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About the Artist Bob Dylan

He’s not the first and he certainly won’t be the last to make the transition from rock star to fine or contemporary artist, and therein gain headlines for differing reasons. Historically, when this cross-fertilisation of creative skills is first mooted, journalists prepare for a field day, sharpening their metaphorical pencils and lying in wait to pounce on the canvas car crash that Fleet Street so often envisage and predict; believing that it’s simply the artiste’s latest means to creatively vent their spleen in the public eye, rather than the overdue answering of a life-long calling. David Bowie, John Lennon, Ronnie Wood and as profiled here, Bob Dylan are just a few in a long line of musicians who morph into painters in later life, and prove that there’s more to their creativity than simply song-writing and performing. Rather than pen a profile on Dylan’s back catalogue of musical attributes and rise to prominence and fame (which most people have some inkling about), instead this artist profile furnishes us with Dylan the fine artist, as opposed to Dylan the musician.

Works By Bob Dylan

  • Sidewalk Cafe 2016 by Bob Dylan
    Sidewalk Cafe 2016
  • The Brazil Series by Bob Dylan
    The Brazil Series
  • Classic Car Show Cleveland OH by Bob Dylan
    Classic Car Show Cleveland OH
  • Holbrook Arizona by Bob Dylan
    Holbrook Arizona
  • The Drawn Blank Series 2016 by Bob Dylan
    The Drawn Blank Series 2016
  • Endless Highway 2017 by Bob Dylan
    Endless Highway 2017
  • Under The Bridge by Bob Dylan
    Under The Bridge
  • Motel In New Mexico by Bob Dylan
    Motel In New Mexico
  • Clam Bar, Surf Avenue by Bob Dylan
    Clam Bar, Surf Avenue
  • Staring at the Moon by Bob Dylan
    Staring at the Moon
  • Kingman, Arizona by Bob Dylan
    Kingman, Arizona
  • Hamburger Stand, Long Beach by Bob Dylan
    Hamburger Stand, Long Beach
  • H Street, Washington, DC by Bob Dylan
    H Street, Washington, DC
  • Abandoned Motel, Eureka by Bob Dylan
    Abandoned Motel, Eureka
  • Donut Shop by Bob Dylan
    Donut Shop
  • Vine Street West LA by Bob Dylan
    Vine Street West LA
  • Train Tracks 2013 by Bob Dylan
    Train Tracks 2013
  • Fisherman 2016 by Bob Dylan
    Fisherman 2016
  • Man On A Bridge 2016 by Bob Dylan
    Man On A Bridge 2016
  • Sunday Afternoon 2016 by Bob Dylan
    Sunday Afternoon 2016
  • Sunflowers 2016 by Bob Dylan
    Sunflowers 2016
  • Woman In The Red Lion Pub 2016 by Bob Dylan
    Woman In The Red Lion Pub 2016
  • Endless Highway by Bob Dylan
    Endless Highway
  • Manhattan Bridge Downtown New York by Bob Dylan
    Manhattan Bridge Downtown New York
  • Little Italy Lower Manhattan by Bob Dylan
    Little Italy Lower Manhattan
  • Wilton Iowa Farmyard by Bob Dylan
    Wilton Iowa Farmyard
  • Florida Country by Bob Dylan
    Florida Country
  • Theater Downtown LA by Bob Dylan
    Theater Downtown LA
  • Amusement Park Alleyway by Bob Dylan
    Amusement Park Alleyway
  • East LA Side Street by Bob Dylan
    East LA Side Street
  • Bandera Texas by Bob Dylan
    Bandera Texas
  • Midnight Caller by Bob Dylan
    Midnight Caller

