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24 Musicians Share Their Paintings

August 30, 2012  |  9:30am
So many of our favorite songwriters have found that there’s more than one way to scratch that creative itch. We asked 23 musicians—including Mindy Smith, Julianna Hatfield, Robyn Hitchcock, Joseph Arthur and Ani DiFranco—about their love of painting and to share some of their works.

5. Mick Turner (The Dirty 3)
Australian guitarist Mick Turner has released music with a number of bands, most notably The Dirty Three, and collaborated with artists like Cat Power and Bonnie “Prince” Billy.

When did you first start painting?
When I was four, at Kindergarten. I did my first cover for a record—an early band “Sick things” 7-inch vinyl around 1982. I started exhibiting my artworks in 2003.

Are you inspired by a particular painter or artistic movement?
So many—I do like a lot of Australian painters. My style is mostly figurative like some of my favorites—Nolan, Blackman, Percival. I am also inspired muchly by folk art

How does painting differ from music as a creative outlet for you?
Since 2003 when I started spending much more of my time making visual art, from about 2% to 50%, the two have influenced each other more and more in terms of approach and mindset in a really satisfying and exciting way—new discoveries and paths in one translate to the other in a kind of lateral way. There’s nothing in painting that resembles playing live music but the approaches have many parallels. And the wonder of both lies in their emotive power.

Where can we see your work in person?
Join my mailing list at mickturner.com for notifications of exhibitions

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By Mick Turner

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By Mick Turner

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By Mick Turner

6. Victoria Williams
Victoria Williams appeared on the cover of the very first issue of Paste in 2002 and was named one of the 100 Best Living Songwriters. The Louisiana native lives in Joshua Tree, Calif., and has released seven solo albums and seven with the Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers. She’s also sang on albums of more than a dozen other artists, including Giant Sand, Joe Henry, Julie Miller and Vic Chesnutt.

When did you first start painting?
I’ve always painted in a primitive way. I’ve never taken painting classes. My mother was a painter, and I watched her and learned from that. My sister and brother and uncle are also artists. I got a job painting antique prints at the Pacific Design Center when I first came to California. It was watercolors that I used. Then I started doing drawings of mules—for too many years I painted mules. My sister, who is a great artist, has now done some mules and won a contest with them. She studied art and jewelry-making in college.

Are you inspired by a particular painter or artistic movement?
I always liked Marc Chagall, Picasso and Matisse.

How does painting differ from music as a creative outlet for you?
It’s a reprieve as you do it alone, and I find that working on both at the same time is helpful. With music, I like making many tapes, or DATs, but I don’t listened to them. So when I’m painting, I can put on the tapes and listen as I work.

Where can we see your work in person?
I recently sold one that was in my studio. It’s now at the studio of Micah Middaugh of Breathe Owl Breathe in Wisconsin. The painting on the back of Happy Come Home is one of mine.

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By Victoria Williams

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By Victoria Williams

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By Victoria Williams

7. Will Johnson
Will Johnson of Austin, Texas, has released 16 albums as a solo artist and fronting the bands Centro-matic and South San Gabriel. He’s also been a member of the Undertow Orchestra, Baboon, Monsters of Folk, and most recently New Multitudes with Jay Farrar, Anders Parker and Yim Yames.

When did you first start painting?
On any regular basis, during the Spring of 2008. That’s when I started this run of baseball-related paintings.

Are you inspired by a particular painter or artistic movement?
Leon and Molly Bee Collins, Howard Finster, William Hawkins, Grandma Moses, Tim Kerr and Esther Pearl Watson are a few painters I like. More than anything, I’m inspired by an interesting story or piece of history. A subject that can hopefully teach the viewer and me something new. That’s what I try to focus on when I’m painting these players and stadiums.

How does painting differ from music as a creative outlet for you?
The painting is less of a physical, or animal thing to me. It’s a more solitary type of therapy, and it obviously unfolds in a quieter way. When I’m painting those old stadiums, I tend to take off into that world and time. If it starts to feel like a big daydream to me when I’m pushing the paint around, that’s when I enjoy it most.

Where can we see your work in person?
Team Love/Ravenhouse Gallery in New Paltz, N.Y. I have a show on display there until September 7th.

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By Will Johnson

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By Will Johnson

8. Tom Russell
Texas singer/songwriter Tom Russell has released a whopping 26 albums and three DVDs since 1976. In 2006, Joe Ely, Suzy Bogguss, Dave Alvin and Jerry Jeff Walker covered his songs for a Tom Russell tribute album called Wonded Heart of America.

When did you first start painting?
I started in 2003. Nine years ago.

Are you inspired by a particular painter or artistic movement?
My favorite painter is the Native American Fritz Scholder. An extreme colorist. He painted the West—in an edgy way.

How does painting differ from music as a creative outlet for you?
Painting is very similar to songwriting. The quick moments of mystical inspiration. The mystery of it all. You write, or paint, a good one—then turn around and slog away for weeks and months until the magic comes again. There’s something linking song and painting—you can hear songs over and over and get something new. Same with looking at a painting.

Where can we see your work in person?
I have a book of art out: Blue Horse/Red Desert: The Art of Tom Russell, published by Bangtail Press. It’s available from tomrussell.com and a Kindle version of the book essay, detailing my paint journey, is available on Kindle: Paint and Blood by Tom Russell at amazon.com/dp/B007I75WJC.

My paintings can also be viewed at tomrussell.com and also at the galleries Rainbow Man in Santa Fe and Yard Dog in Austin. See them at rainbowman.com and yarddog.com.

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By Tom Russell

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By Tom Russell

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By Tom Russell

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