I’m heavily influenced by music and musical instruments, but more so by Blues artists, the feeling that Blues music gives me, and the screaming, wailing voice of Blues guitars. I was raised during the 60s and 70s when Blues and Rock were prevalent on the radio. These were also turbulent times, with Viet Nam, anti-war protests, drugs and Woodstock, constantly broadcasted on television. The Blues originally was an expression of loss or rejection of a loved one or spouse; however, in the 60s the music evolved in to love, peace and protest songs.
In middle school I started to draw comic book characters, in pencil, making little comic books for my classmates. Eventually I started drawing Rock stars, specifically Jimi Hendrix, while in high school. I was fascinated with drawing portraits: the human figure in football uniforms, then eventually album covers and the artist on them. All the while I focused on the central theme of the picture, and not foreground, mid-ground or background in the picture. Later in high school, I was introduced to pastels and started drawing characters on butcher paper that resembled actors in the popular Black-sploitation movies. They wore platform shoes, Maxi-coats and big brim hats. I was focused on the realism and life size quality of the figure, not the entire picture. I started creating protest art, not so much against war, but more so against the system and the injustice that was still taking place in America against Blacks minorities and women. For example, I used chalk to draw a picture of a Ku Klux Klansman pouring an American flag out of a pitcher on the back of a red, black and green African-American trying to escape Americanism.
I always wanted to be an artist, but during my 22 years in the United States Army I didn’t utilize my craft at all. I decided to go to college after retirement and become a teacher, not solely for the employment, but to pass on my knowledge of composition and art history. I would relay to students my life experiences, and how the African-American artist Romare Bearden’s collage technique helped me compose my own personal imagery. I would hope to inspire students to be creative through the use of collage construction. Bearden’s works, including collages, were influenced by Jazz and his memories of his earlier life in rural settings.
Prior to constructing collages, I decide on a theme, subject or central topic. Then I select the imagery from magazines, newspapers or books. Next I arrange the imagery compositionally using directional devices such as shape, size, line and implied lines. These collages become prototypes for my drawings and paintings. After careful evaluation of the collage, some manipulation of the imagery may need adjustment, such as color, value and shadows, in order for the picture to work compositionally.
These elements of art, line, shape, texture, value, space, color, and form; in addition to the principles of art, unity, emphasis, movement, balance, rhythm, pattern, and contrast, become a catalyst for my work. Although all elements and principles are utilized in producing my works, my enriched knowledge of space, and use of color and line become my focus. I now feel confident that I can more effectively convey with a paintbrush the issues of the 60s and 70s that still exist today, along with the Blues.
I feel I’ve obtained a two-fold educational benefit from Methodist College. First I’ve learned that an artistic composition doesn’t necessarily have to be what one presently sees. You can compose anything, such as an environment you’ve longed to exist in, or even a time and space that you’ve once occupied. Second my instructional technique has improved drastically. In the military everyone is basically taught to receive instruction a certain way, sit up straight, shut up and listen. I’m more aware that everyone’s learning ability is not necessarily the same, and they probably won’t ever be able to conform to a rigorous military- style education. These are the ones I’d like to target, because they need encouragement and nurturing, as much or maybe more so than other students. These two reasons are why I feel more qualified and confident to go into the public school system, teach these eager youth and hopefully make a difference.
The acrylic painting titled Medicine Cabinet depicts me looking at myself in three mirrors. The medicine cabinet mirror, hand held mirror and a full length mirror all give different reflections of me. I’m trying to show how society is so hung up on taking so many different pills for different ills. We have a dependency on headache, back pain, weight loss, weight gain, depression and pills to cure hyperactivity. In this composition, I’m primping and preparing to go who knows where, but I suddenly wonder if I took the wrong medication. I’m currently hallucinating looking at all the pretty flowers and foliage. The two frontal mirror views are different intentionally to show the viewer a before and after depiction of dependency.
The acrylic painting titled Fragile is representative of how extreme forces, such as eggs, cloth, and plaster pillars can co-exist. I painted this still life with a palette knife, without the use of the color white, then glazed it blue to give the picture an antique effect. Though the eggs are separated, one high and one low in the picture, this illustrates that they can exist with the larger more cumbersome materials. All the materials, the eggs, pillars, planter and glass vase, in this picture have a breaking point, thus they are all fragile.
The acrylic painting Ram and Rope is basically a study of extreme light and dark values, and extreme warm and cool colors. Even though these colors are from the same color family they seem to fight against each other. This painting was painted with a pallet knife also. This is the second picture used to illustrate the placement of colors on the canvas instead of mixing colors the on canvas. This exercise helps an artist become more proficient in handling folds in fabric, and reproducing 3-D quality in objects such as the ram’s skull. The ram’s skull is painted in brilliant yellow without the use of white, and the darker values are painted with mostly with complementary colors. The green cloth in the background has subtle value changes so as not to interfere with the bright color of the ram’s head.
This acrylic painting titled Riding in Cars with Guitars was inspired by the 60s and the mood of the day while attending The Filmore East auditorium. This auditorium was a popular place for artists like the Mamas and the Papas, Janis Joplin, and Sly and the Family Stone to showcase their talents. The artists during this time were more blues oriented and the British wanted to learn more about this American art form. I basically wanted to capture the feeling of love and harmony that was prevalent during this time and evoke a nostalgic feeling from the viewer. Jimi Hendrix and B.B King, who were prominent artists of the day, are featured in this picture with B.B. in the back seat of the Cadillac. Eric Clapton, who is driving the Cadillac, also is an excellent guitar player, and captured the sound then and is still a Blues innovator today. Jimi Hendrix is on the far left. I painted him as if he were an omnipresent angel.
This satirical oil painting titled Mona’s Blues shows the Mona Lisa with a Fender Telecaster guitar on her shoulder, while wearing cheap sunglasses, like the song Texas Blues band Z.Z. Top sang about, “Cheap Sunglasses”. Two other guitars are in the background, oozing forward in the stream to the right and on the road to the left. I painted this picture because everyone always wondered what she was thinking. She was thinking of the Blues.
This mixed media picture titled Gemini Squared depicts my bust in four different shirts in an Andy Warhol influenced style. The discordant colors in the background add to the separation and continuity of the picture, thus, creating more than two sides to a Gemini. The texture of the shirts are built up with Gesso intentionally. This process gives each quadrant its own individuality, because the water and chalk will adhere and well up in the material differently.
This acrylic painting called Going Home is inspired by and is a tribute to the astronauts who lost their lives during reentry. I’m sitting down next to a Stratocaster coffee table in shock, like the rest of the world, as I watched the whole event unfold on T.V. The little shuttles that are simulating wallpaper are all going home. The large figure of an astronaut is letting me know the mission is accomplished and all are home.
This oil self-portrait called Future Self depicts me in futuristic blazing colors representative of one’s self-actualization. I’ve always been intrigued with the hierarchy of needs pyramid and what one would encounter once they reach the top. This picture basically is my interpretation of what he would look like when you are self fulfilled.
This self portrait oil painting called Me, Myself and I depicts me sketching myself with one of my self portrait paintings behind me. I always felt when one draws his or herself effectively and convincingly, one will become more self-actualized and everything else in life and art will become academic. The painting in the background is “Self 1973”.
This drawing called Virtual Blues is inspired by the computer graphics and animation class I took at Methodist College. The first image you see on a computer when you bring up the Lightwave software is a large graph. The user then applies whatever images he or she wants to the graph. In my drawing I chose a blues guitar player to go along with one of the first applications students learn to make: the sphere. Then I added a depression and stormy clouds to go along with the Blues he’s singing.
Just Us Blues was derived from a collage I created depicting the U.S. Supreme Court Building as the School of Blues, inspired by Raphael’s School of Athens. The artists in this picture are Blues greats, Taj Mahal, Jimi Hendrix, and B.B. King. The slave relief sculpture in the top of the building represents the amnesia America has acquired toward the plight of African-Americans and their musical contributions.
Migrating Blues was derived from a collage and is depicting a little girl and mother refugees from the Tusi tribe escaping death squads in Rwanda. The men in the foreground are train porters who eventually formed a union after years of abuse from their employers and customers. B.B. King is on the left side playing the Blues soundtrack to this picture and a large African mask in the background representing Man’s origin.
Innocent Blues was drawn from a collage. It represents how we as humans must be more attentive to our youth, because they are our future. The Blues great Jeff Beck is standing next to an amplifier where a song written by Jimi Hendrix, “Straight Ahead,” is written on the front. The young girls on the left foreground seem to be gesturing with their fingers, shhh and listen.
This Conte Crayon drawing called Ceramic Study emphasizes the extreme light and dark values that occur on this particular still life, pottery, during a sunrise. This is another proficiency exercise artists indulge themselves in to study value changes.
Stippling is used in this art piece called M.C. Escher Tribute. It is a tribute to Escher and his contribution to the art world. Vellum or translucent graph paper was used in order to achieve the optical illusion by carefully tracking numbers and spaces. The illusion of concave and convex boxes are created by, alternating the pen size used and the proximity of the applied dots. Also if the viewer looks closely he may see the hidden “S”.
This intaglio print called Mad 4 Blues, produced with the use of computer manipulation, represents ones mad passion for the soulful heartfelt lyrics and wailing guitars of the Blues. The images on this print are four self portraits merged together. First, I took the images and manipulated them on the computer. Because of my love for electrified blues and the different moods it evokes, such as sadness, anger, happiness or coolness, I added blue to my black ink. One may experience two or three of these emotions while listening, to the Blues. The emotion I’m portraying in the four faces is anger. The blue/black ink in turn counterbalances the mood portrayed in the faces. The viewer experiences two moods simultaneously. I added gauze strands using the soft-ground technique to represent guitar strings.
