Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Saying Goodbye to a Friend, July 12, 2010

July 12, 2010

Ronny Hopkins, 1950-2010

This morning, we said “Goodbye” to Ronnie Hopkins, our lead singer, vocalist and creator of the Acoustic River Band.  Ron passed away last Thursday, at age 59, after a two-year battle with liver disease.  It remains such a bitter irony–Ron lived a clean and wholesome lifestyle.  We are flooded with stories of musicians and their deaths from substance abuse, but this gentleman lived a life where he did everything right, and currently none of us can find peace with the reality of his leaving the earth while still in his prime, and with so much left to offer. He leaves behind a wife of nearly forty years (he missed their anniversary by two weeks), two daughters and two grandchildren.  He managed to witness his younger daughter’s wedding scarcely a month ago.

Ron was undoubtedly the best guitarist I ever knew, who knew me by name.  He is the best guitarist I’ve heard without being charged admission.  And I was profoundly honored to be invited to join his band.  Technically, I played second guitar, but beside him, I felt like the tenth guitar.  Acoustic River was invited to play two selections at his services this morning, but frankly, Acoustic River without Ron Hopkins was Creedence Clearwater Revival without John Fogerty.  We played his favorite pieces, but knew that we were a mere shadow of the sound we heard when he sat among us, and his guitar resting on the empty chair was the visual reminder of what is no longer with us.

Shortly after Ron became ill, I was commissioned by David Slight, our bassist, to create this portrait as a surprise for Ron while he was in the hospital.  Using a photograph, we tried to capture his quintessential smile that continually disarmed us, and will continue to do so with every memory.

Thanks to all of you who read this blog.  I’ll be getting back to the studio watercolors, but not just now.  It’s taking awhile to absorb all of this.  Thanks Ron, for including me in your full and fruitful musical circle.

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Back to the Road House, July 9, 2010

July 9, 2010

Road HouseI’ve laid aside the fly fishing poured watercolor and returned to the road house scene on Route 61 in Southeast Missouri.  I needed time to compost the fly fishing composition–I’m not sure just what to do next on the exposed masked areas.

The pressed tile siding on this building is pitching me fits.  I plan to finish the center of the building with all those “dents” in the tiled surfaces.  Then I need to put boots on the guitar player and drybrush the ground cover around him.  The GMC pickup still needs modeling, and there is plenty of detail work to do on this remarkable building.  Looks like I’ll focus on this one today and hopefully post some progress by nightfall.

Thanks always for reading.

Jazz at the Bistro now on the Greeting Card, March 7, 2010

March 7, 2010

St. Louis Jazz at the Bistro

Finally, I’m bringing out this watercolor on a 5 x 7″ greeting card, blank inside with the following caption on the back:  Last August while visiting my hometown St. Louis, I came across this incredible edifice of a jazz club near the renovated Fox Theater.  Standing outside of it made me feel a sense of loss as I noted the darkened interior, and though the business had closed its doors.  As it turned out, the club was only closed for that month of August.  I paused that afternoon in silence, trying to conjure up in my memory the fading distant notes of Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie.  In my watercolor studies, I have made a few jabs at blues musicians and environments, but this is my first attempt at jazz, and hopefully not my last.

Kat Under a Hot Tin Roof, February 11, 2010

February 11, 2010

Kat Under a Hot Tin Roof

Isn’t it funny how we as artists practice the “dance of avoidance” (Ted Orland, Creative Authenticity) when we have all the time in the world to practice our craft?  Why do we do that?  Why do I do that?  I got sick last week, the doctor ordered me to stay home for four days and recuperate, and what did I do?  I worked harder on my lesson plans, anticipating my return to the classroom.  I’ve taught 22 years!  I don’t have to re-invent the wheel for public school!

Now, north Texas is expecting up to 8 inches of snow.  Tomorrow’s (Friday) classes are already canceled, and Monday is President’s Day.  So–I’ve just inherited another 4-day weekend.  I’ll get to know myself a little better this time, perhaps, and have something to show for the hiatus before I get back into the classroom next Tuesday.  Right now, I’m just sitting, chilling, and rhapsodizing on the huge, HUGE snowflakes filling the sky outside my study window, and recalling–Oh yeah!  a blog for today!  So, here goes. . .

I’ve had the privilege of playing acoustic guitar and singing in a band for a number of years now.  I have posted a watercolor of Kat Duke, one of our most amazing charter band members.  Kat is a gifted, soulful song writer, acoustic guitar player and vocalist (my how dusky and sultry her alto voice is!).  She and I began pulling people aside back in 2004 to play together, and, next thing we knew, we were a band with gigs on the calendar.  Through the years, band members came and went, but Kat always remained steadfast.

Finally in January 2008 Kat decided to pursue her long deferred dream of moving to the Pacific Northwest and living out the life of a folk singer.  She boarded a plane for Seattle, and we were all saddened to lose her, yet proud of her brave step into the future.  Before she departed, I secretly created this watercolor of her.  The pose came from a photo I took of her playing my guitar in my art booth at a festival at Kessler Park in Oak Cliff, Dallas.  I created the brick wall from my imagination, and added graffiti of all the band members who had played with her since 2004, and a logo of the band that she and I stayed with the longest–Interchangeable Parts.

Anytime I want to hear Kat’s voice, I only have to look at this painting.  And it all comes back . . .

