(Video) August 2018 First Saturday Art Crawl

September 27th, 2018

In August, my daughter and I went to the First Saturday Downtown Nashville Art Crawl, and made a video about it. We go nearly every month. It’s become “our thing.” I love spending time with my girl!

If you have kids, what special things do you do together on a regular basis?

Beauty in the Dirt: Unlikely Inspiration

July 27th, 2017

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.


Gearing Up for the August Art Crawl

August 3rd, 2016

The August First Saturday Downtown Nashville Art Crawl is upon us! I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve spent the last couple of weekends working on the art I’m putting in the show.

I’ve never done anything quite like this before.

What I’ve done differently about this set of paintings is I’ve created everything all at once. I usually work on one piece at a time. But this time, I laid out nine canvases on a big big drop cloth, and got to work on all of them at once.

Because they are being developed simultaneously, they all have a lot of the same colors and similar compositions that somewhat carry into each other from one canvas to another.

Part of that is because when I started, I made lines ran from canvas to canvas, but as I built them up, they took on their own compositions.

While the canvases are all being developed at the same time, I am developing each canvas individually. The result is really a small body of work where the pieces are all connected not necessarily by their adjoining areas but in terms of color and mood. Each piece will have something about it that stands out from the others. One color is be more dominant on one than another, but there is a common constant visual theme throughout. I am really excited about this project!

I think I like this technique: it’s fast.

It’s a very fast way to work. I’ve developed nine paintings all at once. Normally that would take a very long time. And in the process of developing this cohesive set of works I’ve come across a couple of new techniques that work really well for me, spreading paint with nontraditional tools. Painting on the floor is interesting because I usually work with the canvas on an easel.

And yes, there’s a downside.

The only downside to working on several paintings at once like this is, if one canvas is too wet to work on, the others probably are, too. But that forces me to sit back and look at everything to figure out what is next.

Slowing down is good, too.

So much of the process of making art is just staring and looking.

Stay tuned for the final result for this new work! If you can’t make it to Erabellum in the Arcade this Saturday night, to see the work in person, watch this space for the final work with some more time lapse goodness. (Feel free to subscribe to my emails so you can know when I get it posted.)

Music City Derby Day 2016: Champing at the Bit for Bridges in Nashville

May 14th, 2016

Nearly 20 years ago, the EAR Foundation granted me a scholarship that helped me attend Harding University. Some years back, EAR Foundation merged with the League for the Hearing Impaired to form Bridges for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to join their board, and I have always felt it was a chance for me to help others since others have helped me.

Last weekend we had our third annual Music City Derby Day event, and we raised $55,000, an agency record. I’m happy to say that I contributed two paintings to the silent auction. Sure, it’s fun to get all dressed up, sip mint juleps, watch a horse race, participate in a silly version of croquet, but it’s even more fun to do it all for a good cause.

I put in some recent pieces that I painted a few months ago:

“Bend” acrylic on canvas. 14 x 11 inches. 2016

I was excited to put something this colorful and lively in the silent auction. For me this piece is about embracing life and building connections.

“Pressure” acrylic on canvas. 20 x 20 inches. 2016

These gold swirls on a neutral background with a teal undertone were actually inspired by some lazy pressure-washing I saw on the sidewalk one day. I love reinterpreting ordinary things as something unusual and exciting and even glamorous.

It was great to be part of this awesome cause again. Plus I got to meet some really cool people. Former boy-band singer Evan Farmer was a hilarious emcee, Lucia Folk‘s Russian jockey getup was a hoot, and TSU men’s basketball coach Dana Ford and his wife were as nice as ever.

We all had a great time and I can’t wait for next year.

Lipstick and Explosions at the Art Crawl

September 16th, 2015

Unlike last month, Annie and I left home early to get to the First Saturday Art Crawl. We drove through a short but very intense shower but downtown was dry as could be.

The weather was hot, but that short burst of rain cooled things off just enough that it wasn’t uncomfortable or too humid.

The Peanut Shop was closed

Of course, our first order of business was to see if the Peanut Shop was open. It wasn’t, so Annie was disappointed.

From there we went to the upstairs of the Arcade to check out the galleries. It was nice to beat the crowds.

Let’s Join the Circus

The first gallery we visited was Blend, which is run by my friend Ben Vitualla. We loved the show that was there. It was this highly detailed, surreal, circus-themed art by Sarah Kaufman and her book The Circus that the paintings were in.

I was so proud of Annie for being able to read the book. We would have bought it right there but I didn’t have $25 on me. (I had just $20 and that was for snacks!) You can orderThe Circus from Amazon, too.

Sarah’s work was a lot of fun. Everything was so magical and it really brought you into this world the artist had created. The best art immerses you into an entire world.

And Sarah’s paintings do just that.


