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Friday, April 22, 2011

Music in the Painting Process

I find myself continually intrigued by how deeply interconnected all art forms are within the creative process. Working primarily in a single artistic field (visual, literary, musical or otherwise) it's easy to become isolated, to create only within a comfort zone. That's not to say that all forms aren't appreciated by artists who have focused their energies into a particular media, just that we are most confident working in a kind of compartmentalized system. I think this is a natural occurrence (not something institutionalized by society, per se) as we all have particular gifts that lend themselves to this kind of division. The product of this compartmentalization is apparent in how we define the art (the painting, the novel, the song) with little regard to how the PROCESS was affected by other genres. It is oftentimes impossible to see this crossover, unless, of course, the artist specifically intends to communicate it. Or you are a film maker. Film is the prefect example of the melding of different artistic categories... visuals with words and music.

When I began filming my painting process the issues of genre crossover became an exhilarating new concept to work with. Up until this point I had worked primarily in a secretive fashion, alone in my studio, only releasing images of works in progress to a select few. But creating films opened it all up... questioning how I express the process rather than just communicate through a completed painting.

Music became the prevailing (and oftentimes frustrating!) focus in my filmmaking. I have always painted with music going in the background. And I have always chosen my music by what emotions it brings forth in me that I want to influence the painting. For example, in the portrait of the young girl I have been commissioned to paint for her Bat-Mitzvah, I created a Pandora station of music I listened to when I was about her age. Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell... strong female artists that speak to the unnerving poetry of misunderstanding. But when it came time to put a soundtrack to my film, the modern day issues of copyright infringement hampered my full artistic expression. The only music I could find (unless I could pay $80 to license a royalty free tune) were educational recordings of classical music written before 1920. I "made do" in the first layer films with Chopin, an obvious choice as a lot of his music deals with subtleties of emotion and introspection, but ideally I would have liked to accurately portray the process (and conscious musical decisions I had made) while painting.

After discussing my musical frustrations with my dear friend Harley White Jr. he proposed a kind of collaboration for part 3 and 4 in the commission series. For the dress details I wanted something upbeat and fun, vibrant like the flowing gauze in orange, red and yellow. And this is what spontaneously erupted from the strings in the first take:

In part 4, with the detail work in the field of flowers in the background, Harley played one of his original compositions "Spring"

Witness the final touches on "Nicole's painting" in Part 5 of the commission process. Film will be posted as soon as a tune comes together. If only I had a musical bone in my body this hunt wouldn't be so difficult...

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