The other night Jay Farrar played an acoustic solo show at the Old Rock House. It was a tremendous performance full of newer, older and classic songs. I was lucky enough to be up front snapping a few pictures to work from for a painting. The piece has already gone through some dramatic changes and I anticipate many more to come. It's been difficult lately to organize and collect thoughts, outside influences have preoccupied my mind. For the last three days I've been working on this piece while listening to the newly released Basement Tapes and I'll continue to do so.
The last 8 months involved very intense, concentrated time painting. I thought once that was completed I would take a break for a bit but just as soon as I thought that, other things ramped up, good things. A couple new businesses in town invited me to display work in their space. The Tick Tock Tavern, a new bar on Magnolia, asked about some portraits I had done of historic figures like Eleanor Roosevelt, Lee Harvey Oswald and Albert Einstein. These portraits are somewhat characters done on paper outlined with black paint. Nicely framed and now hanging in their hallway that connects them with Steve's Hot Dogs. The Music Record Shop, a new record store on Manchester in the Grove, inquired about some paintings I'd done of St. Louis musicians, past and present. A week before their grand opening, I spent four hours hanging 20 something paintings on their bare walls. These paintings were just sitting in my studio collecting dust but now their on display for customer's to see. Very grateful to those two businesses for giving me some space on their walls.
Then some group shows popped up. With the first two being on the same date. Saturday Nov 8. ChoiceArt will be holding their annual fund raiser at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis with proceeds going to Planned Parenthood, a cause I very much believe in and I'm honored to have donated a painting for this event. On the same night, City of Night St. Louis is holding a group art show at the ever popular William A Kerr Foundation. This show will feature many St. Louis artists and I'm very excited to be a part of it. Another event in December for Poetry Scores also came up involving The Screwed Arts Collective, so staying busy on all those fronts.
Have also been completing many commissions that have come my way recently, like the one pictured above. It's always a nice boost to have people interested in your work and to have you do a special piece for them or as a gift they plan on giving someone. So you keep on going and staying busy, which is the best thing to do anyway. All the while gearing up for painting new pieces for a show in April at the University City Library.
Very grateful to be spending my time thinking about and painting pictures in St. Louis, MO.
At the beginning of this year I was
contacted by Melinda Cooper, musician extraordinaire, about artwork for a
CD her band was working on. The band she’s in, Town Cars, was in the
process of completing recording sessions and she was interested
in having some paintings included in the CD packaging. I had known
Melinda for some time, first meeting her when another band she’s in,
Union Electric, opened for Theodore at the Old Rock House. For that
particular show Melinda was playing drums. As far as
I knew she was a bass player but apparently their regular drummer was
unavailable so she moved to drums and they had a guest,
Celia Shackattack, play bass. I
had seen Union Electric many times and wasn’t sure what to expect. I
was blown away by Melinda and her drumming. Over the next few years,
when I would see her perform it was always on bass again, and
she’s an amazing bass player as well. Then during a special event at
Off Broadway, “Label Day” for Tower Groove Records, I got to see a side
project of hers called Town Cars. She was playing acoustic guitar and
had a drummer plus a keyboard player. Again,
I was blown away by her singing and playing. At that point I was
convinced she can do anything musically. So when she contacted me about
possibility of using paintings for the CD packing of the new Town Cars
album, I was all for it.
We talked about what she had in mind
and worked out a deal. She sent me photos she had taken of her rehearsal
space and I based the paintings off of those photographs. To keep
things interesting, I used small canvases and painted in oil.
Normally I use acrylic but wanted to mix things up a bit and do these
pieces in oil. I did four pieces in all and was very happy with how they
turned out. Three of the pieces were used through the packaging of the
CD and the whole thing turned out great, the
best part being the tunes, of course. Seriously, the songs on the CD
are truly great and Melinda continues to amaze me with her abilities and
talents. The thing I love most about these songs are the melodies,
tremendous melodies and counter melodies throughout
A CD listening and release party for
the CD, titled “Hearts and Stars”, has been slated for Saturday Oct 11
at the newly opened Tick Tock Tavern on Magnolia St. In addition to
hearing and getting a copy of the CD, the four paintings I
did for Melinda will be on display at the party. The CD is being
released through Extension Chord Records.