We loved the delicate floral ceramic sculptures by Carolyn Baginski and Audry Deal-McEver in the 40 AU gallery. They had collaborated to put together a show where their ceramic work complemented each other. I enjoyed getting to meet the artists and talk to them about how they made their work. Taken together, it all looked like part of the same body of work.

Marleen De Waele-De Bock

Next, we visited Marleen De Waele-De Bock again and got a chance to meet her this time. However, Annie was getting hungry at this point so she was getting antsy.

But that didn’t stop her from taking selfies with the art. Annie’s favorite piece was the painted coffee table, which she excitedly took a picture of with my phone.

A Snack at Frothy Monkey

Our next stop was Frothy Monkey. We ran into my friend Adam and his 4-year-old little girl on the sidewalk. So the girls said hello and then we went on to get a snack.

Annie and I split a Cowboy Cookie. She got hot chocolate with cinnamon and I got a cappuccino. I showed her how delicious it is when you dip your cookie in your hot beverage.

Explosions at Tinney Contemporary

After Frothy Monkey we went to Tinney Contemporary and looked at some huge paintings by James Perrin. They looked like they were of some abstract otherworldly explosions. Or migraines.

I was struck by how many people were walking around the gallery looking at their phones. Look at the art, people! Talk to your friends who are actually with you.

Big Lips and Abstracts. Abstract Lipstick?

Next up, we visited The Rymer Gallery. It was all excellent work, as usual. My Instagram Friend Alex Hall had some new abstract pieces up, which are a change from the usual polished, realistic/surrealistic works he has done.

We had a brief conversation about the marketability of abstract work over detailed realistic work. I think it is because in abstract painting, people can inject a part of themselves in it. It’s more universal by default. The more realistic and specific something is, the less universal.

The giant lips by Elizabeth Winnel were pretty cool, too.

The Arts Company

Finally, we closed the night by visiting The Arts Company.

Of course, Annie found the pop-up books and had a blast going through those.

I loved the paintings by Edie Maney and the giant sculpture by Edward Belbusti. I don’t know how they got that in the door.

It was a good night. I had a blast meeting some artists I’ve only known online. It was worth it to get there early and beat the crowds and brave the weather that turned out to be not so bad after all.

BYOB – Bring Your Own Brush (#creativenash sponsored by @JerrysArtarama)

June 6th, 2014

This coming Monday, June 9 from 6-8 p.m. at Emma’s “Bistro” meeting space a bunch of us from the Nashville Creative Group are getting together to paint and create music! It’ll be a fun two hours of co-creation. Listening, painting, feeling, seeing, and playing.


If you’re a musician, bring your instrument or your voice. We’ll have a freestyle jam session that pays homage to everything that is Nashville. (Anybody who’s taken a stroll down Broad at rush hour knows what I’m talking about.)


And while the musicians are singing and playing, painters will be painting. BYOB (Bring Your Own Brush) — Jerry’s Artarama is kindly providing canvas and paints for us. We will end up with a large collaborative art installation piece to exhibit.


Or if you’d rather just hang out and chat, that’s fine. Maybe you’re not an artist or a musician but you’re a friend of the arts. We’d love for you to come. RSVP on Facebook Bring a friend, a drink, a snack to share!

Big Thanks to Jerry’s Artarama

Let’s all give Jerry’s Artarama thanks by visiting their website, liking the Jerry’s Artarama page on Facebook or following them on Twitter at @JerrysArtarama and by using our official hashtag #creativenashRead more about this event.


Jerry’s Artarama is a national retailer of arts materials and supplies headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., with 15 physical locations throughout the United States and an online store. Jerry Goldstein opened the first Jerry’s Artarama in Long Island, N.Y., in 1968 with the goal of offering quality discount-priced products to established artists. Jerry believed in treating customers like family, a tradition that still continues. Today, Jerry’s offers more than 70,000 top-quality art materials at direct savings — as much as 75 percent off traditional retail on products from the industry’s leading art manufacturers, as well as Jerry’s own exclusive product lines via the online retail store, art supply catalog and Jerry’s Artarama Superstores. In addition, Jerry’s Artarama serves as an artist resource by offering instructional workshops, new art supply demos and special art-related events, including the Art of the Carolinas Tradeshow, an annual event held in Raleigh. For more information, visit http://www.jerrysartarama.com

Image Sources: Lost and Taken.

Regional Styles in Nashville

September 5th, 2013

Graphic design magazines like HOW and Print have various annual editions each year. One of those is a Regional Design Annual. It’s interesting to see how design looks in a particular region, but over the years I’ve seen less “regionality” as everything begins to look the same regardless of origin. It’s probably due to a combination of atrophying print design skills and a general global homogenization due to the Internet.

