(Artist Series, Volume 13)
Any painting of Michael Symonds is both unique and full of beautiful color. But the jazz paintings of Michael Symonds are extra special to me; the singularity and lush palette of colors that define each of his paintings combined with the portraits of talented musicians who helped shape the very foundation of jazz music.
Symonds’ ‘oil on canvas’ jazz portraits include Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Hank Mobley. And then there’s Miles Davis. I was first introduced to Symonds’ artwork via Jazz.com, which features the paintings of the talented artist in their Art Gallery. It was here where I discovered the wonderful paintings “Miles Ahead” (above) and “Miles Davis” (below), which I am very honored to be able to present with this interview.
I would urge anyone not already familiar with Symonds’ work to peruse his paintings at the Jazz.com Art Gallery, or visit the artist’s website. There’s a sensuousness to Symonds’ work, the result of a deft brushstroke and the roaring blend of oil pants on canvas; paintings such as “Monks Mood” and “Clifford Brown” nicely exemplifies Symonds’ immense talent – and love of jazz.
I caught up with Symonds recently, who was kind enough to chat about his work, artistic influences and Miles Davis.
Miles Davis Online: Why Miles? What sparked your interest to paint the jazz legend?
Michael Symonds: Miles Davis is one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, if not the greatest, and like countless fans, I regard him as a personal favorite. I think of Miles as the Picasso of Jazz – an artist who constantly reinvented himself and pioneered new styles during a very long and prolific career. There are few musicians who I admire more.
Miles Davis Online: You feature many of the jazz greats in your collection; would you say there is something inherently unique about jazz musicians that make them such compelling subjects to paint?
Michael Symonds: Absolutely. These artists lived incredibly interesting lives during a remarkable time in history. I am fascinated with the music and the lives of the musicians who defined the jazz scene during the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s.
For me, these portraits are my way of paying homage to the brilliant musicians who have had a profound influence on art and culture. I am very fortunate that my portraits resonate so positively with other jazz fans and that there is valid interest in collecting my work.
Miles Davis Online: Obviously music plays a vital role in your artwork. Can you talk about your musical influences and how they have impacted your work as a painter?
Michael Symonds: I have a wide range of musical interests, so that could be a very long list! My passion ultimately is the world of jazz. As an artist it is critical to connect to your subject matter and the emotional and intellectual aspects of jazz definitely inspire me. My ultimate goal is to create works of art that not only please me, but offer a personal connection for the viewer as well.
Miles Davis Online: Who are some of the past or contemporary painters who influence you?
Michael Symonds: There are so many great artists who I look up to, but I’m not sure that their influence shows up in my work directly. For contemporary artists, I admire the gutsy figurative painting of Lucian Freud and the sensitive realism of Antonio Lopez Garcia.
From very early on I’ve had a deep affection for the work of Max Beckmann and of course the old masters are a constant source of inspiration. Recently I was in New York and saw numerous masterpieces, but what I remember most vividly are the power and intensity of the Van Gogh’s.
Miles Davis Online: Are you working on anything special at the moment?
Michael Symonds: I am in a landscape phase right now.
Miles Davis Online: Can we expect to see another Miles Davis painting down the road?
Michael Symonds: Of course. However, at this time I am painting jazz portraits on a commission basis. I have made the process of commissioning a painting easy and straightforward. I encourage interested jazz fans and collectors to contact me for more information.
Miles Davis Online: Favorite Miles Davis album?
Michael Symonds: One? “Kind of Blue”. I’ll never tire of those six tracks.
* You can see more of Symonds’ original artwork at his official website.
Artwork is © Michael Symonds