Started this back in February and have worked on it pretty much daily, if I wasn't out of town and still working on it today. A painting can go on forever, the point is to never finish it so it has the chance to grow on it's own. When all options and avenues have been exhausted then it drivels up and dies. How and when a painting is completed is up to each and every viewer, if this component is lost or taken away, then the painting is dead. These are the things I've been thinking about while working on it day after day while listening to a never ending cascade of Rock and Roll music. All of that requires Time, lots of Time. Time is occasionally a road block then it turns around and becomes a booster. It's constantly shifting and changing to suit it's own needs leaving you in the wake for better or worse. You can never master Time, you simply have to learn how to adjust to it's fleeting nature. Even then, if you're not careful, you'll be thrown for a loop and need a week to recover. The best moments always come when you've convinced yourself that Time no longer exists. When this happens your mind is most free to create on demand with no guilt, judgement or fear. The greatest momentum is always captured during this Time. But before long your mind snaps back and consciousness reminds you that Time does indeed exist and it demands respect.
Here’s something I’ve been working on for a while now. A few months back an artist I admired had died, Herb Wickham, and while going through my collection of prints looking for the one I purchased from him, I ran across a nice brochure that came with the print. The brochure was a standard thing I assume most working artist have or use to rely heavily on to drum up business. Nowadays with the internet a brochure might not be as in demand but it planted a seed in my mind that slowly started to grow. When it finally came time to do something about it, I was at a loss, how the hell do you make a brochure?
I asked around but never got any real info on how it’s done or what to do. I began to think it was something that’s just too obsolete in this day and age. Then I started poking around on my computer, low and behold, a brochure template was sitting there at the very bottom of some generic canned program. So I slowly started to work on it and now I have something I can send out.
Up till now I have not been very active in approaching potential clients for commission work. Luckily, thankfully, the work I have gotten has been word of mouth and they have contacted me. This is really a great feeling and a real confidence boost but eventually you have to get the word out there somehow. For now I’ll send these out to clubs, bars, restaurants and venues to see if there’s any interest. Perhaps having something tangible in hand will be a little better than a digital image? And for those reading this, please do know I am available for commissions.
I started this piece a few months ago and then just let it be. I’m now knee deep in a large scale painting that’s taking up all my time but I do plan on returning to it and finishing it by the end of the year in time for a show in January at the University City Library.It will probably be the only new piece in the show depending on how much time I have.It’s from an old photograph taken a few years ago when the bass player was about to leave for a time, it was a “last show” of sorts, but not really.Thankfully the bass player came back soon after and they play out more often albeit not as often due to the drummer living in Kentucky.
When they do play live it’s a pure joy to witness the interaction between the players which helps one understand their music, even if for a brief moment. Their special blend of Psych Country & Western Rock can send the most harden of us into a psychedelic prairie of our own delight with their excellent balance of prepared material cycling in and out of masterful improvising. However, be ready for a sharp change, cause it’s coming.
Prints of selected paintings are now available through Big Cartel for safe and secure online purchasing. These have been a long time coming and I’m grateful to everyone’s help in making it a reality.
Probably the print I’m most excited about is of Frederick’s Music Lounge. Most people remember Fred’s as a local hangout for musicians and artists from the early to mid-aughts. Originally owned by Frederick Boettcher Sr.and had an interesting life of its own under his ownership, it was passed down to his children and ran by his son Fred Friction along with the wonderful Paul Stark. It quickly became the clubhouse for many of us involved with the local music scene. Many late nights were spent listening and playing music in the downstairs area and it’s missed tremendously. It’s impossible to overstate its impact on the music community but eventually it had to close down. Before it closed I snapped a photo one snowy night and created a painting of it. John Wendland saw the painting and inquired about purchasing it. At the time my studio was located in the basement of a building on the corner of Cherokee and Compton. The building housed Typo Café ran by Tim Rakel and Robert Strasser, next door to that was the Tin Ceiling Theatre Company. I would be busy painting away in the basement while actors rehearsed their lines upstairs and people enjoyed coffee and tea in the wireless free café (no internet connect on purpose). We’d have monthly art shows in the café and enjoyed the general low-key aspect of the area. This is where John met me to pick up the Frederick’s painting. And like that he was gone, carrying the painting off to his car and I haven’t seen it since.