But when it comes to local art, that is, Nashville art, I can’t say I’ve ever noticed a “Southeastern” or “Nashville” or “Tennessee” style in the galleries I’ve been to or on the art crawls.

Nashville Arts Magazine seems pretty eclectic.

Maybe I just haven’t traveled enough to know what’s outside of Nashville. I don’t travel much.

So maybe what looks like “normal” art to me is plainly “local” to an outsider.

Now, I know there are regional styles out there. Southwest is the first that comes to my mind.

I have no idea if there’s a particular style coming out of L.A. or New York right now.

I can say, though, with what limited exposure I have, that it looks like Boston art collectors favor tighter, more realistic paintings, given the communication I’ve had with Quidley & Company. I did a painting for a show there last year, and the exhibition’s organizer kept asking me to make it more crisp. Melrose Interchange is more crisp than most of my work. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not my usual style, either.

Back to Nashville: I’m sure there’s a local style, but it’s a bit eclectic and hard to pin down. In short: there’s a lot of “low-brow” influence from comics/comix, outsider/self-taught/naive art, plus postmodern sculptures and installations along with classical-inspired figure painting. It’s a pretty mixed bag, and I like it that way.

Image credits: From the August 2013 issue of Nashville Arts Magazine: Cano OzengerSusan SimmonsBruce MunroMark HosfordGreg Pond, and Richard Greathouse

Review: Nashville First Saturday Art Crawl, June 2013

June 7th, 2013

Last Saturday, I took my four-and-a-half-year-old, Annie, to the First Saturday Art Crawl in downtown Nashville. Every first Saturday of the month, a bunch of art galleries and co-ops open up for the evening so art lovers can wander from one gallery to another. It started in the famous Arcade between Fourth and Fifth avenue, but has expanded to the rest of Fifth Avenue.

Since this is Nashville, the weather is usually too hot or too cold to take a toddler (I guess she’s a kid now!) to a bunch of art galleries that open up on the street.

But this time, the weather was perfect. We almost didn’t go, since there had been severe thunderstorms an hour or so before we left, but it cleared out just in time for us to head downtown.

The first thing we saw as we turned onto 5th Avenue from Church Street was a wedding party being photographed in the middle of the street. They had rented out Puckett’s Grocery for their dinner.

Fifth Avenue of the Arts

Fifth Avenue of the Arts has been renovated to be more pedestrian-friendly, with new lighting over the street. Between light posts, icicle-style lights (only much nicer than the Christmas lights you can buy at Walgreen’s) hang from a wire over the street with a large lamp suspended over the center of the street. We missed the lighting ceremony where Mayor Karl Dean threw the switch to turn on the lights.

With 5th Avenue blocked off to traffic, the yellow art crawl buses weren’t running anywhere that I could see. I only saw one as we were making our way to 5th, and never saw where to get on.

The new work on 5th Avenue includes little platforms where performers of all stripes can do their thing for pedestrian audiences. It’s really nice, and lots of fun. Blue Coast Burrito was giving out delicious samples of chips and pineapple salsa!

There was a giant two-story styrofoam head right in the middle of the street right in front of Blue Coast Burrito. The sculpture was made of giant styrofoam blocks, jagged at the bottom and refined at the top so you can see all the facial features. It looked like some character from Greek mythology. Triton, perhaps? I don’t know who the artist was.

The Arts Company

This was our first stop. Annie didn’t recognize the place, but in her defense it has been six months to a year since we last went. She didn’t seem all that impressed with the art. I’m not sure what she was expecting, though. I didn’t get much chance to really look at it since Annie asked almost immediately: “Can we go to another gallery?” I tried to get her to look at the large pieces in the Five From Memphis exhibit, but I don’t guess it was very interesting to a four-year-old.

However, we noticed lots of people going to the back. I thought they might be going upstairs, but nope, they were going to the garage in back of the gallery.

That’s where we discovered the Nashville Public Library puppeteers demonstrating their marionette puppets! Annie had a blast interacting with the puppets.

Remember the platforms I mentioned earlier? Apparently the plan was for the puppeteers to perform with their puppets there and in the street. Unfortunately the inclement weather drove them inside. I don’t guess lots of rain and wind are too good for marionettes.

Annie loved the puppets. She asked typical four-year-old questions, and claimed she can do the same things, too. So when Annie saw a backdrop artist working in chalk/pastel on a large board, creating a scene of the Cheshire Cat from “Alice in Wonderland,” she asked if she could help. Of course, she wrote her name in pink, her favorite color.

We made our way to several other galleries, including the Rymer Gallery and the Tinney Contemporary Gallery across from the Arcade.

The Rymer Gallery

At the Rymer Gallery, Annie was fascinated with Herb Williams’ crayon sculptures of a guitar and a bunny. I think it’s because these things are so accessible to her, and the idea of using crayons (“crowns,” as she pronounces it) to make something like that was such a neat idea. It probably didn’t hurt that it was pink.

