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Getting the Band Together


I watched some of the new Beatles documentary, Get Back (streaming on Disney+), and fell in love with the creative process on display within and between these iconic band members—the meandering way their songs would emerge, seemingly from thin air. There are many scenes of John, Paul, George and Ringo playing around with words, chords, keys, beats…. It’s amazing to hear Paul start a verse we’re all familiar with but then begin stumbling and mumbling as if that last word or phrase isn’t totally obvious. Riffing on chords—sometimes playful, sometimes bored and I’m sure often unproductive—they work together. Watching these iconic songs emerge like lotus through the mud was awe-inspiring. And it made me jealous of the band structure that creates a space for multiple minds to jam.

As a certified introvert, I normally love the solitude of painting, but I began to wonder what it would be like if I could have the best of both worlds: being alone in my studio but inviting others in to play. And I realized that I’ve already got a few band members on board:

There’s the monkey (also known as Bruno): His ideas are mostly what not to do, and he may get kicked out of the band, but we’ll give it a try. The muse: Always invited, often elusive, we’ll keep an open mic ready just in case. And me: Self-appointed leader of the band. As my kindergarten teacher wrote, “Kate enjoys being part of a group but is inclined to be bossy”—guess I’m the Paul McCartney of the bunch. So that’s a great start, a trio, but I think we need a couple of others to fill out the band.

I can’t wait for practice—I’m going to have to be careful not to direct things too much—seems like the magic often happens when chaos reigns in the beginning. And, come to think about it, I’ve done a few paintings this way. StartIng with an idea loosely in my head, I find some music that helps me swim in the concept, keeping it loose. I grab some charcoal and newsprint and, without any end in mind, I make large gestural marks on the paper. I keep going until the music or the muse tells me to stop. Then, after a break, I come back to my marks and find the ones that call to me most. I use tracing paper and copy those, moving them into a composition that pleases me. Then I transfer these lines to a canvas, and the painting begins. My abstract painting Migration II (pictured above) happened this way, and it’s still my favorite, so I know it works. It can feel like magic and way too easy when it all comes together, but the mining process beneath the serendipity is labor of a different kind.

Want to join my band? Email me, and give me a concept that you’ve been thinking about in one sentence. Or suggest a song you love. Or both. I’ll jam on it, and a new painting or maybe even a collection of paintings might result. Then, as a band member, I’ll give you a deep discount should you want to own it or a cut of the proceeds (to you or an organization you love) should someone else buy it! Let’s start this magical mystery tour!


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