Bluesville USA–Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago, February 10, 2010

February 10, 2010

Here is the third and final watercolor submitted to the juried exhibition of the Arlington Visual Arts Association.  The Blues are my passion, and I think Buddy Guy is the greatest living Blues guitarist and performer today.  It has been my pleasure to see him perform countless times, and finally, when I visited the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008, I made my way south of my hotel to visit his celebrated Legends nightclub.  My wife and I had flown in from our home in Arlington, Texas the night before, and as we entered his establishment, we asked the manager if Buddy Guy ever “hung out” in his own club.  His answer was, “Yeah, every night that he’s in town.”  Of course we had to know if he was in town.  We were in Chicago for a three-day stay.  “No, he’s performing a three-night venue in Houston.”  Oh well.  Still it was a great club, and the music we heard all three nights was Chicago Blues at its steamiest.

I photographed his club from every angle possible, finding it especially difficult from this perspective posted, with the constant obstruction of traffic lights, passing traffic, etc.  But I liked this angle, and gave it my best try.  I was intimidated by all the teals, as that is my least “cooperative” watercolor, so it seems.  I also struggled with the teals in an earlier blog post–the one of my St. Louis Jazz at the Bistro.  I found the neon-lit signs against dark windows very challenging, but was satisfied with how they came out.  I have tried neon a few more times in my more recent Waxahachie, Texas courthouse square paintings.  My attempts at capturing mildewed and stained concrete again took me back to the Andrew Wyeth coffee table books in my collection.  I spent a great deal of time looking at his drybrush renderings of the concrete buildings at Kuerner’s Farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.  Wyeth has constantly “taken me back to school” when it comes to solving problems in drybrush renderings.  Finally, I had to try my hand at that vertical corner sign surrounded with light bulbs, featuring the illustration of a young Buddy Guy.  Lettering is my Achilles heel, and there was plenty of it to fight in this sign.  I’ll have to keep chipping away at the lettering issues because I love signage in watercolors, just as I do when I’m out looking at old commercial buildings downtown.

I miss Chicago, and look forward hopefully to spending more days in that Windy City.  It features one of my favorite art museums, my favorite musical genre, and the entire downtown is an architectural wonder to me.

Last Night’s Dance, January 28, 2010

January 28, 2010

The Silver Dollar Tavern, Old Appleton, Missouri

Still working on the “Hunt” scene, for anyone still curious.  Trying to make the hounds look right.  Will probably work on that watercolor well into tonight.

Here is an old one from the files.  This tavern was still standing ten years ago when I last saw it.  It was situated on Old Highway 61 near Old Appleton in southeast Missouri.  My father took me to this site about twenty years ago when I was out with a 35mm camera looking for nostalgic sites to paint in watercolor.  I could see by Dad’s demeanor that this place held many memories for him, as he continually walked about the property and peeked in windows.  He said he visited the establishment regularly during his youthful days, before shipping out to Korea,  and that there was a dance hall on the second floor.

I find it significant that it is located on the Blues Route, north of the Mississippi Delta.  I still hope that one day, I will return to this site, and then continue southward on 61 into rural Mississippi, and see if I can continue to spot road houses, juke joints and the like.

Thanks Dad, for bringing me here.

Finished Jazz at the Bistro, St. Louis, January 16, 2010

January 16, 2010

Jazz at the Bistro, St. Louis

I finished my second watercolor today.  This image was posted several days ago, when it was nearly complete.  Both watercolors finished today have been “in progress” for a couple of months now.  Too many interruptions and holiday-related events impeded my progress on them.  Delighted to be past them now, and ready for a new and fresh composition.  Maybe tomorrow . . .

Backyard Blues, January 5, 2010

January 5, 2010

My Brother and His Guitar

I’m embarrassed that I forgot to post this (although I did, to my Facebook friends last month).  This watercolor took first place in the membership show of the Desoto Art League (Desoto, Texas) early in December 2009.  The show just closed and I got to bring it back home again.

My younger brother is playing the guitar, although I had to use a photograph taken of him in a St. Louis living room.  I’ve always thought he resembled David Crosby, in hair, mustache and weight.  The buildings I found here in Arlington, Texas, behind the Upstairs Gallery on Abrams.  This is my first attempt to render a “bluesman” outdoors in humble surroundings.  Hopefully, I will get to pursue some more of these subjects.  I would like to put a blues guitarist on the porch of my grandmother’s defunct house (posted a couple of days ago–“No Longer Home”).  I have never put a human figure with that house in all my attempted sketches and paintings.  I think it’s time.  My attempt to work on the Wyeth drybrush as well as the Impressionist plein air came together somewhat in this painting, but I still have a long way to go.  I began a sketch yesterday that attempted to merge the two techniques, and think I have found a few fresh ideas to pursue.

January 4, 2010–St. Louis Jazz at the Bistro

January 5, 2010

Facade of a St. Louis Jazz Club

I have this watercolor about 99.5% finished now, so I thought I would go ahead and post it.  As noted in previous blogs, I feel a tug-of-war between the Andrew Wyeth/drybrush/neutral technique that has been my focus for some years now, over against the more recent Impressionist/plein air/saturated color technique that I have enjoyed.  My eye delights in both.

Last August while visiting my hometown St. Louis, I came across this incredible edifice of a jazz club near the renovated Fox Theater.  Standing outside of it made me feel a sense of loss as I noted the darkened interior, and thought the business had closed its doors.  As it turns out (see the post below) the club was closed for the month of August.  I paused that afternoon in silence, trying to conjure up in my memory the fading distant notes of Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie.   In my watercolor sudies, I have made a few jabs at blues musicians and environments, but this is my first attempt at jazz, and hopefully not my last.

I look forward to visiting Jazz at the Bistro next time I visit St. Louis.  I’m ecstatic to know the place still thrives, and can’t wait to see the inside and hear what they have to bring.