Original Paintings from the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes 2014
by Howard Rains
I have painted since I was a kid, but for many years I have been painting old time fiddlers, drawing only from life and documenting living traditional musicians as they played. These portraits go through the filter of my style and I have often been told they look nothing like the individual I am painting; other times I have been told they look exactly like them. I have done this because I love to do it. Because I am obsessed with traditional music and the incredible people I meet through the music.
I was contacted by Suzy Thompson, artistic director at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington and was asked, “Would you like to come to Fiddle Tunes to paint?” Suzy was familiar with my art just as I was familiar with her fiddling. I have long admired her and her husband Eric and they had even been the subjects of one of my paintings. “Yes,” was the obvious answer. My wife, Tricia Spencer, my son Isaiah and I made plans and got ourselves to Fiddle Tunes and what followed was one of the great experiences of my life. Sure, we stayed up too late playing tunes every night and got up too early the next morning so we wouldn’t miss anything, but what was most meaningful was the people I met and the connection I made with those people.
Ordinarily, at any music event, I might easily remain cloistered in my old time fiddle world, listening, learning, and drawing from the music that is near and dear to my heart, but I had a job to do at Fiddle Tunes. I had to make the rounds, meet other folks from other places, listen to tunes and styles I found far less familiar, and draw these individuals as they made their music. In so doing, I was exposed to music and musicians that I did not know and quickly discovered I absolutely loved. Because I took very seriously my duty as a documentarian of this event, I took in all I could and found myself surrounded by some of the most brilliant people I had ever heard play.
I left Fiddle Tunes with a stack full of drawings, a wonderful group of amazing new friends, and a head dizzy with tunes. I have, since then, been working my way through that stack which can bee seen on my website, www.HowardRains.net. As I complete a painting, I post it to the site. My wife Tricia and I are working musicians so I paint between gigs. They sometimes come at a drip but that drip can turn into a flood when I have time to settle into painting everyday.
I encourage you to have a look. I also encourage you to attend the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes for what is surely one of the broadest and most colorful assortment of fiddlers and tunes you are likely run across in a single setting.
I found Dwayne Cote to be one of the most passionate fiddlers I have ever heard. When he took the stage, he was very unassuming, yet when he began to draw his bow across the instrument, he played with great power and sensitivity. I also found him to be just as passionate and individual in person when I showed him my drawings. He laughed uncontrollably at them, causing everyone around us to laugh with the same vigor. Barbara Magone was the perfect accompanist to Dwayne’s music and their interplay was filled with life.
SHERYL CORMIER & COURTNEY GRANGER
I first heard Cajun musicians Sheryl Cormier and Courtney Granger years ago on a trip to south Louisiana. I love Sheryl’s powerful playing and Courtney’s soulful singing and fiddling. Coming from a Cajun family, I have a deep love for their music.
THE RHYTHM ROLLERS
The Rhythm Rollers, Laurie Andres, Cathie Whitesides, and WB Reid, paid tribute to New England fiddler Bob McQuillen with their lively contra dance band, playing some of his favorite tunes as well a few he composed. Fiddle Tunes seemed to have a theme in celebrating the life of this recently passed master so this painting is particularly special to me.
I know very little about Matt Kinman, I just know that he was sitting a large chair, playing the banjo and singing an old song. It seemed to be a portrait waiting to happen, and he politely obliged when I asked if I could draw him. It was a very special and personal moment to be sitting and listening and drawing.
There was a depth in Dale Russ’s Irish fiddling that felt like you were being brought into a very private universe. I tried to capture that quiet elegance in my portrait of him.
For more info on Howard Rains' wonderful Texas fiddling and his paintings, which we LOVE: