So, a couple months prior to Tom Petty’s passing, I decided to do a painting of him. I’ve always loved Tom Petty’s music. It was 1979 and I was 9 years old. I was riding in the car with my parents and a song came on the radio. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard, that voice, so unique and full of expressive character. Both music and vocals struck a chord in me. I loved it. I asked my parents “What’s this song? Who’s it by?” It was “Don’t Do Me Like That” by Tom Petty. Shortly after, I went to the local drugstore in my small Iowa hometown. They had a section of 45 records and albums for sale there and could order just about anything in. I used my allowance to purchase my first piece of vinyl, this song by Tom Petty. I must have spun that thing a million times. I have many Tom Petty favorites, “Even the Losers”, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, “The Waiting”, “It’s Good to be King” and “You Don’t Know How It Feels” just to name a few.
When I decided to do a portrait of Tom that captured his style and music, I chose a more recent source photo. It resonated with me because it showed an accomplished Tom Petty, one comfortable with who he was and one ripened and wizened by experience. The fact that he passed away before I finished the piece sort of altered my perspective of him. It was a constant reminder that this musician who I had grown up listening to, wasn’t ever going to write another song. What we have is all there will ever be. But what a treasure he created for us with his music, for that I am appreciative and that’s what drives me to do musician portraits. It is because they resonate with me through their music that I want to transfer that feeling to my canvas. I want to portray them with the feelings I get when I listen to their music. I think most everyone can identify with that. We all have those songs that take us back to significant times in our lives. I hope that when people view my painting of Tom Petty, it helps them to remember his music and the moments when his songs were playing in their own lives.
Painting strikes a chord in the soul and there is a dance, a process of applying colors and layers, shadows and nuances that are a discovery of the subject. It is creating a whole by adding up the sum of its parts. A painter becomes the vessel through which the subject speaks by utilizing colors like words or notes in a song. My portraits of musicians are intended to evoke a definitive mood and personality. I think that the way values are rendered in a drawing tend to push a piece to be able to speak to you. I love working with a high-contrast style that shows value ranges from deep black to bright white or color combinations that create a mood conducive to the musician. Many of my pieces tell a story, they contain fragments of memories that are expressed through thoughtful use of color and contrast.