month. Cat Power was painted over the course of five days. While I'm in the process of reroofing my house I took five minutes her, five minutes there to work the painting. Every time I needed to go to the studio to pick up a tool or a piece of lumber Cat Power greeted me upon entering and invited me to take another five minute break. The first three days of the process the painting existed as a monochrome purple but after that colors fit in real easy. So it's a bit of a casual painting, without stretches of real focus. Well, the painting is done but the roof is not even half way there yet. (To be continued...)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maria Alyokhina

Maria Alyokhina, 437 x 357 pixels, digital file, 2014
See, it's not just Nadya Tolokonnikova I use to illustrate the next Pussy Riot song. This digital portrait of Maria Alyokhina you see here is a first attempt to make use of this sketchbook full of quick pen drawings. Nothing too serious here, just another illustration for yet another song about Vladimir Putin, the most sung about person in the top 100. (There are a few songs in the list that muse about Allah, but Allah is not a person, is he?)

Nadya Tolokonnikova, 4" x 4.75", digital file, 2014
Alright then, Nadya Tolokonnikova is in the sketchbook too, but here's then yet another Maria Alyokhina for you.

Maria Alyokhina, digital file, 2014


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Edith Piaf

Édith Piaf
24" x 16"
oil on canvas paper, 2014
Édith Piaf is back in, a bit of a cliche perhaps for a self-proclaimed eclectic music enthusiast to resort to names that are standard fare in the world of eclectic music. Piaf and Umm Kulthum (as it appears to be spelled these days), are the musicians most synonymous with eclectic taste. I never payed much attention to Umm Kulthum but of Édith Piaf I collected quite a few discs over the years. The song in this year's list is the b-side to her 1947 signature single La Vie en rose called Un refrain courait dans la rue. The painting is done on top of a sketch of Mariko Gotō (who I painted last week). I covered Gotō's silhouette with a very dark purple before superimposing the laughing Édith Piaf. Usually I don't pick laughing poses but here is the exception.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

East European Folk Music

Vulkana Stoyanova
14" x 10"
oil on board, 2014
The traditional music of Eastern European countries continues to be a substantial part of the top 100. From instrumental dance music and a chorus of harmonizing women, to a lonesome shepherd's tune  and solo female lamentations, Balkan music is mesmerizing and beautiful. A handful of Eastern European acts still need to be painted for this series but I don't have a photograph available for any of them. Some of the Balkan records I have are well documented with data and photographs by the musicologists who recorded them but others less so (one performer is anonymous). The highest in the list is a solo vocal piece called Zhenish Me Mamo sung by Verka Tsoneva Dimitrova and appears on the Bulgarian edition of the amazing series The Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music edited by Alan Lomax. Richly illustrated and documented but no picture of Ms. Dimitrova. So I pick by proxy; Vulkana Stoyanova is right next to Dimitrova on the album and they're practically neighbors too (by 100 miles or so). The tune was recorded in Dobrich by A.L. Lloyd in 1954.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Huggy Bear

Niki Elliott and Karen Hill of Huggy Bear
20" x 16", oil on panel, 2014
The band Huggy Bear formed in 1991 in Brighton, England. They're associated with the Riot Grrrl movement but there's also two guys in the five-piece band, so they rather see themselves as "girl-boy revolutionaries." When I first painted them some ten years ago they were only known by their first names and photographs were sparse. They never signed for a major label but produced a string of records between 1991 and 1994. The tune in the top 100 is a 45 called Her Jazz.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Drawing Alela Diane

Alela Diane
4" x 4"
pen on paper, 2014
I've been drawing a score of musicians in my sketchbook. I don't know yet how, when, or where I will use these but it somehow I will. The sketches are very quick, I did about 30 in a little over four hours divided up over two evenings. Just a little exercise, maintenance of skill if you will, in portrait drawing. From these pages I particularly like this quick sketch (above) of Alela Diane. I still owe her (well myself really) a painting for the current top 100 illustrating the song Lost Land from her new About Farewell CD. (I already did one for The Way We Fall.) My history with Alela Diane goes back to 2009 when I saw her perform in Ohio. It was a wonderful little outdoor concert and I ended up buying from her the CD To Be Still there, she signed it for me too. I had also made some drawings during her performance. Drawing people in motion is quite a challenge, but I think I did well on this one (below).