Fast forward to today and thanks to Karl Haglund, I’ve finally figured out how to get nice quality prints made up of paintings. Out of the blue I received and email from the great Rick Wood who said he’d be happy to help get a hi-quality photograph of the Frederick’s painting for me and with John’s permission, I had a jpg to work with for the prints. In addition to the Frederick’s prints I also have a few other paintings available as well in print form. “Maximum Effort at CBGBs”, “Pinball at CBGBs”, “Vintage Vinyl” and soon there will be “Old Capital Square Dance Club at 2720 Cherokee”. The prints are shipped without a frame in a secure tube via the US postal service. The more prints that sell, the more paintings I can have made into prints. Also, special thanks to Steve Nagy (does great work and can be contacted at email@example.com) and Elly Smith for help with photographing the paintings.
One last thing. Along with the prints is one other item, a postcard. The postcard is of the painting of the Buttery. The original painting was donated to a special event last year, Bob Reuter’s Memorial. The money raised from the painting was given to his foundation, the Cowboy Angel Foundation. With Bob in mind, I am offering the postcard for $3.00 ($2.00 shipping) and all money raised will be given directly to his foundation. We all miss Bob tremendously.
Over the weekend, two really great people got engaged to each other. The artist Jennifer Higerd and musician Matt Harnish. In celebration of this event I painted their dog, the wonderful Bonnie. The painting is now in their possession and I wish them a lifetime of happiness.
May 1, 1994. Important date in Rock and Roll history? In the grand scheme of things it’s probably not but it should be. That’s the last time the three original members of the Belleville, IL band, Uncle Tupelo, played together in public. The show was at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis and it was after original drummer, Mike Heidorn, had left the band but at the end of the show he got behind the kit for one last hurrah. I’ve been thinking a lot about Uncle Tupelo lately. A few months back the artist Karl Haglund contacted me about doing an Uncle Tupelo themed show. Karl is well known for his guitar paintings and we bounced around some ideas of what the show should consist of. I was kind of at a loss cause I usually work from photographs I take myself of a band or musician performing but that wasn’t going to be possible. Karl suggested painting their album covers and that seemed like a good idea, so I started on some, still working on them as you can see from the images above.
Around the same time Karl and I was discussing this, my friend Chris King contacted me out of the blue and said he’d been sneaking over to Belleville, IL to visit his friend Mike Heidorn and I was invited to tag along next time he went. Needless to say I jumped at the chance to meet and hang out with the drummer who played on three of my favorite albums.
I came to discover Uncle Tupelo in a backwards fashion. During their heyday I was too young to attend most of their gigs and I didn’t live in the area. They were simply off my radar. It wasn’t until I was given a blank cassette by my friend Tony in 1995 did they begin to creep into my consciousness. The cassette had Wilco’s first album on one side and Son Volt’s first on the other. At the time I was living in the hills of Southern Illinois in a cheap store front apartment located in the tiny town of Murphysboro, IL. I had two jobs, one, writing for the Carbondale based newspaper, Nightlife and two, driving fixed and wrecked Airborne Express vans back and forth from Jackson, MO to Memphis, TN. For Nightlife I’d write about Cape Girardeau, MO musicians like Bob Camp and bands like Drench (recorded by Lou Whitney). To get to Cape from Murphysboro I’d take Route 3 and it was about a 45 min drive. On those drives I’d listen to one tape, the Wilco/Son Volt tape, over and over and over again. The next year I was given a copy of "March 16-20, 1992" by my friend Marty and from that I began to piece together the two voices I’d been hearing on that first cassette. By then Uncle Tupelo was ancient history and I don’t think it was quite understood how important they would be from a historical point of view. But I dove in deep and inhaled their first three albums as if they were new signs of life.
When I finally moved to St. Louis I loved hearing all the stories about their early days at Cicero’s and personal insights from people I started to get to know. I had clearly missed out on something special that had started right here. Which brings us back to Chris King and his invite to hang out with Mike Heidorn. Giddy would be an understatement, but I try not to show it. What has ended up happening are informal hootenannies with everyone sitting around his kitchen table with guitars, drinking Stag (of course) and playing songs. The highlight so far has been singing the Stones “Far Away Eyes” with Chris along with Mike and Fred Friction on acoustic guitars. I can die happy now.
