My Pride and Joy?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Around this time last year I was putting the finishing touches on one of my most challenging pieces ever. What was so daunting about this particular painting? Nothing extraordinary, technically speaking. The Sisyphean stone I was shoving up the hill was my total non-interest in the subject matter. In short....I don't like Stevie Ray Vaughan. 

Nope. Not at all. I know he's a genius in the eyes and ears of many devoted fans. Generations of music lovers absolutely LOVE him. And I get it. He had a certain je ne sais quoi that continues to stoke the fires in the hearts of millions. But when I hear his songs it leaves me feeling flatter than Olive Oil's ass. 

Jimi Hendrix, however, is firmly ensconced in my inner pantheon of rock gods. His music makes my soul boil over. If you don't feel a jolt of lightning when listening to the opening riff of "Voodoo Chile" then you are simply dead inside. You might as well cash in those proverbial chips and get ready for a long dirt nap in Sunny Gardens. Game over, zombie. Jimi's music radiates the transcendent sexuality and raw power that made rock n' roll the revolutionary maelstrom that it was. He was a bridge between the elegant and primitive, raw and refined, ancient and modern. 

So why do I mention the groovetastic Jimi in the same breath as (in my mind) mediocre minstrel Stevie Ray? Because they belong together. Well, in my friends' house they do. You see in 2006 or so I sold this Jimi Hendrix piece to a fantastic couple in Ft. Meyers. They are the type of patrons that every artist delights in--enthusiastic, passionate, soulful and ardent supporters of the arts. It doesn't get any better than these folks. The wife simply flew over the moon when she saw the Jimi portrait and had to have it. I was giddy and glad to deliver Mr. Hendrix to his new home. 

The transaction was so energizing and positive that I immediately agreed to a companion piece they soon requested. Who else were these lovely people enamored of? Lil' ol' Stevie Ray. I admitted that I didn't really know much about the man but I promised to do a good job. And I keep my promises. 

Now this created quite the artistic conundrum for me. I had to loosen up and not take my portrait of Jimi so seriously while I was creating it. It was difficult to relax and let the process happen. I really wanted it to be great. That passion and desire is great for the spark and drive in the beginning but, like any relationship, too much can be smothering. There is an art to stepping back and taking yourself out of the picture. Getting the right perspective, both literally and figuratively, is crucial to painting of all types. Fortunately for me a tight deadline for a show and a few well-timed Coronas snapped me out of my analysis paralysis. 

For Stevie Ray I had to go in the other direction. I had to tighten my focus. Look for the gold. Listen for the magic notes. It was like trying to enjoy a food you genuinely don't like but not wanting to insult the host you try to enjoy it. I learned a lot about the man in the process and came to respect him. I even enjoyed looking at his photos. He had a unique look about him.

Ultimately what delivered me to the end of the race was my love for my clients. I wanted them to have the best possible work that I could make. I pictured them ecstatically embracing this new painting. I relished the idea of them proudly displaying their duo of rock gods in their home. That was all it took. 

In the end it came out pretty well in my opinion. My friend literally cried when she saw it. That was an amazing reward. Even more rewarding was the lesson I learned. How to see art as an act of giving instead of an act of ego. 

1 comment:

  1. Robert,

    You have impressed me once again, Sir!
    I remember seeing your portrait of Jimi for the first time and being th-rilled that it was available and that I had the chips to buy it. You were in the process of having a sale and offered Jimi to me at half price. Remember?
    I refused to pay half price for such a fully valued appreciation of your work - so I insisted on paying full price. At that point you and I started going at it in the friendliest of battles with our final resolution pleasing us both. I insisted on paying full price for Jimi and you insisted on producing another work for us. That's how we came to know each other more fully, to appreciate each other more deeply and to be happy with the outcome of our "transaction". One soul never more fully knows another till each draws that line in the sand and refuses to budge. Our lines in the sand were obliterated by mutual respect and commitment and I've always been so happy to have your work in my presence!

    When I first heard Hendrix, I thought there could never be a finer guitarist. That still holds true! I even spelled my name differently for a bitty time in honor of the rapture he gave me with his work. Debbie became Debi for a time in the progressive '70's!

    You know of course that SRV was motivated to become a better guitar player having heard Jimi's work and still the dynamism of that unbroken circle helps keep my personal gyroscope on course. In my currently choppy waters, these images represent excellence, beginnings, endings and legacy. May I be as loved in my life!

    Thanks again, Robert, for making my heart sing every time I see SRV and JH. My very best to you and yours, my talented and dearest of souls!

    Debbie Wine
    formerly of Naples, FL
    presently of Gainesville, FL