Friday, February 23, 2018

two hundred ninety-one

It is a truthful smell.  It has been a while since that scent
The stage is set
hit my olfactory nerves.  Just like peering into an old photo though, the recollection of memories come wafting in.  It's a bit overwhelming for those of us who keep ourselves open via links to our senses.  It's funny -- some folks observe when you are overwhelmed and they say things like "come on, wake up.  You'll miss something."  Ha.

The stairs to Aaron's West Asheville apartment are ascended and that soft punch of truth hits.  Smells like fresh herbs, fresh bodies, and fresh ideas all wrapped up in an old two storey building burrito of domiciles, a market, a bar, and several other shops on the ground.  But I instantly go up.  Way up.  It's been building -- Asheville was home for a decade and there are loaves of experiences.  Some fond.  Some foggy.  Some, just plain ole crusty lessons of life (but with lots of AVL flavor).

no looking back

This time.  It is good times.  We've got some creativity at play.  Aaron, a well known NC musician has invited me to accompany him during his CD release party performance (see blog entry 290).  Instruments are brought on the journey: a freshly recycled canvas, easel, and of course, paints.  Most importantly there is the tool of inspiration.  "Les will you work on stage during the piano performance and create a live painting?" asks Aaron.  Sure.  That hasn't been done yet.  It's an opportunity.  It's on my bucket list to make a painting from start to finish in front of a captive audience.  The magicians make it happen right in front of your eyes.  Let's see what kind of rabbits conjure up.

We arrive at the venue, The White Horse over in Black Mountain.  Lights are trained, the piano is mic'd and we dance a bit with the stage layout to establish the best way for all to see, hear, and experience the upcoming performance.  There is also time to focus a bit more on exactly what is to be painted live.  It's not nerves that are forming.  It's pressure.  A bit of pressure forces decisions and feeds the real possibility of staring at a blank canvas on stage in front of an audience.  Oh, and there is only an hour and a half to summon & paint the muse.  I got this.  I got a can of caffeine too.

Aaron and Shalene amid the audience
The intimate venue fills at approximately 75 patrons. The house goes dark.  The lights on the stage make purple shadows.  My back is facing many souls.  My face is full of a stark white 4ft x 5ft canvas.  Thanks to Sara and her daughter, Desi for providing the giclee printed canvas.  Yes, the freshly primed canvas used to be a giclee (that's a fancy facsimile of an original artwork, folks).  Ha.  Layers indeed - I'll take a massed produced digi printing and make it a one of a kind, an archival Les III original.  That's what artists do -- we take elements of what already exists and make them into new experiences for all.  Thank you for the assist, ladies.

Aaron Price & Les III
The album of instrumental piano hymns Aaron is releasing is aptly titled.  Bob, the White Horse emcee introduces Aaron as an artist who contributes creatively to many bands and organizations throughout the area.  (Check out a sweet article on Aaron here.)  "Tonite is his night" says Bob.  And with that Aaron walks out and begins to create music on a piano.  The blank canvas begins to capture brush strokes.  There are several guests that contribute to the musical experience throughout the evening.  An invocation.  Operatic vocals.  I feel the prayers from others there in spirit.  The stage lights lay hot on my neck.  There is a wall of black just behind me and it is composed of souls hungry for art.  They are well fed.  The senses once again ignite.  I am in love.  Sharing with others.  Like the title of the cd, this event is an "Offering".  There's one available for you to nab here.

Thank you White Horse, Aaron, and all the folks who were part of the enjoyable event.

Anybody feel a title for the painting?     

Friday, February 2, 2018

two hundred ninety

The first strokes
"Can you draw this image for me?"  It's a question often posed to those of us who are mark makers and paintbrush pushers.  Sometimes the question comes kinda like a grade school playground challenge -- "well can you draw an elephant on a unicycle jousting a badger in a tu tu?" (Not a bad idea.)  

A curious aspect of making commissioned art is that sometimes you are being asked to create something that doesn't exist -- and there's the thrill for me -- and then comes the commission parameters, "It needs to be this height; this color; only in sharpie; the image of the unicorn need to convey a feeling of day-trading."  

I love that art is visual communication.  If you could say it with words or dance or music, then do so.  And each form has it's limits and beautiful aspects.  A musical friend of mine, Aaron Price hollered at me last fall, "can you create an image of a church on a hill for an album cover of solo hymns on piano?"  He and I worked together before.  We're mutual admirers of each others' creativity and have been for nearly 20 years.  Heck yeah.  

ill spec spoof (dig the fake barcode)
The project begins.  He provides me rough mixes of several songs to absorb and be inspired by.  I send him initial sketches.  Having worked together on another album cover, we kinda know what to expect.  With a bit of the ole back and forth, a workable interpretation of "a church on a hill" that Aaron envisioned comes forth.  

The project gets finalized with further tweaks and design layout by Mr. Phil Cheney of Cheney Graphics, another solid creative mind up in Western, NC.  We are getting close to the final image.  