10 years ago I called my old friend Mike Cook and asked him if I could borrow his camera. Mike being the great guy that he is said “of course”. He asked what I wanted it for. I told him I wanted to drive around town and photograph buildings that I wanted to do paintings of. He thought that was a great idea and happily lent me his camera. I drove around mainly South City taking photos. First stop was an abandoned building I passed by daily, then I headed over to Cherokee St. to photograph Fort Gondo, then up to Lemp to snap Radio Penny Studios. Also on my list were clubs like Frederick’s Music Lounge and Lemmons as well as restaurants such as Courtesy, The Buttery and Eat Rite. Plus local radio stations like 3WK and KDHX. I remember the day I photographed KDHX, there was ice everywhere and it was cold. I parked my car and got out to snap a quick shot. Standing in the doorway was Bob Reuter, I loved Bob but at that time didn’t want him in the photo, so I wanted until he went back inside and then I took my shot. Do I regret that now. Regardless, from that shot I did this painting and was really happy with how it turned out. Awhile later I was involved with a holiday art show organized by a group known as “The Independent Art Market” which included Eric Woods from Firecracker Press as well as Carmelita Nunez and Daniel Shown from Kung Fu Chicken. They saw the KDHX painting, snatched it up quickly and have owned it ever since. And that was that, the painting was gone almost as soon as I had painted it.
Back then, even before and still now I have a fondness for KDHX. It plays such a vital role in our music community and is central to so much going on locally. Over the years there have been so many shows I’ve enjoyed and loved. Fred Friction’s “Fishing With Dynamite”, Bob Reuter’s “Bob’s Scratchy Records”, Randall Roberts’ “Sovereign Glory”, Rene Saller’s "Suffragette City", Brett Underwood’s “No Show”, plus the shows that are still going on today like, just to name a few, John Wendland “Memphis to Manchester", Jeff Hess' "Afternoon Delight", Tim Rakel’s “Mystery Train”, Steve Pick’s “Sound Salvation”, Cat Pick’s “Emotional Rescue”, Rob Levy’s “Juxtaposition” and my current favorite, Josh Weinstein’s “All Soul No Borders”. “All Soul No Borders” comes on Sunday nights at 10pm and if I’m not reading then I’m painting and that always goes well with whatever Josh plays which relies heavily on jazz and experimental. But check the shows for yourself, I’m sure you’ll find something you can dig.
As most people know, KDHX recently moved their South City location on Magnolia over to Midtown in Grand Center on Washington Blvd. It was a bitter sweet move for sure cause that original location had seen the station grow leaps and bounds over the 25 plus years it was located there. But the new location and building is truly magnificent and fitting for such an important St. Louis institution. I’ve worked in Grand Center for the last 16 years and have seen it changed over the years. I can remember eating my lunch in the grass field that use to be next to the Continental building which is now a multi-level parking garage and apparently more parking garages are on the way. Some of these changes have been great, like more restaurants, apartments and radio stations moving to the area but some have not been so great, like more buildings being torn down or threatened to be torn down. I remember fondly when a row a buildings use to sit on the north corner of Lindall and Grand and you’d have to go down a set of stairs to get to Vito’s which sold pizza by the slice for lunch at only a dollar a slice. I loved going down there, it was all brick and always crowded at lunch time, the price was right too. Those buildings are gone now and Vito’s has moved a little bit down the street. But that’s progress I guess. More buildings are in danger of being torn down but others are being built back up, including the building KDHX is now in which had been vacant for many years. The last thing I remember in that building was the music venue The Creepy Crawl.
Recently I was invited to take a tour of the new KDHX studios and I happily accepted. The new space is simply amazing with offices, recording studios, DJ booths, storage space all on the upper floors. A cool looking performance venue on the bottom floor along with a nice little café named after the old studio, the Magnolia Café.
