Tape on the sidewalk (1)

Beauty in the Dirt: Unlikely Inspiration

Nashville has a nickname: Music City. There’s live music at every turn: buskers on Broadway, honky-tonks, huge arena and amphitheater concerts, temporary stages in the streets for festivals, and even on barges in the river set up as floating stages for riverfront events.

Where there are performances, there is gaffer’s tape, used to mark where sound equipment goes or where singers stand on stage or just to keep power cables in place.

It ends up on everything.

I find gaffer’s tape everywhere, from sidewalks to light posts to the bottom of your shoe. And when that tape gets exposed to the weather it takes on some interesting textures that inspire me as a painter.

It warps and weathers and wears in a way you wouldn’t expect.

I first noticed the gaffer’s tape on one of my morning walks through downtown Nashville when I found it on the sidewalk in Riverfront park. It was pretty unremarkable at first. But when I saw it again later, there was something interesting in the shape, the texture, the way it stuck to the ground and became part of the ground. I don’t think it’s ever coming off, since it’s been about six months since I first saw it, and that area has flooded a couple of times since it is right next to (actually over) the river.

And about a foot away, there was another piece.

Tape on the sidewalk (1)

Tape on the sidewalk (2) Tape on the sidewalk (3)

A few days later on the same walk, about a quarter mile away, I noticed a light post that had been wrapped in duct tape or electrical tape. I realized this tape is ubiquitous — more so than duct tape.

The sloppiness of it appeals to me. We are quick to accept an “it’ll do” application when we are in a hurry. It may not be the prettiest or most seamless approach, but usually, it gets the job done – for a long time, too.

"Detritus" photo album on iPhoneI’ve been collecting so many photos of such things that I’ve made an album on my iPhone and called it “Detritus.” It’s got worn tape, badly pressure-washed places, and generally “gunky” places around town that have this weird, dirty beauty to them.

This has made its way into my paintings.

As usual, when I see something that inspires me and it comes up in my painting, it gets so transformed and distorted that it looks nothing like the source material. And that’s fine with me. I don’t necessarily want to paint the tape. What I want to paint is that overlap, that line, that corrosion.

"Wrapped," Brad Blackman, Acrylic on canvas board. 4x6 inches, 2017.

Wrapped, Acrylic on canvas board. 4×6 inches, 2017. (Sold to the Molly Olly’s Wishes Twitter Art Exhibit fundraiser)

"Drawbridge," acrylic on canvas. 8x8 inches, 2017.

Drawbridge, acrylic on canvas. 8×8 inches, 2017. (Sold via Instagram/Facebook)

But why tape?

Why does anything else inspire me? It just does. Open your eyes, because inspiration and beauty are everywhere.

Being creative is simply living with your eyes open.