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Mariko Gotō
24" x 18"
oil on canvas paper, 2014
Mariko Gotō is Japanese singer and guitarist. She started out in the band Usagi in the early 2000s before linking up with Midori. Not to be confused with the well know classical musician Midori Gotō, also from Osaki, she now has embarked on a solo career. Midori is described (by Wikpedia) as jazz punk. Other sources add to the mix: Screamo-punk-pop-noh-jazz fusion, I read in an article. All of that could indeed be applied to describe Midori's music, it's that kind of music where anything could be thrown into the mixed bag. Punk in Japan is a bit different from the British and American varieties, it's more integrated in pop culture, not as sweet as J-Pop but much sweeter than say Black Flag. Manga I guess is a big influence on the music in Japan, J-Pop and punk alike. The Top 100 13/14 contains two songs by Midori and one by Usagi. So I spent all weekend trying to paint this portrait of Mariko Gotō (below). I recently got a pad of canvas paper, kind of a sketchbook for oil paintings, the size of which is much larger than what I have been using recently. The painting is larger than life (which is awkward, if it comes to portraits) and, out of pure frustration, destroyed it after too many hours spent on it. Later I picked it up again trying to salvage what could be salvaged, but not after I started anew from a different source photo. That one, depicted above, was much better, and quite quick too. (Even though I have to make certain corrections.)

Mariko Gotō
24" x 18"
oil on canvas paper, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Big Freedia

Big Freedia
16" x 12", oil on canvas paper, 2014
It doesn't happen often, but every once in a blue moon you'll find a mainstream pop hit you'd consider the greatest thing ever, even if only for a brief time. That happened to me when I chanced upon the hit Y'all Get Back Now by Big Freedia. On the YouTube video of the song I saw and heard three minutes of nonconformist raw hip-hop energy like I had never seen before. The genre, a sub-genre of hip-hop, is apparently called 'bounce', Freedia's variety awkwardly dubbed 'sissy-rap', is closely associated with the current phenomenon of twerking (twisting and jerking). Twerking is a vernacular term only recently added to the dictionaries. It originated in New Orleans, just like Big Freedia Queen Diva (as he, Freddie Ross, calls himself), and the bounce genre do. Big Freedia was there from the beginning (early nineties) and is in fact credited with popularizing the genre.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

An art top 10

After finishing up an intense year teaching six sections of Art Appreciation that includes a complete survey of art, I thought it would be appropriate to forward a top 10 of artworks I've come in contact with this last year.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Songs the Swahili Sing

 Yaseen Mohamed & Saada – Lala Mpenzie
Yaseen Mohamed
12" x 16", oil on canvas paper, 2014
To my surprise I was able to find an image of the Kenyan singer Yaseen Mohammed. Unfortunately I could not find a picture of Saada, the female half on a duet from the album Songs the Swahili Sing: Classics from the Kenya Coast on Original Music, produced by John Storm Roberts, and released in 1983. I used to love to listen to male-female duets but it's been a while since I got excited about one. This one I had known for a long time but I never owned it, and thus forgotten about it. Well, now I have a copy of that record and the duet that closes the record is as good as a duet gets. 
The Swahili are are an Islamic people living in coastal East Africa. That the background for Yaseen Mohamed is a seascape is merely coincidental. Like the previous painting (of Mark E. Smith) the background comes from an instructional painting for a cultural center art class. It is barely better than yesterday's still life but then (to my defense) it was never intended as a painting but rather as a record of me talking to students and forwarding several technical possibilities of how to make waves. In the end what I want from my students is that they make waves. (Not that I'm creating any myself.)