Sometimes the strength of a color is in its subtlety.

'Musician' Open Mic

While sorting through piles of paintings of musicians for the upcoming exhibit at Connexions Gallery I found this little gem.  I didn’t write the date or the name of the musician on the painting. I recall feeling frustrated at the time because my colors weren’t bright and lively.  Fortunately, this little painting didn’t end up in the trash, rejected because of it’s neutral colors and lack of values range.

The shift from warm to cool defines the shift from face to hair. The shift in value defines the shift from hair to shirt collar. The shift back to warm from cool defines the form of the shoulder and back as it transforms into the arm and down to guitar.

The hard edge of the musician’s face defines the subject of the painting.  everything else supports that edge.

I wish I could remember who the musician is.  Most likely it is a singer/songwriter performing at the Open Mic at Porter’s Pub run by Maria Woodford three or four years ago.

There has been a significant increase in the number of visits to this blog.  If there is interest in having me post new color exercises, please let me know and I will be happy to do so.

Maria Woodford Spillane playing the Blues

There is always more to learn about color.  I will never exhaust the possibilities that lie waiting on my palette.

Painting: Dip Pen and Ink followed by washes of watercolor.


The stage lighting at the Larry Holmes Ringside Restaurant inspires pure bright color, even in the dark.

Maria Woodford Spillane Singing The Blues

The lights bring out the warm colors on the musicians, their flesh, the guitars and drums and the clothing they wear if it isn’t black.  The background colors in the paintings are usually invented based on providing a contrast against the value and color of the musicians’ hair and clothing.  When I paint at Porter’s Pub, I do not end up painting with pure colors.  I can only guess that it is the difference in the lighting that inspires the results.

I would love feedback from other artists who paint in the dark during live jams or performances.

Often, the identities of the figures I paint at the open mics and blues jam are recognized in spite of the lack of detail.

Maria Woodford Spillane and Rob Fraser

Rob’s hat and guitar are strong clues to the identity of the figure on the right.  It turns out that the brush stroke that represents Maria’s left hip is what identified her to a woman as she glanced at the paintings drying on the windowsill last Tuesday night at the Blues Jam in Easton.

I’ve often wondered how it is that a person seen from a great distance, bundled up for winter, can be recognized simply by the way she stands or walks.  As I paint these quick sketches of the musical moments my goal is not portraiture.  My goal is to express the energy and movement inspired and created by the vibrations of the sounds.  When the paintings also capture the unique movements and personalities of the musicians I am just as amazed and delighted as the curious friends and strangers who stop by to see what it is I am doing.

I used a dip pen to draw with permanent, black ink before applying washes of watercolor using a limited palette of vemillion, aureolin yellow and peacock blue.