Born in Duluth, Minnesota, USA in 1941, art had always played an important role in Dylan’s life and times, and whilst residing in the appropriately artistic quarter of Greenwich Village in Manhattan, New York during the early 1960s he would often produce line drawings and pencil sketches of everything around him; between penning anthems based on lover’s scorn and lyrical odysseys across raw, emotional land and soundscapes. To the uninitiated, Dylan’s artwork graces the cover of his occasional group, The Band’s ‘Music from the Big Pink’ album from 1968. Again, and two years later, additional Dylan artwork appeared on the cover of his album, Self Portrait. Inspiration would never be in short supply, and be derived from just about anything. When asked as to what he would draw in the early days of his flirtations with art, Dylan’s 2004 autobiographical account chronicled; “Well, I guess I would start with whatever was at hand... the typewriter, a crucifix, a rose, pencils and knives and pins, empty cigarette boxes. I’d lose track of time completely... In a strange way I noticed that it purified the experience of my eye and I would make drawings of my own for years to come.”

Dylan’s passion for his art and own personal exploration of the subject matter gathered momentum in the early 1970s, and in ’73 sketches committed to his early notebooks appeared in published form in his new book release, entitled ‘Writings and Drawings’. At the same juncture, his forthcoming album, ‘Planet Waves’ flaunted yet another of his original paintings on the cover sleeve. A year later and Dylan spent an intense two-month course of study in, where else but Paris, under the tutelage of an ageing art teacher called Norman Raeben, who himself lived amongst the modernist crowd. Raeben’s new disciple soon had it drummed into him to observe the world with different eyes; or as Dylan himself recalled from the time; “To put my mind and my head and my eye together in a way that allowed me to do consciously what I unconsciously felt.”

Still, and despite immersing himself into his art during this period of his life and career, it was 30-odd years later that Dylan finally gained a reputation amongst art collectors and critics for his work, after forging his style many decades previously. His book of drawings that had visually charted Dylan’s worldwide tour between 1982-1992 had fleetingly grabbed some transient attention when ‘Drawn Blank’ came to public attention back in 1994, yet it wasn’t until 2007 when an influential German gallery owner happened across a copy of Dylan’s 80s artistic outpourings by chance whilst in New York, that Dylan the artist was ultimately born in the public’s conscience. Wanting to run an abbreviated exhibit at her Chemnitz Art Gallery, Ingrid Mossinger approached Dylan to garner what she hoped might be a positive response. However, as opposed to just showcasing the original sketches, Dylan insisted that he was given the opportunity to go away and digitally re-master his collection, introducing watercolours and gouache to an incredible 320 compositions in eight months.

Mossinger chose 140 pieces of Dylan’s works to exhibit for the first time anywhere, and the singer-songwriter-artist admits that if it wasn’t for her insistence then it’s fair to say he wouldn’t have revisited this body of historical work; and his art back catalogue may never have seen the light of day. That initial exhibition ran from November 2007 until February 2008, and of all the pieces—with self-explanatory titles ranging from “Train Tracks” to “Motel pool”—the most provocative piece was “Statue of Liberty,” a mock rendition of Lady Liberty set in Coney Island and holding a newspaper with the headline, “Rape is not Sex.” Art critics pounced on this and his follow-up; ‘Drawn Blank’ series which was housed at London’s Halcyon Gallery in both 2008 and then again in 2010, with the half-expected mixture of vitriol and acclaim. Favoured responses drew (slightly hyperbolic and PR-savvy) comparisons with Munch and Matisse, whilst less glowing references inferred that Dylan’s art was no better than mediocre student work and referring to him as ‘another celebrity dauber’. This mattered little to Dylan, as almost every exhibit sold out pretty much immediately, which in turn led to his subsequent, Bob Dylan on Canvas show at the same venue shortly afterwards.

Rudimentary line drawings morphed into more elaborate watercolours as Dylan’s populist new collection saw him evolve and grow as an out-and-out fine artist, and witness the artistic acceptance that he’d long hoped for as he hesitantly embarked on his own paint-administering journey. As written in a press release to accompany the Bob Dylan on Canvas exhibition, he best summed up his approach to his own art by admitting the following; "I just draw what’s interesting to me, and then I paint it... I can take a bowl of fruit and turn it into a life and death drama... I’m not trying to make a social comment or fulfil somebody’s vision and I can find subject matter anywhere. I guess in some way that comes out of the folk world that I came up in."

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