This print called Picasso Pots is a tribute to Picasso’s ceramic sculpture creations, delicate drawing style with the use of contour lines and sensitive value application. The images on this print are ceramic pottery that I made on the potters wheel some time ago and drew. I manipulated the drawing on the computer by adding and merging the pottery together. I received inspiration for the Picasso idea from the proofs I took during the beginning stages of this project. They reminded me of how Picasso would do line drawings that didn’t necessarily look complete, but were done in such a way the lines would suggest completeness. I added the values to create form using aquatint and liftground techniques.
This embossing called The Gibsons, inspired by a collage, is a tribute to one of the great, and long lasting American guitar manufacturers. The images on this print are Gibson electric guitars. From the top they are a Faded Flying V, an ES 137 Custom, Explorer 76, and an ES-135 with Humbuckers. I merged a collage of these guitars on the computer. On this project, I used the embossing technique by placing the zinc plate in acid at different intervals over a period of time. This is a tribute to Gibson guitar players like Les Paul, B.B. King and all those who prefer and own a Gibson.
This print called Downtown Sunday Night is representative of how vacant the streets were on Sunday Night in Augusta, Georgia, when I went downtown on weekend pass while in basic training, and the emptiness that was felt. The mirror at the far end illustrates that there is nothing downtown in either direction. The image on this print is a bird’s eye view of an imaginary downtown at nighttime. This scene was inspired by one of my many experiences in the South while serving in U.S. Army. My drill sergeant at Fort Gordon, Georgia said it best before we went on weekend pass, “They roll up the streets downtown on Sunday”. In other words, nothing happens on Sundays, except church in the Bible Belt. The scene is framed by tall empty buildings on either side of the print. The streetlights guide the viewer straight ahead to the end of the street where a mirror reflects the same image that one would encounter everywhere in town. The moon represents movement in time and that Monday is on the way.
The first in a series of five clay sculptures is a Vintage Tube Amp. This sculpture of a nostalgic 60s Fender tube amplifier is reminiscent of the ones the blues players used while performing in the 50s and 60s. They had a warm vibrato sound that resonated throughout the room. The sculpture itself reflects the musical vibe of the day with bulging vibrating sides. It also has arms and hands that wrap all the way around the amp from the front speakers to the rear expressing the sensuality of the blues. The brown and beige tweed color of the amp is the classic color the amplifiers used by the manufacturers back then and the throwback amps of today.
The second is a clay 60s Stratocaster guitar reminiscent of the sound of the day with its wavy motion and loose strings representing the way Jimi Hendrix manipulated the sound of his guitars, while introducing the distinct piercing sound of the electric Blues. This black body guitar has a white maple neck and white knobs, but what’s characteristic about this instrument is its psychodelic black and red sunburst pick guard that represents the ever-moving backdrop for most concerts of the 60s.
The Buffalo Soldier is clay sculpture of a Black Union soldier depicting a tired and worn down individual that has just returned from a mission in the southwest United States. Referred to as Buffalo Soldiers by the Indians of that region, because of their hair resemblance to that of a buffalo, these long- forgotten fierce fighters have been recognized on numerous occasions by our country and have a permanent memorial erected in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I used a plaster cast of my face for the soldier. The bust was painted in acrylic paint and glazes were applied to give it an aged look. The blue union colors were faded more to enhance the sculpture’s form and to give a more realistic effect.
This clay Acoustic guitar represents the beginning of the Blues and the instrument of choice, of the earlier Blues players. Slaves and sons of slaves, who could not read music, would pass on their knowledge and unique technique of playing this instrument from generation to generation. The guitar was constructed small because it has been forgotten since the invention of electricity. The strings are missing because no one has been taking care of it, yet it has gold frets because at one time it was the king.
This sculpture called African-American Transfiguration is representative of the struggles a Black man endures trying to conform to America’s norms, whether change rolls downhill or if it is thrown at him. His body is contorted and the American colors are splashing all over him.
If I were to evaluate and label my artistic style, I would say it has a nostalgic, musical flavor. However, I want the viewer to be aware that I am very conscious of my African-American and my compositions reflective this fact. I am also a guitar player, and I love to play all types of music. That’s why I have a lot of guitar images of Blues artist musical references in my pictures. When I’m composing any of my works, my motivation is listening to music with a bluesy sound. I’m so obsessed with the blues, that when no music is around, I hear Hendrix, Clapton and B.B. songs in my head. I feel the images and sculptures I’ve created reflect my love for music and the Blues. To me, music and art go hand in hand. They are like photographs, freezing moments in time that can be listened to or seen over and over. When they are listened to or observed, they can evoke emotions long gone. A photograph can have the same psychological effect. What I hope to accomplish with this particular series of compositions is to arouse different psychological responses. I want the viewer to reminisce of days past, imagined, or what it would have been like to experience what’s in my compositions.