In the loft part of the Rymer were some interesting dimensional sculpture-paintings by Will Penny. They hang flat on the wall, but have angled planes that protrude a few inches into the room. These planes appear to be spray-painted in two tones, with varying concentrations of color. It’s not unlike two-color printing where different ink percentages create new colors.

There were some nice abstract pieces by Carly Witmer that I liked. The canvases were unusually shaped, with transparent lines that dripped off the edges.

These two sets were so cool and very different from anything I’ve seen, but they seem relatively easy to recreate. It’s unique and novel, but it lacks that thing that could make it really hard for someone else to do. That’s really my only criticism. What’s the thing that could push it into something really new?

I think that’s where Herb Williams’ crayon sculptures really shine: the concept is simple: three-dimensional sculptures made of Crayolas. Anybody could do it, but no one could pull it off quite like he does, with the same attention to detail.

Tinney Contemporary

The first thing we saw as we came to Tinney was a floor-to-cieling installation of cut paper. Black and white crescent-shaped pieces of cut paper comprised a tornado that went from the ceiling to the floor, threatening some small houses. I explained that several tornadoes, big storms, had last night been in the area where her “Auntie” Kelly lives, and these storms can knock over and tear up houses.

Then of course, Annie spit all this information back out to some ladies who were looking at the art right after us. Silly girl, haven’t I told you to not talk to strangers!

The Arcade

As we entered the Arcade, we were blasted by a very loud band. Annie hated the noise. It made her really unhappy. I tolerated it.

But of course, we went to The Peanut Shop, which for Annie is THE HIGHLIGHT of the Art Crawl. She got some jelly beans, I got an ice cream cone, and we got some orange slices to take home to Mama.

The galleries in the upstairs of the Arcade had moved around a bit as they tend to do when old tenants leave and current ones take up their spots. Unfortunately there wasn’t anything really remarkable upstairs, and my friends at Blend Studio weren’t showing anything this time.

The Tennessee Art League / Chestnut Group

The biggest surprise of the evening for me was finding that the Tennessee Art League had moved to Fifth Avenue. It makes sense, given that it is now closer to the Art Crawl and the rest of the “Arts District,” but after months of thinking it had closed altogether I was glad to see they had simply moved. This was special to me since my grandfather was a member for years.

The space is somewhat claustrophobic with odd bottlenecks, but the location is an old downtown building which was never intended to be an art gallery. It’s in one of the spaces between The Arts Company and the Rymer Gallery.

There at the new TAL gallery, The Chestnut Group had a showing of lots of plein aire pieces of Nashville scenes, and reminded me of the Nashville365 series I did a while back, as well as some of the pieces my friend Pete Sullivan paints.

Summing Up

Annie and I had a great time. The weather was perfect. I keep hoping to see some really unique, breakthrough art show up in Nashville, but I’ve never seen anything that really pushes the idea of what art can be.

Annie is already talking about going again next month.

What I love about PodCamp Nashville

April 23rd, 2013

First off, in case you’re not familiar with PodCamp (or BarCamp, or WordCamp, or any of the other *camps), PodCamp Nashville is a free, loosely-structured “unconference.” That means it doesn’t have a super-rigid structure and it’s pretty laid back.

Now, Nashville *camps are more organized than most, but that’s because they’re so big. You reach a certain point where the combination of size and lack of structure quickly descends into chaos.

In the sprit of the original *camps, there are always dedicated “impromptu” areas at the conferences where you can have a discussion or do a presentation on something that isn’t part of the published schedule. Everyone gets a chance to have their say.

Where BarCamp Nashville is centered more on the technical aspects of software and hardware, PodCamp — so named for its original association with podcasting (internet-based radio shows) — focuses on creating content primarily on the web.

Creative Focus

What I love about PodCamp Nashville is that in recent years it has increasingly focused on creating. By that I mean the conference sessions focus on act of actually making something, not so much the end result.

This year it looks like the trend continues toward a shift toward the idea of platform-building, which isn’t all that surprising, given how creatives of all stripes — writers, musicians, and visual artists — have come to the realization that they need a home base for connecting with their tribe.

It’s less geeky than BarCamp, and aimed more at “creatives” than developers, so I imagine many attendees will be designers, photographers, and writers. But don’t let that hold you back if you’re not one of those “creative” types: it can be a great way to see how the “other side” operates. Fun will be had by all.

When and Where

PodCamp Nashville 2013 will be Saturday, May 4, at Hotel Preston. It is FREE, but you should register on the site so you can get a sweet t-shirt and other goodies. When you register, you’ll be asked to fill out a profile so you can choose your shirt size, order a lunch (which you have to buy in advance ), and select the sessions you want to attend.