Thursday, May 17, 2012

Let's Go Make a Picture on the Island of Stromboli

When Woody Guthrie died, he left behind several notebooks of song lyrics that hadn't yet become songs. His daughter and estate made an arrangement with singer-songwriter Billy Bragg and the band Wilco (two of my favorites) to see if they could make anything of them. This resulted in the outstanding Mermaid Avenue albums.

One of the simplest and affecting little love songs I've ever heard is from this project: "Ingrid Bergman" featuring Billy Bragg's plaintive vocal and a simple finger-picked acoustic guitar. Guthrie's ode to Bergman's sad and sly beauty seems to have been written around 1950 when she was off making "Stromboli" - a film set on a volcanic island between Sicily and Italy. Perhaps he just liked the sound of the word and used it throughout.

I was listening again recently, and when the lyric says "... let's go make a picture. On the island of Stromboli..." I got to wondering what Stromboli actually looks like, and, well whether I could make a picture of it.

I could. It looks like this:

This one is relatively large: a 15" x 22" half-sheet of Arches cotton rag. That door started with a healthy layer of M. Graham's Napthol Red - a wonderfully pigment-rich watercolor that uses a touch of honey in it's binding medium along with gum arabic. Makes for a soft, moist color. All of which seems to suite Bergman. Here I've added some Permanent Rose and Ultramarine Blue to recreate the effect of a sunbleached wooden door whose red paint is beginning to fade where it's thinner. The shadows were a real challenge here too. I'll bet there is a wonderful coutyard behind that door.

It's temping to call this painting Ingrid Bergman...

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