New Music Works

My second entry for this blog will mention three subjects.

1. Painting with acrylics

2. Painting about music/ discovering the singing of Petra Haden

3. Learning from Klee and Kandinsky


I have not painted with acrylics for years, even decades. Sure, I use them for primers. My use of acrylic based Kilz (both 2 and 3) being my favored primer. Kilz has ingredients that suppress tannins that bleed through from wood substrates, and since I generally favor wood based panels (birch plywoods, mdf medium density fiberboard, untempered masonite, almost impossible to find anymore, even osb, oriented strand board, love the textures), it makes the most sense for me as a primer. I over prime. If one coat is good, 2 coats are better. Since it’s all set out to be recoated, why not make it even better at 3 coats. I usually prime with 3 coats of Kilz. As far as using acrylics as my main top paint, I have generally avoided them. Again, sure, when I was starting out, I did use them. But not for long, as I quickly discovered the superiority, for me, of using oils. I crave that wet edge to blend borders. Nonetheless, I am open to using almost any art, or even non-art material (I really dig caulk). I have been following the new pouring acrylics for some time and realized it was time to reconsider. So over the last two years I have been stock-piling some acrylic kits. Then, recently, in an art store, a real live retail store where you can really see and touch stuff, I came across pre-formulated pouring acrylics. They have the liquid state formulated just to pour. And there I spotted a beginners book on how to pour. Wow, who knew? I have figured out all my pouring by experimenting (since 1995) and looking very closely at color field painters. Now I know what a “dirty cup” is. More on that latter. So I had my paints, this website was mostly updated (two months’ work), and I knew the time had come to reinvestigate plastic paint.

OK, acrylics were set to be the new experiment. Now, what to paint? At this point if you are curious, read my full recent statement about painting music on the site. It’s a separate tab, and I spent a few days writing down what I wanted to say. In this blog I can add more detail and more recent revelations. Cut to Kandinsky, sited in my website statement. I had ordered a book. Read his Wikipedia page, checked out things about him on the web. He is important for many reasons and certainly his use of music is one. As I read about Wassily I saw many references for his friend and colleague Paul Klee. I found a book entitled Paul Klee Painting Music. The gist of what I have learned from this book is that Klee realized the structure of a painting composition can be informed directly by music principles. Intervals, proportions, colors, divisions, angles, being repetitive, forming visual rhythms. Check out the book for a better description. Anyway, I realized I have been using music all along, not just music as a subject. I knew this, the rhythm of stroke was always so important to me. It was why I could not just stop a painting anytime to go somewhere; the rhythm would be broken. If you did stop and came back later, it would be a slightly different rhythm and wouldn't quite match. I now have a renewed appreciation for the Klee works I have always enjoyed. So at this point I can get fired up about structure and stroke and take on some more music investigations.

What to paint. For my music, the English, (now somehow part American as well group) King Crimson has always been on my top playlist. Since their first album (1969) all the way to today they have consistently taken me somewhere with their sonic journeys. I am remembering all the slide shows when I used their music for soundtracks. Very cinematic sound in my view. Very ancient vibe, often played using both acoustic and electronic sounds… This website has 6 paintings painted this last summer in Alaska listening to their music. So, I picked a favorite song, The Sheltering Sky, played it for the umpteenth time, then looked for live versions, played a few of them, then saw down the list of recommendations a version, “a cappella” it said. By someone I did not recognize, no problem. If she wants to cover King Crimson, I want to hear it. Presto, I had discovered Petra Haden. Sometimes those algorithms are useful. A revelation. “Singing Crimson” as she says. That’s got to be hard to do. Who would even want to try? Ah, she is one of three triplet daughters of Charlie Haden. Always loved his bass work with Metheney. OK. I see now. Let’s give a serious listen…

She sings, sings all the parts played by the band, Fripp, Levin, Belew, Brufford et all. Layer on layer. Here was a sublime version of what Klee was calling polyphony. How can you sing Fripp’s and Belew’s crazy guitars? Sing the percussion? Sure, that makes sense to me. If you want to play tabla, dare any instrument in Indian Classical music, you must sing it first. So here is a symphonic singing version of some very intense music. Sheltering Sky, Petra’s version, was played over and over. I heard more each time. Since I know King Crimson so well, (about 50 years of listening, and a few live concerts), I thought I could catch all the subtle interpretations. Spectacular. I went on to discover all the songs she has posted, so far, and did a painting for each. Please give her a listen. I am contacting her to let her pick one of 3 paintings, if she would like to have one as personal gift from someone who appreciates her music and whose life has been enhanced by her singing. I have recently been contacting other musicians to offer them gifts. Bobby Watson and Marcus Miller being the other two so far. I have in mind a few others. I will put something in this blog when the time arrives.

Oh, the only work that really is poured is “Petra-Haden-Sings-Crimson-#3,-Frame-by-Frame”. Not surprisingly, I did not immediately have the feel for pouring acrylics- yet. Big surprise. Way different viscosity than oil based enamel, my great ally in doing works for the past 25 years. So mostly what you see in the new Petra Paintings is acrylic brush work, and palette knife work, and drywall blade work, my usual tools that transmit the energy of the music. Still, “Petra-Haden-Sings-Crimson-#3,-Frame-by-Frame” shows me I can pour acrylics. I will need to practice more.