Wednesday 25 February 2009

Who paints your music?

"Music is what life sounds like."

~Eric Olson

A poem inspired by one of your paintings is probably one of the most gratifying accolades an artist could hope to receive. The poet Therese L. Broderick wrote this poem after having seen my painting of the Water Bearers at Lake Turkana on Every Photo Tells A Story.


She walks without shoes for miles
past jealous crocodiles,

hitting the sudden blasts of wind
blowing over the basin,

balancing water in an earthen jar
on the top of her hair,

knowing that her ancestors called
the waters here Ka'alakol,

(not Turkana, not Rudolph)—

she bears it, she bears all of it
wearing silver bracelets.

Therese L. Broderick

Weird as it may seem, I almost always seem to equate paintings with songs or poetry. Maybe it’s because I’ve always painted with music playing loudly in my studio, or perhaps music and poetry have been as much a part of my life as art?

For instance, when I look at The Mona Lisa, for some quite inexplicable reason, I start bopping away in my head to the Beach Boy’s ‘Barbara Ann’. Bizarre, isn’t it? Baa baa baa…..

There are others, like Raoul Dufy’s Amphitrite, which has Rod Stewart’s 'Sailing' come croaking out of my mental amp.

Edward Hopper’s melancholy Summertime makes me think of Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

The Harlem Renaissance painter Jacob Lawrence’s The Blues Man brings to mind the words of the poet Langston Hughes’ 'The Weary Blues.'

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway . . .
He did a lazy sway . . .
To the tune o' those Weary Blues.

What do you think about when you look at a favourite painting? The lyrics from a song or a line from a poem, or do you just dream your own dreams? Tell us about it here and I’ll do a random draw from your names in a week or so and send the winner a signed, limited edition print of The Water Bearers - sorry it can’t be a Lawrence, Hopper or a Dufy! - with Therese’s beautiful poem written on the reverse.


Reya Mellicker said...

This is completely brilliant. I will never see the Mona Lisa is the same way again. Wow. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Ditto Reya re: Mona Lisa - but I LOVE it!!!

Sarah Laurence said...

What a lovely tribute to your art! Fun mix of art and lyrics. I don’t listen to music when I’m painting. I like to hear the sounds of nature as I work outside. Images and words come together in blogs really well. I enjoyed this post.

Dave King said...

Equating painting with music and song does not strike me as weird. They are sister arts. I liked both your painting and the poem.

Jinksy said...

Interesting concept I've not thought of before. But now I do think of it, I first feel the emotion in the painting, then my mind elaborates on the place - I turn it into a 360' space, so I'm in the centre of the picture - weird, or what?

The W.O.W. factor! said...

I can build a story of my own around them...sometimes putting myself into the story, others not. When I first saw Mona Lisa here..instantly! memories of my Grandmother flooded into my heart! She had this hanging in the room I always stayed in when visiting her...
Hmmm...BaaBaa brings up a totally different picture than Mona Lisa! If I could paint and play that would be an evening beach party of young teen girls, campfire roaring singing and having girlfriends used to sing that song around me..(having a diff middle name, I always wanted it to be Ann!)

Linda Sue said...

I have never thought about it but you are so right! Music happens when I view art- Going through the Tate every painting had it's own song just about, though Blake's room was a steady Chopin- Turner was Bethoven. Dali was Bartock (sp)
This was a long time ago but I still remember the music in my head.

Irene said...

Hi Tessa, an award for you over at my place.

James Parker said...

Hola from Costa Rica, Tessa. Your adorable painting of the five little fellows fishing on Every Photo inspired my little poem of humor. Mona Lisa makes me think of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind". I admire your artwork and your causes. I invite you to visit my place of wildlife art and needed humor. I'd offer a cup of CR coffee, but I haven't figured out how to attach it.

Debra Keirce said...

It's true - art makes me think of music too. Last year for Christmas, my son gave his piano teacher a plaque we made with a saying we found: "Music is what feelings sound like." When art is full of feeling, I think that's especially true.

Beth Kephart said...


This is all such incredibly rich material. I love Hopper, but would never have thought of American Pie (now I will). I think I put music to everything. I can't help it. I understand the instinct.

Thank you for the Rachel Cusk suggestion (I love her work, but didn't know about that one). And for your other sweet words today.

Polly said...

Wonderful post, beautiful poem! Thanks for that. Hopper is one of my favourite painters of all time and Summertime is so atmospheric... in case of this painting looking at it I'm drawn inside it, I feel the summer air on my face... but every painting works different magic on me, it makes me dream a different dream every time.

Janelle said...

oh yeah! music colours everything hey? how WONDERFUL you inspired a are muse to boot! xx j

A Cuban In London said...

The poem is amazing and does your painting great justice.

