One of those musicians was Charles ‘City’ Gatt, a well known drummer and percussionist. He set up the Malta Jazz Festival 25 years ago this year and brought over leading and up and coming jazz musicians from all over the world to play for three or four evenings every July. It began quite informally, with cushions on the ground in front of a stage set up below the imposing bastions of Grand Harbour in Valletta. City poured his heart into those few days and the Jazz Festival grew to be a popular part of the annual Malta Arts Festival. It now has proper seating, food and drink stalls and a state of the art sound stage. There are also many Jazz Fringe events, the Malta Jazz Contest, and masterclasses held by some of the visiting musicians.
City also paints, and when I asked him if I could try working on the spot back in 1993, he didn’t seem at all surprised. I turned up with my paraphernalia and two young daughters and we all had a great time. After that, artist friends often joined me; Ebba von Fersen Balzan and Olaug Vethal were my companions for many years. We had several jazz exhibitions of the works we produced.
I paint with acrylics on black gesso-covered paper. I usually manage to capture most of the image I am after within about ten minutes. Sometimes I need to work on the painting a little afterwards, but I have to be very wary about ‘fiddling’ too much with them, as they lose their vibrancy quite easily. They are not photographic, they are impressions of how I am experiencing the music, the lights, the physical shapes and the general buzz. I may produce around 20 images in one evening, but probably discard most of them afterwards. This takes an awful lot of energy and focus. I could take photographs and/or make sketches to work on afterwards, but there’s nothing quite like dancing around and reacting to the music as I feel it.
Over the years of painting jazz, I have come to appreciate it in a deep and passionate way. I heard an interview on BBC radio this morning, celebrating International Jazz Day. Musicians were being asked what they thought made jazz so unique. I am paraphrasing, but they said that jazz is all about being able to improvise. Humans improvise their way through life, acting and reacting to what happens around them. Jazz is like a conversation, where everyone has the freedom to express themselves and a contribution to make, but also a responsibility to the collective whole. There can be no mistakes, as an out-of-place note can be elaborated on to create something beyond the intended result. Obviously, this takes years of practice and study – it goes much further than simply learning to play an instrument and reciting music. The same kind of active problem solving is very useful in life. If you practice this approach in music –or painting – you will find it easier to apply the same principles to solving problems in more creative ways.
SO – to celebrate International Jazz Day I am offering the unframed jazz paintings shown on this page at less than half price for a week! That’s 180 euro each until next Friday 8th May, when I will be having a Spring Friday Gallery from 4pm to 8pm at my studio in Manikata.
See the MAP for directions. Bus no 44.
Contact me HERE or call (0356) 21575712 to reserve any paintings. P&P depends on the country but is usually quite reasonable from Malta as the paintings can easily be rolled into tubes. Make the most of this; I am feeling generous!
This year the Malta Jazz Festival is on four nights; 16th – 19th July. To see the line up and to book tickets go to http://www.maltajazzfestival.org
When you are really ‘in the flow’ the connection between eye and hand can become so strong that all thought disappears. Using the left/right brain model, the left, logical linear, language-based side is over-ridden by the right, creative, shape-based side. I love that feeling; it’s as if I step outside myself and watch me drawing. It’s as if I am a very long way off and it takes a conscious effort to come back.
When I’m working outside people often come up to see what I’m doing. I try not to engage in conversation because I’ve just set all my stuff up to paint, not talk. I can be quite rude in a dismissive way. Their first question is often “What are you doing?” Which doesn’t deserve an answer, now does it? I am standing in front of an easel, up to my elbows in paint, surrounded by art paraphernalia – isn’t it obvious that I am waiting for a bus, or perhaps fishing?
Most people want to tell me that their aunt/brother/cousin is a REALLY good artist. What can I say to that? Obviously my efforts aren’t as impressive.
I tell myself that anyone who stops to watch someone painting is just jealous. They simply wish that they were standing in front of the easel instead of me. So I’m the lucky one.
The point that I started out with is that some artists can talk while they’re working and I can’t. That’s one reason I rarely teach by demonstrating. The other is that I really don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. I said that to a friend the other day and she laughed in disbelief, but it’s true. I seem to approach things from different angles all the time – it’s always an adventure and I honestly never know if the picture will work out.
I teach by giving people the tools they need to start seeing differently and thereby drawing accurately and confidently. Simple exercises can help people shift from left to right brain perception and make drawing easier than they ever thought it could be. I find that people who say “I can’t draw but I’ve always wanted to” make the most remarkable progress by learning in this way. I love seeing their faces when they discover that they can draw after all.
It’s always good to learn by inspiration and imitation, and seeing someone demonstrate a method of working is very valuable. I’m just not very good at it! But I know someone who IS.....At the end of June (24th – 29th) I am going to be co-tutoring a painting holiday with fellow watercolourist Tonio Mallia. We will be taking a group of about 15 from Malta to Eriche in Sicily. Tonio is very good at demonstrating and I’m really looking forward to working with him. I think we’ll be a great team and have a lot of fun helping people to create memorable paintings of this picturesque town and its surroundings.
If you would like to join us on this adventure please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
I love to paint - and draw - and help others to discover their creative side too.....
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