After this tour I was invited to participate in the decorating of the café. Over the years people at the station had seen the painting I did 10 years ago of the original building. They had initially expressed interest in this painting but I let them know it was no longer in my possession and belonged to Carmelita and Daniel. So they proposed I paint a new one only this time the size would be much larger and they showed me the place it could hang in the café. I was ecstatic, of course I’d paint them a new one, that would be an immense honor. The new painting will be 68x68 inches, the largest canvas I’ve ever completed. My friend and fellow artist, Jeremy Rabus, built the custom canvas and did a fantastic job with it. But it’s too large to fit in my basement studio, so I hung it on the wall of the hallway in my home as you enter the front door and I’ll just work on it from there. Will probably take at least a few months to complete.
If you have any kind of online presence at all, more than likely you use social media. I do know people who have no use for social media and I somewhat admire them, I would prefer to be that way. But I’m not. I have a Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and Facebook account. I have stopped short with Instagram, not because I don’t like images, I love images. Just never gotten around to figuring it out and I am a little apprehensive about using a program that modifies images. Perhaps I’m not understanding Instagram, but from what I’d gathered, it takes photos and makes them look old or rustic or whatever. Maybe it doesn’t do that anymore, or you can control that, but as you can see, I don’t care enough about it to even find out.
Out of all of those I am most active on Facebook and its Facebook I have to thank for the piece you see above. It’s of Donny Besancenez and he had posted the original photo on FB. Then he “tagged” me in a comment and said he’d love to have a painting of it. It was very nice thing for someone to say in such a public forum. I’ve known Donny for a number of years but I wouldn’t say we know each other well. He use to be very active in the local music scene, running sound for clubs, engineering recordings and playing in his band Tripstar. He’s been a few bands since and still does play out now, currently in Cold Hearted Strangers. The first time I met him was at a club down on the Landing. He was the soundman and my band at the time and been asked to play a last minute show. We jumped at it. Of course it was last minute cause St. Louis was about to get dumped with a half foot of snow and whatever band was booked couldn’t make it. So at a moment’s notice we were ready. We get to the club and are greeted by Donny. He was great and did a phenomenal job with the sound. We hadn’t played too many shows at that point and used a drum machine, samples, moog, lots of electronic stuff that most clubs at the time had no idea what to do with. But Donny knew exactly how to mic everything up and how the mix should be. We played a great set thanks to him. But, as usual, not one person was there besides the bartender and Donny. Oh well.
Since then we’d always see each other at shows or traded with each other whatever music we’ve been doing. Nothing big but a mutual respect for each other. And I greatly appreciate it and very happy to be working on this piece.
While working on this piece word came through that trusty ole Facebook that a friend of ours had died. Christopher Gustave was an artist from Arizona who had lived in St. Louis for a number of years and did a wide variety of art from photographs to graphic design and everything in between. Donny and him were closer as friends than I was but I did greatly enjoy his company, particularly at art openings. You could say we had the same mindset about certain things and could relate to each other effortlessly. Everyone has someone they know who they can go weeks or even months without seeing and then, when you do get to see each other you just fall right into wherever you left off at and pick it right back up. Chris and I were like that. A very talented artist who also could be difficult but I can’t really fault him for that, I can be very difficult myself. He had left St. Louis a few years ago and went to New York City and then relocated again, back to his home town Phoenix, AZ. I don’t have the details of his death, just heard various things from Facebook postings. I’ve yet to muster the courage to ask someone who knows, what exactly happened. What I do know is that he’s gone now and we’ll never see him again. Thankfully he left the world with a ton of artwork and I’m glad I got to hang out with him.
