I was already in my 30s when I started learning guitar and song writing, so I had plenty of time to explore other creative endeavours before becoming a musician. The time I spent living abroad in Bologna in particular was one of creative discovery and adventure.
I don’t claim to be much of a painter or a poet, but these are things I tried my hand at before I got into music. I’m a huge believer in the importance of taking risks and trying things out, whether or not these turn out to be short-lived or life-long (I’ve written more about this, and about my time in Bologna on my research website here). Music is my main creative pursuit now, but I think it’s important to show people that the creative journey is composed of false starts and failures, so I’m going to share some of my work from that time.
As I always say about music: symbolism is important. Often, it will be the imagery of a song that draws me in, even before the musical elements. I don’t think music is just about sound. In the same way, subjects of my paintings were often images that held a great importance to me. Those of you who have been reading this blog will know that foxes hold a very special place in my heart (read more about this here).
Animals in general are a big part of my creative life and are the focus of a lot of my research (read about my research in the Himalayas on this blog here and on my research blog here). In every city I’ve lived, different animal imagery seems to suggest itself. Surprisingly, in the ‘red’ city of Bologna, with its dusky pink buildings and porticoes, it was the vibrant blue and green dragonflies that I chose as my insignia:
The strange contrast between Bologna’s warm, sunset hues and the morbid blues and greys of the city’s famous still life painter, Giorgio Morandi, inspired me to write a poem that imagined the soul in colour:
My friend and mentor, R. W. Dyson (Daniel Steward), a much more talented poet than I am, wrote a response to my poem, Morandi Me, in his volume of Collected Poems (get this here).
Mythological animals were also a big inspiration to me, as were mythological creatures from literature:
I worked as an artist’s model for a time in Bologna, and this introduced me to many talented artists who gave me a lot of insight into the artistic process, the physical characteristics of colour and the discipline involved in studying the human form. Talented artist Richard Burkhart’s portrait of me was featured in one of his exhibitions in Bologna. The poster for his exhibition is below:
Although I’ll never be a great painter or famous poet, this time of creative discovery was an important one for me: not only did I get to try something new, I also got to learn from inspiring, creative people. Even if you don’t think you have a particular talent for creativity, I encourage you to explore your own life of the mind!