Public Music, Public Art

An exciting, painting opportunity presented itself this year.
The Bear River Board of Trade invited me and 6 other artists to paint large murals for public display in the village.

The Musician ©Flora Doehler, 2015. Acrylic on panel. 4′ x 8′.
The Musician ©Flora Doehler, 2015. Acrylic on panel. 4′ x 8′.
Paintings are installed by Jonathan Welch, Ralph Pardy and Pierre.
Paintings are installed by Jonathan Welch, Ralph Pardy and Pierre.

I usually paint flowers and landscapes. But I decided a change of theme was in order. Since this would be the largest painting I’d ever made, the theme had to be ‘big’ too.musicianbyFloraDoehler17

The Arts in its many forms is prolific in Nova Scotia. This was one of the many charms that drew us to Nova Scotia. Since moving here 8 years ago, I’ve attended many community concerts and kitchen parties. I’ve gone to stadium concerts in my life and heard the Beatles, the Stones, Bruce Springsteen, John Prine and more. But there is nothing so personal as sitting in a small room of 20 to 50 people, while a band or a solo performer shares their sound and lyrics with the audience. It is a close encounter of the musical kind. Watching musicians make their art is enchanting.

My inspiration came from the musician on the far right. He performed at the Rebekah Music Hall in 2012.
My inspiration came from the musician on the far right. He performed at the Rebekah Music Hall in 2012.

And it’s so easy and affordable to be an audience member in Bear River. The venues are 2 minutes away by car with free parking or 7 minutes by walking down a steep hill with flashlight.  And the price of admission ranges from free to $15. Often there are delicious home-baked goodies and tasty locally roasted Sissiboo Coffee … all by donation.

musicianbyFloraDoehler11
Altering my photo with Photoshop.

Musicians give Bear River a high-five for quality of audience. People are listening. People are really listening.  How can you not when someone is singing from the heart and laying out their soul?

The projected photo on the board.
The projected photo on the board.

I appreciate that musicians create an art that exists only in this moment and then disappears. There may be a recording somewhere, but it’s never the exact version that is being sung.

I’ve gone to a lot of events in Bear River at the Rebekah Music Hall. Larry was on permanent duty for years serving coffee and treats and cleaning up. That was just a bit of his volunteer work. I always have my camera and this painting is from one I took in 2012. I think the musician is Carl Vroom, but I’m not sure. I’ve changed his profile from the photo. I wanted the painting to stand in for the many guitar players out there. I loved his stance, his dramatic clothing, the jaunty hat and the long coat, and high boots. He reminded me of a Robin Hood figure.

I manipulated the photo in Photoshop and reduced it to a black and white, posterized image. Then I drew an outline in marker from the projected image onto the board. The figure is painted with purple, blue and black acrylic. I love the moodiness of a backlit figure in a dark room. The hot colours behind the silhouette suggest the flood of musical notes that flow from this musician. I wanted to express the high emotion that is part of that special interaction with the audience. I painted a suggestion of the olden-days wooden wainscoting that fills the room where the concerts happen. I used a high contrast of light and dark and made him larger than life to be readable at a distance.

The Musician ©Flora Doehler, 2015. Acrylic on panel. 4′ x 8′.
The Musician ©Flora Doehler, 2015. Acrylic on panel. 4′ x 8′.

Every day when I walk down the hill into the village, I pass my musician and all the other artists’ interpretations of Bear River life. I am so glad to pay tribute to the music makers here. It’s also cool to see my painting in a public setting along with those of my friends. All works show aspects of our adopted village.

These paintings on two buildings, are the beginning of public art in Bear River.
These paintings on two buildings, are the beginning of public art in Bear River.
Paintings by Flora Doehler, Ken Flett, Dick Rampen, and Justine Kerr.
Paintings by Flora Doehler, Ken Flett, Dick Rampen, and Justine Kerr.

Larry’s ‘painting’ consisted of a hand-lettered village sign.  Isn’t it gorgeous! That makes him the 8th artist.
Larry’s ‘painting’ consisted of a hand-lettered village sign.  Isn’t it gorgeous! That makes him the 8th artist.
musicianbyFloraDoehler07
Paintings by Kelly Foxton & Marcella Edwards and Anne Zimmerman.

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