I have a show in August at the Rainbo Club. I’ve lost count how many I’ve had there, but the first was in 1997 and I haven’t missed too many years since. The advantage of putting up art at a place so many times is you get to know the layout, lighting, and walls like the back of your hand. I know how many pieces I need to make it look like enough, but not too much. Some years i even know where each piece will go before I ever climb up on a ladder. 

It helps to have a theme or motif rather than just chose from the grab-bag of work I always have on hand. It focuses the mind and makes it more like an event, rather than just a month where some pictures get parked somewhere that’s not my house. With the past year being revolving around the imminent publication of a book, it was a no-brainer to make the forthcoming show about music.

For this series, I’m doing something I haven’t done much since art school: I’m working from drawings. I never considered my sketchbook drawings source material for other pictures. They’re an end in themselves, a nearly daily visual diary of the places I go and the people I see. But after using them as a source and jumping-off point to write a whole book, I thought I’d dip in to them one last time. 

The colors I’m choosing and combining are more improvisational than my typical paintings. It’s a confusing, sometimes freeing, sometimes conscripting way to work. I’m not trying to evoke the light sources present in the bar or club where these musicians played—that would feel like a homework assignment or a matter of coloring in the drawings. That thing of drawing out a composition, then adding color never worked for me. I want the painting and the drawing to happen simultaneously. That’s hard to do when the only reference point is a ballpoint sketch. 

I don’t know if I’ll ever work this way again once I have enough pieces for the Rainbo, but it’s been a valuable sidetrack. Something of this experiment will reappear once I start painting from looking again. It’s been like going on a diet with all my favorite foods missing. There’s some point to the deprivation, but that point is somewhere down the road.