The next time I see Aaron, its right before the winter holidays.  We trade smiles and he shows me a big stack of the final product.  His vision for the jewel-case cover included it looking like a well-used leather hymnal cover that's embossed with my artwork.   It looks great.  And the music sounds even better.  Check out "Offering" via Soundcloud.  Thanks for the spirited music, Aaron!
The maestro and his music

Friday, November 24, 2017

two hundred eighty-nine

This beautiful home is a blank canvas.
It was a tossup between a squid and a peacock.  But before which animal was decided, I had to answer the question as to whether or not I would paint a mural on Sara's house.  "Hell yeah," I said.  And with that we started thinking about the upcoming project for a private dwelling in the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta, GA.

This beautiful taped paper is a blank canvas.
Man, peacock with the eyes and the colors and the feathers or the three hearted squid with undulating tentacles possibly wrapping the house.  Such a tossup here.  Maybe both?  They both have beaks.  Peaquid.  Squeecock.  Erm, we decided on the peacock, because it reminds me more of Sara; her colorful life; and the mythological reference to Hera and Argus and 100 eyes - a majestic symbol of our friendship.  Oh and her old bungalow seemed to be painted just right for the addition of a colorful bird.

This beautiful design is the accepted version.
A couple of preliminary roughs were sent and accepted prior to traveling to ATL.  Time was of the essence -- winter weather would soon be upon us.  So if a mural was to be painted, the Fates would need to be kind, and allow us to arrive at a satisfactory design quickly.  The bulk of the design happened while I was down in Atlanta.   I arrived on a Monday morning.  We worked on the design pretty much everyday until Wednesday at 11am.  There were breaks in there somewhere to take in the nearby graffiti; enjoy the trampoline with her family during the Thanksgiving Break; and share a bottle of Four Saints Brewing Company's "Helping Hand Of Ginger Imperial Wit" beer.

Nothing like a little bit of pressure to derive the design -- we got the green light late Wednesday morning, procured the supplies, and started painting on Wednesday afternoon.  Drawing to scale the 32nds and 64ths of inches was the most time consuming.  I gave others a headache just watching me.
This beautiful team paints the (left) canvas.

These beautiful rusted cans inspect the front left canvas.
The rest is a blur.  A colorful blur of smiles, community help, and flying paint.  We started cutting in the large sections on the old wooden clapboard siding.  But let me back up a step -- Sara worked from home this week.  She had already pressure washed the house for the upcoming mural.  She made and received all sorts of business calls (she sets up local restaurants with food supplies -- a busy time during Thanksgiving Week).  As a co-parent she also hosted her children and neighborhood children throughout the week.  She also hosted said artist and his design meetings -- providing constant coffee, food, Dark-N-Stormys, and feedback.  Sara also put together a Thanksgiving meal for 15.  See what I mean by the goddess Hera reference?  And all fortified with laughter, grace, power, and elegance.  Yes, she made it look easy - and it was quite inspiring. 

The beautiful team assembles on turkey carving day.
Next thing I knew it was Wednesday evening.  The sun was about to set.  Work lights appeared and illuminated.  A space heater was ignited.  While stretched out on a ladder she hollered at me from the ground, "support is on the way."  Several more brushes got wet as I met neighborhood friends here to be part of the magic.  Painting a mural is one thing.  Painting a mural on clapboard, in the dark, and creatively directing others for the first time - is another matter.  Oh but the reassurance came from the patron.  "Les, you are so good at figuring things out on the fly and using all the resources available to you."  That's coming from the co-parenting, high volume salesperson, who parks in the middle of a chaotic train depot parking lot, because she can -- and then directs traffic to not only get her car out of the jam -- but others as well -- and looks absolutely, naturally fabulous while doing it.  Mad-situational-can-do-high-functioning-woman.

The beautiful almost-completely visible canvas.
They say the finished painting is but merely the residue of the creative process.  I'd like to cite this experience as a reference to this concept.  Yes, the mural is pretty cool.  It integrates vibrant imagery and color into the existing structure.  Image and house now coexist  and the viewer has to walk about the outside of the house to experience the entire mural.  But the process -- 50 hours of designing and redesigning during the week of the painting and previous R&D from within the local library.  And then all that magic during those hours of painting -- neighborhood folk stopping by on their walk to inquire.  Catching a glimpse of a car slowing down to take a better look.  The ethereal passing 'oohs and aahs.'  The folks at the paint store getting jazzed when they hear about the project and one employee's discovery that her children play with Sara's.  Constant feel good music from Sam Cooke, Leon Bridges, and Alabama Shakes  while painting with others.  Catching up with dear friends, and making new ones.  Sharing brush techniques with others from 20 years of painting and learning about new ways to paint too.  And finally, hearing from my patron how happy she is to know that she will walk up to this house and see the residue of these experiences.  Every. Day.