Painting Miles Davis: Interview with David N. Goldberg


(Artist Series, Volume 2)

The colors. The colors in David N. Goldberg’s artwork grab my attention immediately; warm, confident and beautiful – like Lauren Bacall wrapped in a harmony of paint.

I instantly sparked to Goldberg’s work. The Miles Davis (oil on canvas) painting, of course, was what brought me to his exquisite collection of portraits and paintings. The Miles Davis, from 1980, is simply terrific. It has a marvelous texture and warmth, like so much of his work, that jumps off the painting.

Goldberg excels in form and color, producing a lovely collection of modern art. The Miles Davis painting was reason enough for me to drop Goldberg a line to chat about the jazz legend and just what went into such a great painting.

Miles Davis Online: Let’s talk about your oil on canvas portrait of Miles Davis. Why Miles Davis as a subject to paint?

David N. Goldberg: I have been an avid jazz listener since I was 15 yrs old. I painted this painting of Miles in 1981 at the age of 31 to honor him and to try to capture his essence. He was one of the great innovators of jazz bringing it from the Bebop era through many compositional innovations. He chose great collaborators to work with at different phases during his career.

Miles Davis Online: How was the painting created?

David N. Goldberg: I started with a charcoal sketch. It took a while to find the right photo I wanted. I went to the library and poured over books.  The photo I decided on had Miles playing with a mute and his hair was straightened, I gave his hair a more circa mid-1960’s look.  I left the mute out because it did not work in the design of the painting.

I listened only to Miles the entire time I did the painting.

Miles Davis Online: You’ve also tackled Charles Mingus, Coltrane and Eric Dolphy in your artwork. Is there something abut jazz musicians (or jazz music) that you’re drawn to? Do they make for good subjects to paint, or be creative with?

David N. Goldberg: Yes, the music of jazz is improvisational and so is my art, as jazz became more abstract, it spoke to me of space, and its multiple poly-rhythms suggest geometry. Sometimes it dissolves into chaos and  dissonance. There is much inspiration for visual expressive equivalence in jazz for me.

Miles Davis Online: What will we be expecting to see in your future work?

David N. Goldberg: My work has been mainly non representational for many years, but recognizable symbols and figures are starting to reemerge. I am envisioning an expression that unites elements in a new and different way.

Miles Davis Online: Would you ever revisit Miles Davis as a subject to paint?

David N. Goldberg: Yes, absolutely as a matter of fact I have a plan for a new piece that is in development.

Miles Davis Online: Favorite Miles Davis album?

David N. Goldberg: That is hard to say any one, so here is the short list; Birth of the Cool, Kind of Blue, Miles Smiles, In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew are up there, not necessarily in that order.

Artwork is © David N. Goldberg

Archival prints available at


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