To me art is all inextricably linked. I might looking at a painting and tapping my foot whilst my brain is reciting a poem.

I loved this post, totally adored it. The vibrancy of the images you chose (yes, including the Mona Lisa :-D)are still stirring within me.

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Vanessa Brantley Newton said...

I totally agree with Reya an Aerin, this is brilliant. You are brilliant! This is why I love your blog. You are a joy!!!

Annie said...

Well, when I look at a painting, I am usually in absolute awe at how clever this artist has been. How they can get images down on canvas, always amazes me, a non-artist! I am an appreciat-er of art and music and creativity, but not so creative myself!

Annie said...

ps Just love that painting of a girl outside a Harlem apartment...just wonderful. And it reminds me so much of the apartment my daughter and son-in law lived in quite near Harlem previously! I am homesick for New York when I see this picture.

Looks like you are a very talented artist yourself. And iIam not quite sure how I have just stumbled upon your blog, but I am liking it very much.

Jenners said...

What a fascinating and interesting post! How amazing to have a poem written about one of your paintings! And now I have "Barbara Ann" forever linked to the Mona Lisa! I love the songs/poems you related to the other paintings too.

I must say that I've never thought about this too much. It is too cliche to say Don McLean's "Starry Starry Night" reminds me of Van Gogh -- because that is who the song is about! One of my favorite painters is Salvador Dali and I don't think I would want to hear the music that goes with his paintings! There is so much to look at and absorb in a Dali painting that I tend to just get lost in the weirdness and the detail.

Wonderful post! I loved it!

Lori ann said...

oh dear. i probably shoulden't comment since i won your last give~a~way. dear Tessa, you are a brilliant artist with paints, camera and words. A poem for your painting too?
Leave me out of the drawing, i don't want to be greedy. but oh, i could. believe me. i love this painting. so much.

thank you for this incredible post.

xxxoxxx lori

Unknown said...

I love this post! I think art, music, poetry are all so inextricably intertwined - it's the fundamental flow, that essence of the creative energy.

I love the work of a local artist, Tay Dall, and her images inevitably inpsire me to poetry (not that poetry is my usual form of expression).

And I have to tell you, echoing Reya and Aerin - I'm never going to be looking at Lisa the same way again!

Val said...

baa baa baa.... uhoh thats done it! :-) how lovely - i shall be looking and listening from now on.

Every Photo Tells A Story said...

Oh, I'm just too opinionated NOT to comment;)

First of all, I feel so fortunate to have Therese leave her poetic "gifts" on my blog. And, your paintings are a tiny world within a world. All a snapshot of colorful stories and emotions. It all makes perfect sense that art would inspire writing, music, and song. After all, before there were words, humans communicated via pictures painted on walls.

Then finally, I will never fathom how you get "Barbara Ann" from the Mona Lisa. But, who knows what music was being played in da Vinci's mind:)

Renee said...

Tessa: I don't think of either a song or a rhyme or even a story. I just dream my dreams and see worlds within worlds and millions of possibilities.

By the way after seeing how I make pizza can you see why I can not be allowed to cook at the cottage.


Citrus Tree Designs said...

Love the logic of it all....

Muppet Soul said...

New fan!

I got directed here ( somehow) the other day, and have mostly been skulking about in the shadows. Just wanted to de-lurk and say that I am in love with your blog.

Oh! And oddly enough - I swear - that Hopper painting has always made me think of the same song. ( Come to think of it, a few paintings/photos make me think of that song).

And what a lovely compliment to your own painting.

Anonymous said...

Rockin' with the Mona Lisa, too cool! Love the poem. Perfect.
When viewing art, I'm lost in imagination, too complex for a simple blog comment.

I don't think I hear music when painting, but I'm far away, lost in the process, sometimes calm, sometimes frantic, but always reflective and most often reminiscent.

adrienne trafford said...

i have a similar relationship with music and art - i have to have it playing when i'm painting. i like that you see certain songs when looking at work - it works the opposite for me though - if i hear certain music, it some times reminds me of what i was painting. If i had to choose between music and art, i don't know which i could live without....probably art, can you imagine??

soulbrush said...

what a wonderful post. and of course the 'water bearer' is special to us aquarians. love your art, have missed a few posts. will not do tbat again. hugs and happy if.

soulbrush said...

forgot to say .....that songs always make me remember a time in my life and paintings make me remember other times...never thought of them intertwined before. interesting.

studio lolo said...

That poem is so perfect for your painting!

This was an amazing post overall. I laughed at barbara ann and Mona! The other choices were right on and I heard every song. I think I even heard LH recite his poem ;)
Thank you Tessa.

Tiffany said...

The water jug painting is so vibrant. The poem captures the feel of the painting wonderfully!