Painting Music

By James E. Hartzell
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Blue Note
A Musical Interlude

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Through October 2
St. Pete ArtWorks
Details here

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NEA/Pinellas Recovers Grant Update

Blue Note: A Musical Interlude is a solo show that pays homage to the famous recording label Blue Note Records, founded in 1939, that focused on Jazz artists.

The landscapes and figurative paintings in this collection are tributes to the variety of music that helped me ‘shake a tail feather’ – genres such as Jazz, Blues, Motown, Rock n’ Roll, Reggae and Bluegrass. Materials for the show originated from sketchbooks taken on travels around the Southeast, abroad to Jamaica and out to local venues in the Tampa Bay area.

Washboard_Player, 9″ x 11″, Watercolor and Ink, 2022 – Inspired by Medeski, Martin and Wood’s album “It’s a Jungle in Here”

Being the guy with a sketchbook in a bar attracted some weird looks at first but it also opened up conversations, strangers became friends, and I began to work through my social anxiety of making art live, compared to the isolation and comfort of a studio.

Sharing these drawings with musicians like Charlie MorrisT.C. CarrGeri XJosh Nelms or The Corn Fused Boys during a set break became a fun way to show appreciation for their craft while honing my skills at the same time. Getting out of my comfort zone to draw these bands was the spark that rekindled my love for drawing and painting regularly after making a move to St. Petersburg in 2015.

Groovy, 9″ x 11″, Watercolor and Ink, 2022 – Inspired by local musician Geri X’s performance in 2016 at the Flamingo Bar and the Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thorton song “Ball and Chain”

Similar to ‘plein air’ or outdoor painting, my goal for those initial drawings was to be loose, expressive, leaning into mistakes like an improvisational Jazz jam. Over time, the drawings which stood out were minimal line art pieces with stylized figures and lots of negative space.

Taking these drawings and turning them into ink and watercolor paintings years later has been a challenge. Expanding the scope of the show was another goal to include landscapes and musical instruments that have inspired and connected me to a wider variety of music.

You can see which songs and musicians
inspired each piece here

Live Wire, 9″x11″, 2022 – inspired by the Albert King song “Blues Power” off his album “Live Wire Blues Power.” The piece depicts a 2016 performance by the late Bryan Lee aka “Braille Blues Daddy”

26 of the 29 pieces have been paired with a song using the interactive technology Pixelstix, allowing you to delve deeper by scanning the artwork and accessing the show’s playlist.

I hope that viewers enjoy this exhibit, an intersection of art and music that seeks to capture the essence of a landscape or a band mid-performance, unlocking the sacred mood of that moment frozen in time.



You can listen to the special playlist James Hartzell put together
with the music that inspired his visual artwork
on Apple Music or via YouTube

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A reception will be held at St. Pete ArtWorks on Saturday, September 10 from 5-9 pm during St. Pete’s Second Saturday Art Walk, featuring music by Bud Good.

The show can also be viewed during regular gallery hours through October 2 – Tuesday through Saturday 11 am-7 pm, Sunday noon-4 pm, closed Mondays. St. Pete Art Works is the cooperative art gallery run by the Gulf Coast Artists’ Alliance, at 2604 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg FL 33712.

T.C. Carr, Watercolor and Ink, 9″ x 11″, 2022 – Inspired by the Howlin’ Wolf song “I Didn’t Know” and local musician TC Carr.

A portion of the exhibit’s proceeds will be donated to the Suncoast Blues Society, a 501(c)3 charity based in Tampa Bay.

This program is produced with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts, Creative Pinellas and the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners.

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Gulf Coast Artists’ Alliance Inc. is a
recipient of the Pinellas Recovers Grant,

provided by Creative Pinellas through a grant from the
National Endowment of the Arts American Rescue Plan.

James E. Hartzell painting a Trident Aerospace Mural, 2022

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