This is the last stage of my scratching technique, when I draw in the words. I dislike art that includes words to enhance the works’ lack of purpose. My words go with the music. They are there because they belong. They exist to add interest and offer the viewer the option to choose their meanings. I have always applied words in that way. If the music has words, I like to use them. I see them as decorative graffiti. I then scratch through them. This technique downplays their value and covers my print writing, which is awful, but important. My hand writing connects me to the artwork, not unlike Jackson’s Pollack hand print on his canvas.
I should mention how I choose the colors for this artwork. The background color ideas that appear through the scratching, and the top white layer of white, come from Elton John’s outfit in an early video of Your Song. The silver I used for the words I found in the glasses of Lady Gaga’s performance of Your Song at the 2018 Grammies.
This is a technical note: This image above is after the scratching was done. Issues are continuing with getting a clean scratching across the entire canvases. The top layer, in places, is rubbery. That means the pallet knife tears the top layer instead of clean ripping it away. This issue could be caused by the thickness of the paint, or that it needs longer drying time. The solution is further complicated by the rubbery issue not being consistent across the canvas. What is known is that as the days pass, the top layer firms up on the artworks and my test canvases. Letting the top layer of paint cure for maybe weeks, with testing, could be an answer, except that does not work for me. I live with each of these projects until finished. Only when completed do I start the search for the next music project. Hum, so the choice is?
This is the first image of Your Song, my next music box, featuring the music of Elton John Your Song. Like all of my first images, this one will disappear under a top coat of paint. Only then will it be reviewed when I scratch off parts of that top layer of paint. As I have said, this bottom layer I can paint anything a prodigy would paint. I choose to go with narrow and vertical colors because my scratching is strongly horizontal. This creates a pleasant flow of colors across the canvas.
With this project I am gong anti Robert Frost and diverging down a road most traveled. I have a large amount of stretched canvases that have been stacked away for years. Lately my music boxes have used loose canvas attached to an aluminum frame, and connected to stretched canvas speaker boxes. This work uses all stretched canvases, with two 24 inch by 30 inch, and two 8 inch by 24 inch canvases. I may separate the two 30 inch center canvases with angled aluminum once I calculate the length of the music to be attached.
I have a large stack of stretched canvases. I also was tired of handling loose canvas, which requires a frame to attach to with magnets. When finished assembling my loose canvas artworks, they resembled my stretched canvases works, without the stretching part. The loose canvas style advantage is I can create custom sizes. With bought stretched canvas I have many size choices, but not all sizes are available. Because I do not have the time to build custom frames and then stretch canvases, I ended up purchasing many stretched canvases sizes as a workaround. That ended up, regrettably, with me storing an extensive collection of canvas that can sit for years, and taking even more years to use up.
Back in my college days, I bought albums, with little monies to spare, at the local record shop on State Street. While in college, I probably first heard of Elton John listening to Your Song on the radio. I did not think that much of him to buy the album.
The record albums that I bought (in no particular order) that come to mind around the late sixties and early 1970s of my college years, are the great album Déjà vu – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young 1970 release, Mad Dogs & Englishmen – Joe Cocker 1970, The Who – Live at Leeds 1970, and probably Tommy 1969 release, Cream Wheels of Fire 1968 release, also in my first year 1968 in the dorm when I heard Laura Nyro’s album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. My top favorite record in the dorm was Blood, Sweat & Tears – Blood, Sweat & Tears 1968, Switched-on Bach 1968 release, The Beatles – White Album November 1968, Woodstock 1970, Sweet Baby James – James Taylor release 1970, Pearl – Janis Joplin 1971 release date that was the last album I bought before college graduation, and my motorcycle trip out west. I also bought a great album Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel 1970 release, that was given to me just before graduation, just out of college Barbra Joan Streisand – Barbra Streisand 1971, and finally Tumbleweed Connection – Elton John 1970 release date while still in college.
I finally bought into Elton John with his record album Tumbleweed Connection because it appealed to what I will call my version of country classic rock, placing it right up there, with Déjà vu. Great songs from beginning to end. This was followed by my favorite from beginning to end Elton John’s album, Madman Across the Water.
All those albums and more that I have forgotten connect all together to me musically. That is why I still play Elton John’s music on Spotify, and probably why Your Song was an easy pick to paint, especially after watching Lady Gaga’s revival at the 2018 Grammies.
This is the third and last of my cover music rough cuts using the notation software, Notion. The sheet music will be the worksheet that will guide me through the building of this artwork.
My artwork musical covers are about the music and not so much about the lyrics. It is about creating a portrait of a song, melody first, not the lyrics, especially with these music boxes. My thinking was different for this project.
My cover of Your Song begins with the third verse. That start was chosen because of the lyrics “I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss….” When I hear those words, I flash back to a wonderful artwork I did in 2013, and sold, through the help of my cherished brother Roger Von Holzen. That artwork was, Up on the roof. Here is the search link to the artwork’s story. It was Lady Gag’s updated version of Your Song, and those words that reminded me of Up on the Roof, that convinced me to paint this music. It is hard to explain my connection to Up on the Roof, but it was then, and still today, it remains meaningful.
I built my cover music of Your Song by first connecting the original piano intro to the third verse. From there it was about capturing the character of the song while editing away everything that either got in the way or was repeating what my cover already covered. My editing can be harsh. I have to be to keep my music under the one minute thirty second limit. Of course, quality is a loss with my slash and burning off of a 4:04 minute Elton John’s song, down to less than 1:30 minutes. That is a price. The return is the challenge and teaching lessons with each of these portraits, and the growing connection between the visual and performance arts. This is an opportunity I am thankful to have. So it is.
This song by Elton John goes way back to my college years. I probably would not have thought of painting it until it popped back into my head from the 2001 musical Moulin Rouge. Certainly Lady Gaga’s recent cover and live performance at the Grammies made me think that this music had legs. Finally, I am a fan of Elton John’s music and Your Song’s prominent use of the piano, gives me a foundation for the creation of the sheet music that is my music box production guide.
Every new artwork starts out with the music that I selected to portrait. I put together the cover sheet music using the notation software, Notion 5, and its instruments. That sheet music, which takes days to create, is not only is the visual guide for the artwork that I will sample to paint, it is also the musical arrangement for the music box.
My notation software follows rigid rules when creating the sheet music worksheet. I don’t when I put together the visual up and down flow of the song’s music. Changes often occur where needed. For example, I may combine notes to better fit the artwork.
This musical arrangement will also change once I import it into my digital production software, Studio One. This software offers the music tools and third party instruments that will eventually allow me to produce a professional sounding song. I am not there yet. But with this software, I have higher quality and control over the instruments than anything the notation software offers. Still, creating that cover sheet music is my critical starting guide to my project’s success. Changes will occur, but what will not change is the cover sheet music’s up and down flow and the timeline rule: less than one minute, thirty seconds.