MMC Artist Series: Al Perkins Paints the Music

This year, the Metropolitan Music Community commissioned several of its members to create art for the concert programs and marketing materials. For our November 1st concert, the Grand Street Community Band will be performing a variety of Halloween-themed selections for their concert, "Things That Go Bump in the Night"; followed by Brooklyn Wind Symphony's performance, "A Night with Michael Markowski."  

Our first artist is Al Perkins, the principal horn player for the Brooklyn Wind Symphony. Al has been with the MMC since 2009 and also serves as the organization's librarian. Al is not only a talented musician, but a gifted artist, often finding inspiration through music. For this first "Artist Series," Al shared his process of creating the program art for this cycle--creating his pieces based on "Dance of the Witches" and Michael Markowski's "City Trees." He even gave MMC an inside peak at his studio space! Read on below and take a look at more of Al's work in the slideshow. 

Starting with the music...

"It's very important for me to know the piece intimately, and more so what the piece is trying to say. [For example] Michael's program notes are always a good place to start, even though on once occasion I had to turn to him to get a better insight. 

Once I absorb the music and the material, I try to capture the mood as I see it. Then it's almost like purging. Once it starts flowing, it's fast and furious."

Creating "City Trees"

"City Trees" was based on a photo I found so it had details of a real building. Then I started to layer it so it had an almost impressionistic feel. I wanted the tree to be a contrast to the roughness behind it, but I didn't want it to look like it was in a different painting. So I tried to always be aware of where the light was coming from and to keep it all consistent." 

On "Dance of the Witches" 

"I had to mull over the GSCB's program for a while to find the one that jumped out at me. The more obvious choice would have been to go with "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," but I felt "Dance of the Witches" would have made a better overall image. 

The witches in "Dance of the Witches" started as sketches, which I later carved into a stencil on a piece of acetate that could tape down on the canvas and brush over.  For the shadows I used painter's tape to allow me to dry brush the color to get the effect I was looking for."

Creating the final pieces....

"A lot depends on what I'm trying to do -- if the image is literal or implied.  I'll sometimes find pictures and paste images together for the composition I'm looking for and use it as a guide.  Then I'll figure out what sort of technique I want to use, or what the piece calls for.  Often I'll turn to YouTube to learn a new technique or two (remember, I'm still fairly new to this painting thing, so I have a lot to learn).

And then there are times when I approach an effect in a similar way that I would if I'm painting a theater set, which is viewed from a distance, not too close. (But) if I dwell too long on one painting, the soul of it is usually lost. It's an image--a thought--so I try not to belabor it. That's why I try to keep it simple and I don't obsess once it's done."

Posted on October 7, 2015 .