Jack Irons - Rhythm of the Rhythm
The paintings for Jack Irons' "Dream of Luminous Blue"
Music and Memory
Isn’t it interesting how a piece of music can be imprinted with a particularly memory?
In the music/memory imprint moment, you often are not aware that it is happening. Years later you hear a piece of music and are carried directly to a moment in the past, complete with visual memories, and feelings. Music is a powerful time machine.
For example, Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” is an all-time favorite song of mine. I have listened to it countless times, from my teenage years up until the present. For some reason, when I hear it now, it always reminds me of a certain moment. One sunny afternoon on the island of Kauai, I was driving in a van filled with friends. We were driving from the Wailua Homesteads to a beach in Hanalei. “Free Falling” came on, we turned the sound way up, and rolled the windows down. We all sang the song with gusto, knowing it so well already we could really belt it out with enthusiasm. I felt light and happy, carefree, excited, and glad to be with my friends. Now whenever I hear this song, the memory of this moment comes right back. I bet that you have many of these kinds of associations and stories with music too.
There are songs that paint a picture, while telling a story. Listening to them, I see images of people, of lands, and visions of beauty. I also see brightly colored illustrations to accompany them. One of these days I am going to do a series of paintings of some of these songs.
I have known Jack for many years. He, and his wife, Danae, are personal friends. You know how it is with your friends. You are related to them humanly. Their status in whatever arena is not much of a factor in how you are related to one another. You are just friends.
That made the creation of these six paintings particularly enjoyable for me. Of course, I listened to Jack’s music when I was contemplating what I would paint. But, more than that, I contemplated Jack, himself, the stories that he has told, the conversations we have had, and my “feeling” for Jack as a character, a person, a human being. It made the process of making the paintings intimate and personal. I like to collaborate with other artists. Collaborating with a friend is just that much better because you already enjoy a common vision.
Jack and I talked for some time. He told me about the music, what his creative process had been, and told me stories from his life that rounded out the feeling and the background to his new music. For the next several months I worked on these six paintings. As I sketched the design for each painting I listened to the track that I was illustrating. It was a rich well to draw from; the rhythm and tone guided my eye, the music spoke volumes to me. It was also a challenge, as the music is instrumental. So the sound itself had to guide me. I found that the music called for cosmic, astral, and almost formless images. It was not the subject matter that I was accustomed to. It stretched my creativity and skills, taking my art to places that I had not yet ventured. That was what was so cool about this collaboration! I had to respond to the music and go from there.
Several of these tracks were like riddles for me. For example, how could I illustrate “Subtle Realms”? What is a subtle realm? Should it just be light with no hard lines or boundaries? If there is form, how can it still be ethereal and not physical? I had a vague picture in mind of multicolored strands or beams of light, somehow floating and moving in a lighted blue background. Then I looked at photos of star nurseries that were taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. These images were very similar to what I had been imagining, and they showed me the way to approach this subtle painting. As I painted “Subtle Realms” I found forms appearing in the layers of wash, and I accentuated these to create a feeling of movement. It is a place of great energy and activity, while also being silent and peaceful. I lit the entire canvas with stars of different colors and sizes, they populated the space and brought light to the scene. During the painting process I was drawn into this place, my surroundings, the studio, faded away. I almost felt like I was bouncing off the stars and floating around through the mists of the colored forms. When I finished this painting I was happy with it, I sent an image off to Jack and he also loved it.
Sight, Sound, and the Story
For each painting in this series, there is a story. There is always a story when we do something creative. It is the process that makes it so interesting. It is in the nitty gritty of making art that we are challenged, where we learn new things, and where we find solutions. After the art is made, we stop and look at it. It’s appearance is like magic, like it just happened while we danced.
So art and music, they paint a picture, tell a story, get you to feel something. They can lift us up, bring tears to our eyes, and take us to distant memories and faraway places.
I loved getting to do this project with Jack. It was great to make these paintings for “Dream of Luminous Blue”. The collaborative nature of it was engaging. It is always good to work with other artists.