Saturday, November 13, 2010

Miss Smodern

Half the fun of painting the 100 paintings each year is to find the images to paint from. In the early days this used to be a lot of work, often with hours spent at libraries, but now with a Google Image search it's hardly a challenge anymore; images are plentiful. Criteria for which images to use are elusive, a spark in someone's eye, a smile, or a tear could do it for me. Sometimes the image is already an artwork, it could be the cover of a record or a shot by a famous photographer, in which case I already have a good composition and I usually don't add too much to it. In cases like that I'd like to credit the original but usually I stay away from these sources. In my archive (a giant archive, as you could imagine!) I keep copies of the original images neatly tucked in binders, one for each year. I haven't shown these collections in public yet, but I don't keep it a secret either. In my wildest dreams there would be one day a Top 100 museum and library in which all these binders would be available for viewing. It would also have all the hand written top 10s as well as, of course, house the thousands of paintings produced over the years.
Still, despite Wikipedia and Google Images, there always are recordings to be illustrated that have no visual counterpart. One of these is a tune called  Smodern (from the South African catchphrase it's modern) by a combo listed on the record sleeve of Africa Dance as Miss Smodern. The song is going to end up quite high in the rankings this year but none of the Web search engines recognizes neither song nor band. I've been deliberating for weeks now what to paint and today I made up my mind: searching under keywords "South African Jazz" I found this cutest image of youthful South Africans playing their home-made instruments. Alternatives I had plenty, I have quite a few records dedicated to South African Jazz, and the genre has been represented within this Top 100 format quite a few times —I've made a number of paintings of Miss Smoderns' contemporaries, but did not want to substitute Miss Smodern with an image of their better know peers such as The Broadway Boys, the African Swingsters, The Manhattan Brothers, or even Miriam Makeba. So here's that picture before the painting's even started. At first glance it looks like a snapshot of four guys showing off but upon closer inspection it could also be that it is tampered with collage style, but than at third glance I'm not sure anymore, it probably is just a photograph. Here's is where I found it:

p.s. -Upon looking up Gunther Komnick, I know now that this is an original photograph, Komnick is an established professional photographer, born in 1929 into a cultured East Prussian family of artists who moved to South Africa in 1956. So there I go: from thinking to use an anonymous web image to actually use (appropriate?) an important historical artistic photograph. My bad... The painting will be done in the next few days... So check back to find out what I made of it.

Gunther Komnick
African Jazz
photograph, 1959
JPEG Image, 367x345 pixels

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