Saturday, March 1, 2008

The inspiration for song #6: a French post-impressionist painter

Is it March already? This year has been speeding by! Seems like just yesterday we were ringing in the new year and 2008 still felt like an awkward date to jot down. Between traveling for my day job and keeping up with life outside of work, I haven't been able to spend nearly as much time on the music as I would have liked. That said, I have managed to get some writing in and you're long overdue for an update.

The main progress I've made has been on writing some new lyrics. I've pretty much finished lyrics for songs #6 and #7 for the new album. For song #6, the lyrics took me much longer to write -- there were a couple of parts I just kept thinking about and coming back to and couldn't get quite right. The ending, for instance, was tough because that's when I wanted to deliver whatever commentary on life that I wanted to make with the song. In this case, I ultimately wanted to submit an answer to the age-old question, "why write?"

Song #6 is actually a bit of an homage to a French post-impressionist painter that I found inspirational during my visit to the Musee d'Orsay last summer. I not only found his work unique and compelling, but I was drawn to the story of his life. In fact, that's one of my favorite aspects of visiting art museums -- they're like gigantic storybooks bursting with drama, characterization, comedy, climactic moments, commentary, and description. I enjoy consuming not only the stories depicted in artwork, but the stories of the artists themselves. So many of them struggle to be able to pursue their creative endeavors, while others are discovered early on and find themselves a patron. What they all have in common, though, is that they made the time in their lives to create art. It's humbling in some ways, yet inspirational in others.

Now, many artists are criticized and ostracized in some way or another. But the reasons for why this occurs vary. In this particular case, I was drawn to the fact that this artist was criticized for being untrained and for painting like a child -- for being amateurish, in fact. He was born into the working class, went to college for something other than art, held a regular job for most of his life, and got a pretty late start on painting. He was different from other painters and didn't always hang out in the same places. He must have encountered the question, "why do you paint?" on numerous occasions. While I certainly didn't read the biographies of all the artists in the museum, I read a number of them and this is one that struck a chord with me. This one stopped me in my tracks. This one sent me through this surrealistic time warp where I imagined shaking hands with this fellow and saying, "hey, I think I know how you feel."

When I sat down to write a song about this, I wasn't sure that I wanted to write about this painter as a role model or a hero -- I'm old enough to know that role models change over time and that there are always things you don't know about them. I also wasn't trying to say that I wanted to be this person or to accomplish the same things in life. I ultimately decided to write about what I admire about him and to conclude with my own thoughts on why I write and why I think he may have continued painting himself.

So that will be song #6.

Actually, I should clarify that these song numbers reflect the order in which they are written, not necessarily the track number that they will get on the album. I don't have all the titles for these songs figured out, yet, so hopefully this will suffice for now.