by Jared Adamson 5/7/2019
So the other day, on a whim, I did a google image search on “pianist painting”. I was curious if there were any famous paintings. And by “famous” I mean famous subject matter, famous painter or famous painting. And I proceeded with the realization that no matter how famous any of it would be, I had likely never heard of any of it.
The good news: there are some beautiful expressions in a variety of mediums in a variety of canvas sizes. Many with reprints available for purchase. And like I expected, I was unfamiliar with most of it.
The bad news: some of them were…odd.
By no means am I to be considered knowledgeable in the art of painting. Like so many, I know what I like and I like what I know (Caravaggio’s works actually looked like people). But I try to approach others’ productions and creativities the same as I would approach my own art (music). What techniques are involved here? What is the greater context? What emotions are experienced? Whether I’m reading a novel, observing a sculpture or eating a non-mass-produced meal—these things help me appreciate what is before me.
In my ignorance, it is often difficult for me to understand or appreciate technique (did Bob Ross actually use a knife as a paint brush?). And likewise, without speaking to the artist or researching their life and work, it can be hard to understand context.
But the emotions are genuine and mine, all mine. I take full credit and responsibility for them. In my search, I found 20 or so prints that stuck out to me. Essentially, the subject matter is the same in each: a piano and a single male figured (not to exclude woman pianists, but my identity).
Here’s what I experienced in a few of them:
- A piano in a dark forest, but from inside we see warm light coming forth: The music is bringing hope.
- A classy chap petting a feline while he plays: sometimes music is our distraction and sometime we are distracted from the music.
- An impressionist’s take on a man practicing (not yet performing): the unfocused/blurry nature of impressionism felt like the song was recognizable but not yet perfected.
- White pastel/chalk on black: a simple silhouette showing simplicity and yet complexity and isolation.
- A young musician one hand on his keyboard and the other on his head: frustration and heartbreak, why?
- Rehearsing near a living room window: the everydayness of creation, rehearsal and art.
- A maestro hitting the final chord: victory, relief, satisfaction.
I was struck by the diversity of perspective on the same subject. Hope, frustration, isolation, life, light, dark, death, clean, choices, heart & soul (what? You didn’t see that one coming?), artist and novice, clean lines, brush strokes, heart break, catharsis, new beginnings and final endings.
All this is to say, art speaks. Sometimes it speaks loudly; sometimes it whispers. Sometimes it is rainbow bright; sometimes it is midnight black. It can be minimal or extravagant, deep or wide. Explosive or introspective, introverted, innovative.
For a subject I greatly identify with (dude at the KB), I realized that these artists had crossed mediums and expressed what a different kind of artist might be feeling. As a musician, I have felt or experienced all the things that these works spoke to me. Perhaps I read those feelings into the works because of my experiences; but maybe the painters are just that good.
Jared Adamson is the Minister of Worship and Creative Arts at Centerville Christian Church in Centerville, IN and a member of the DIVA Board of Directors. Studying voice, composition, organ and improv, he has a Bachelor of Music in Church Music with a double major in Bible and piano from Cincinnati Christian University where he later served as an adjunct professor in the music and worship department.