Blues in Color
A stage-builder whips up masterpieces in minutes at the Blues Festival.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Surrounded by a conglomeration of musicians, sound equipment, VIPs and catered barbecue, Carey Crockett’s eyes are glued to a small television monitor. He stands in front of an old easel, holding a tube of acrylic paint in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. Even with the constant activity of musicians getting ready to perform and equipment shifting all around him, he stays 100 percent focused.
During the three-day 2008 Monterey Bay Blues Festival, Crockett hunched under the main stage at the Monterey Fairgrounds sketching some of the most important blues musicians in the world mid-performance. He painted a total of 11 over the weekend, including Charlie Musselwhite, B.B. King, Bettye LaVette, Taj Mahal and Joe Bonamassa.
Crockett has been affiliated with the Blues Festival for 12 years as the stage set-builder, but this was the first year he painted live performances from beneath the stage.
The Carmel Valley artist says he was immersed in the soul of the music as he sketched.
“I could hear [the bands] thumping out the beats on the stage above me,” he says.
There were, however, inescapable challenges, including a one-hour time limit per painting and cameras with limited focus. Crockett sometimes only had a couple of minutes to sketch a face.
“I’d be in the middle of painting a face and the shot would cut to a hand,” Crockett says in a mellow tone.
After each painting was finished, still wet in many cases, Crockett took it to his Blues Gallery booth to be sold.
But for Crockett, sales were not the highlight of the experience. It was the opportunity to capture and experience the feeling of each performance, then share his work with the performer.
In fact, most of the performers left the stage– dripping with sweat– only to bump into Crockett’s sketches.
“One of the coolest things was listening to the manager of the Blind Boys of Alabama describe the painting to them,” Crockett says.
Each sketch tells a different story that captures the essence of each musician. Crockett recalls sketching guitar-virtuoso Joe Bonamassa. His hands were the stars of the painting.
“The camera kept cutting away from [Bonamassa’s] face to film his hands, so I just focused on his hands,” Crockett says. “When I was done, there were five hands in the sketch.”
Crockett’s art is on display at Mount Shasta Gallery and the Parsonage in Carmel Valley.
In the near future, Crockett hopes to have a one-day gallery featuring his Blues Festival paintings.