Back in Nov I stopped by the Skatium in South St. Louis for the Ellen the Felon CD release show, “Bang, Bang, Bang”. The Skatium is a roller rink that also hosts live music shows. It had been about 20 years since I stepped into a skating rink but for those who know me well, I literally grew up in one. From the age of 7 to 18 a majority of my time was spent at the skating rink located in my hometown known as The Jackson Skate Center. When I first started going there it was owned by a distant relative, the great Woodie Seabaugh and it was known as The Roll-O-Fun. Woodie ran a tight ship but everyone had a good time, plenty of candy, soda and music. When I was about 9 years old the rink was bought by a new owner from out of town, the legendary Cliff Wilson. Cliff was primarily an auto body man and had a shop in town as well. His two children, Kristie and Brian quickly became my friends even though they were a few years older than me. Thus started my 10 + year association with the rink which went from becoming the local rink rat to fixing skates, working behind the concession counter, floor guard and eventually DJ (my favorite). By the end of my time at the rink Brian and I had created a skateboard park along with a skate shop that included a 4 foot high 12 foot wide mini half pipe outside. We were even booking local bands to play live while people skated such as The Church of Bowling, Simple Mary, Paperclip Nun, Gikk, Chemical Billy, The Honey Offering, Lungbutter, Brave Little Toaster, Drench and yes, even my own band, The Bearded Clam Wonder.
Which brings us back to the Skatium, I was there not for skating but to see live bands. As soon as I walked in all the familiar sights and sounds filled my senses. For a quick moment, I felt 14 years old again. But that didn’t last long as I got a good sense of the layout. As you walk in to your right is where you pick up your skates. To your left was the rink and further on down was the concession area. It’s a fairly large building and there were already a lot of people there. When I got there the band Kid Scientist was already playing out in the middle of the rink while people skated around them. I found my way to the concession area and was stunned to see them selling beer, then I noticed people skating with PBRs in their hands. Had I gone to heaven? I bought a beer then settled in on the side area to take everything in.
I saw many people I kind of recognized but no one I really knew. Then Jason Vargas came up and said “hello”. Hadn’t seen him in a few years, we use to work together but he left to raise a family. He said he was doing well and had two young kids but he was getting back into playing live music. Jason had played (and showed work) at one of the first art shows I helped organized on Cherokee Street back in 04 or 05, when Radio Cherokee was still open. He had skates on and skated off. Then I saw Bowls MacLean and he had his camera. He was snapping away at everyone skating and standing around. He knew most of the people there and was just trying to capture the event. We talked for a bit and I mentioned how low the lighting was. I wanted to snap some photos but I didn’t want to use a flash. He asked to see my camera and I handed it over. he said some technical stuff that went over my head and made some changes with the settings on my camera. Then gave it back to me and said “try that”. I snapped a few shots and they looked beautiful. I thanked him and he said no problem then went back to shooting the scene.
Right about that time I ran into Tony Patti. I’ve known Tony for about 14 years or so, not very long considering. Tony has been in and out of the local scene since the mid-late 70s. I first met him when we both hung out at Frederick’s Music Lounge. We quickly caught up with each other and then started contemplating the scene in front of us at the rink. He’s a big fan of Kid Scientist and was excitedly telling me all about them. After they finished, the next band started setting up. The Chill Dawgs fronted by the awesome Bassamp began playing some great Rock And Roll. Guitar, bass, drums plus not one but two saxophone players. They were sounding good and I snapped a few photos, grabbed another beer and continued talking with Tony.
Tony is in the midst of writing a novel and I greatly enjoy hearing about his creative process. In many ways it’s a lot like painting, sketching out ideas, spreading color on the canvas, editing images out or creating new ones, filling in more color, shading, etc. He and I can spend hours talking about this stuff and we did that night. After the Chill Dawgs were done, Celia’s band, Firedog, kept things going. Celia played some fantastic bass lines and got a few people without skates on out on the floor to dance. Tony and I continued talking and taking in everything going on.
Around 12:30am or so the feature band was about to begin. Ellen the Felon consists of Ellen Cook on keyboard and vocals plus a drummer namedMatthew “The Mattronome” Reyland. As they were about to begin a nice circle of fans grew closer to the middle of the rink waiting for the music to start. And it started with a bang. The Mattronome wailed on his drums, leaving nothing untouched, I understood how he got his name. In constant motion, never resting on a simple high-hat, snare combo rhythm but employing all items within his reach. Then you have Ellen, providing all the beautiful melodies with her keyboard and vocals. It was really stunning to see and hear just her and the drummer filling the whole Skatium with such a full sound. People danced and skated as they performed and I snapped quite a few shots. It was difficult with the low light, I even tried a few with a flash but those looked even worse. I do really like the photo I’m working from for the painting above but had hoped to get a nice shot of both musicians. Perhaps next time.