[On illustrating Courtney Barnett]
I was driving when I first heard her.
I remember thinking how much the song reminded me of The Velvets, and the memories of travelling that same outback highway at night many years before flashed through me in sync with the oncoming truck lights. Road kill also flashed by. No dead fox, but more than a few kangaroo carcases.
In fact, those poor roos had more life in them than most radio stations at the time, so hearing authentic Australian music for a change was a nice surprise. Especially knowing my attention span.
As an artist or image maker, I often have to put a reign on myself when it comes to music. I get a little caught up in the fascination of finding something new and interesting. Off I go on a tangent, immersed in the intoxicating pleasure that new audio brings. It can easily influence you into being distracted creatively from what you had intended to do “next”.. and I have so many “next” things to get on with.
Anyway, I ‘m never good at listening to my own advice.
Fast forward a week or two (via youtube interviews, music videos and album downloads) and I have now well and truly soaked myself in a lot of Courtney Barnetts music.
People who know me, know that as much as I like revisiting music and art of the past, I really love popular culture. I’ve simply never subscribed to the view that the best art (and I include music here) all happened in the past. That makes no sense to me.
Exciting music and art is all around us right now as it was then. It always will be.
Some of it is very accessible and some I have to dig around a little to find. It doesn’t have to be on radio or a screen either. Sometimes it creeps up on you in the most unlikely places.. and having an open, unsuspecting frame of mind is always the best place to be when it arrives.
That’s how I found Courtney.. or her music found me.
Despite all the amputation, you could dance to a rock ‘n’ roll station.. and it was all right.
It’s the same with visual art or imagery.. there are so many acontemporary artists, illustrators, designers and photographers around at the moment. It’s a humbling experience looking at so much of it online. Virtually unknown individuals of all genders and race are putting out incredible art!
I mentioned fascination.
That’s the seed to what eventually became a somewhat whimsical illustration.
As with music, I don’t see a great distinction between the past and present mediums as far as visual art goes.
I love jumping from painting on a canvas to painting on a screen.
I don’t buy into the sacrilege of art and all that bullsh*t. Whatever road gets you there is the only one I’m concerned about. Both mediums (traditional and digital) are exciting and different. Different, but the same.
People always get surprised when i tell them about how much I have improved my traditional painting skills through working digitally. I think that’s for a future blog post though.
For now, let’s get down to some nuts and bolts..
The image is a combination of collage, drawing, painting and subtle photographic filter effects. For my digital illustration work I use a Wacom tablet (with stylus) and a combination of software including Adobe PhotoShop and Corel Painter. Loose leaf tea or wine, but never at the same time.
Courtneys song writing is so full of interesting visual imagery and I think avant gardeners (I mean avid listeners) will recognise the references I have included in the image culled from different lines in her songs. Oh, except the magpie with the falconry headgear.. that bird flew in from a previous touring exhibition series I did(based on the explorer Edward John Eyre). What can I say, I like birds.
In my research for the illustration I also listened to quite a lot of interviews.
For instance, in one discussion Courtney mentioned she would love to own a forrest green Fender Jazzmaster guitar, in another she and her group talk about their love of vinyl (records). So I thought I would set the scene with her playing that guitar on a vinyl record. Oh and sitting of course.. which she sometimes likes to do.. and think apparently ;)
Look, I won’t mention all the references but you get the drift..
So there you have it, a new piece from me. I’ve employed a few of my own PhotoShop brushes throughout, and changed my mind several times about certain compositional elements. There’s something to be said about having time away from whatever it is you are creating.. a sort of time out… and this allowed me to make (what I think) were the right decisions as far as how the illustration eventually turned out.
In the meantime here’s a taste.