Friday, April 27, 2012

CLOSE UP: John McCauley (Deer Tick)

John McCauley, 2011. By Travis Simpkins


Deer Tick- Spend the Night


For more info, visit: http://deertickmusic.com/


Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Handsome Family: Profiles from the Illustrations

The Handsome Family, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     Multiple influences, both geographical and personal, have worked to shape the unique sound of husband and wife team, Brett and Rennie Sparks' music.  He is from Texas, she is from New York. Their band, The Handsome Family, was founded in Chicago in 1993 but got new-found inspiration upon moving to New Mexico in 2001. Some would categorize them as "alt-country" but their style defies labels.

The Handsome Family- "Bottomless Hole"


Brett Sparks, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     Everything is balanced. They are a humorous pair, the name The Handsome Family is derived from a sarcastic joke made at Brett's expense. On the other emotional extreme, Brett's breakdown in the mid-90s has added a sense of melancholy to some of the songs.

The Handsome Family- "So Much Wine"


Rennie Sparks, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     Beautiful writing keeps their songs lively. Rennie's haunting lyrics and Brett's moody rhythms are perfect compliments to one another. They tour all over, and with eleven albums out, they continue to build up an already strong following.


The Handsome Family- "Flapping Your Broken Wings"


The Handsome Family- "Giant of Illinois" (about Robert Wadlow, the World's Tallest Man)


Brett Sparks, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

For more info, visit: http://www.handsomefamily.com/


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

CLOSE UP: Rick Jenkins (The Comedy Studio)

Rick Jenkins, 2011. By Travis Simpkins


The Comedy Studio- Cambridge, MA


For more info, visit: http://www.thecomedystudio.com/



Monday, April 23, 2012

New Portrait Illustration: Tim Mason (Poet)

Tim Mason, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     I've known Tim Mason for about twenty years or so. We met when he and his family moved in a few houses down from mine in Worcester, MA around 1990. At the time he was managing the Old Vienna Kaffeehaus and it was through him and his ex-wife, Jan, that I was inspired to learn more about Folk music and poetry. He is a gifted and prolific poet, and he still promotes and organizes Folk acts around New England at venues like Club Passim in Cambridge, and Hezekiah Stone's Coffeehouse in central MA.

Timothy Mason- "Peace"



Tim Mason, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

Timothy Mason at GAWF





Timothy Mason circa 1991


Tim Mason, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

For more info, visit: http://www.timothydmason.com/

Friday, April 20, 2012

CLOSE UP: Chris Fleming

Chris Fleming, 2011. By Travis Simpkins


"Gayle: Episode 1"



Chris Fleming- Stand-up comedy


For more info, visit: Chris Fleming



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Brad Roberts: Profiles from the Illustrations

Brad Roberts, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     It all started in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada when a rich baritone voice was featured in the night club band, Bad Brad Roberts and the St. James Rhythm Pigs. Brad Roberts eventually changed the name to Crash Test Dummies and set forth with well received shows. Brad got more into songwriting, even attending a workshop with Lyle Lovett, after which he wrote his first defining song, called "Superman's Song." It caught the attention of record labels and Crash Test Dummies recorded and released The Ghosts that Haunt Me in 1991. 

Crash Test Dummies- Superman's Song


Brad Roberts, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     With the success of their first album, the band hit mainstream success with it's sophomore release, God Shuffled His Feet in 1993. Full of offbeat, artistic songs and Roberts' unmistakable voice, the album was a major hit, scoring with an astoundingly simple, but memorable song, "Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm." All the other tracks showed the work of a fine songwriter truly hitting his stride.

Crash Test Dummies- Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm


Crash Test Dummies- God Shuffled His Feet


     Their next album, A Worm's Life explored a harder edged sound, and further experimentation on subsequent albums failed to repeat the commercial success of the first two, but who cares? The respect for Brad Roberts as an artist and songwriter continues to grow. An amazingly creative writer, he knows the value of the unknown... and always puts it into words sharply, and beautifully; directly indirect.


Crash Test Dummies- My Own Sunrise

Crash Test Dummies- Swimming In Your Ocean

Crash Test Dummies- The Ghosts That Haunt Me


Interview with Brad Roberts

Brad Roberts, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dan Burke: Art and Music (Songs that Inspired the Illustrations)

Dan Burke, 2011. By Travis Simpkins

The Orange Ocean

Let's Go Together

"Someone Who Loves You" w/ ballet dancers

It's Wicked Cold Outside w/ Niki Luparelli

Those Were the Days


Dan Burke, 2011. By Travis Simpkins

Monday, April 16, 2012

New Portrait Illustration: Tommy Ramone (Ramones, Uncle Monk)

Tommy Ramone, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     When I met Tommy Ramone in 2007, he had long since left behind Punk music in favor of a Bluegrass sound. His band, called Uncle Monk, had just released their self-titled debut album consisting of old-timey tunes written by Tommy and his musical partner, Claudia Tienan. He was a nice, cool guy, just doing what made him happy. It was a brave move considering the fact that a lot of people who went to their shows just saw the name "Ramone", which comes with a natural presumption for Punk Rock. Despite just having an acoustic guitar and mandolin, Tommy still possesses a lot of the Punk attitude that made the Ramones famous back in the seventies. With Tommy being the last surviving member of the original Ramones line-up, he usually finds time to pay tribute to his former bandmates with acoustic renditions of their classic songs.

Tommy Ramone- "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend/Blitzkrieg Bop"


Ramones- "Britzkrieg Bop" circa 1976


The Ramones- 1970s w/ Tommy Ramone center right


Uncle Monk- "Round the Bend"


Uncle Monk- "I Fought the Law"


Tommy Ramone and others- "I Wanna Be Sedated"




For more info, visit: http://www.unclemonk.com/home.html


Friday, April 13, 2012

CLOSE UP: David Massengill

David Massengill, 2011. By Travis Simpkins


David Massengill- My Name Joe


David Massengill and Travis Simpkins

For more info, visit: http://www.davidmassengill.com/


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ron Hansen: Profiles from the Illustrations

Ron Hansen, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     Ron Hansen was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1947. He attended Creighton University and Stanford University, and currently is an Arts and Humanities Professor at Santa Clara University. He has published nine novels, a collection of short stories and a book of essays.
     Talented in multiple fields of writing, he has mastered fiction (Atticus, Isn't It Romantic) and religious themed works (Mariette in Ecstasy, Exiles), but his true love in writing seems to be in the field in which he remains unrivaled... historical fiction. Particularly interested in the Old West, Hansen's first two novels featured outlaw stories with historical characters and imagined dialogue, which added a human aspect that truly brought the fatal events to life. The first, Desperadoes (1979) told the tale of the Dalton Gang. 


     His second, and most acclaimed novel, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford  (1983) told the tale of the who's, whys and hows of the outlaw's murder. It has since been turned into a feature film starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck.



The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford- movie trailer

     Hitler's Niece (1999) speaks of the love affair the dictator had with his own niece, and her mysterious death. 


     His most recent novel, A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion (2011) details the true crime, trial and execution of Ruth Snyder and her lover, Judd Gray in 1920s New York, in which the couple murdered Snyder's husband for insurance money.



Ron, talking about his new novel, A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion


Ron Hansen Reading at Cornell University





Wednesday, April 11, 2012

CLOSE UP: Bigg Nez

Bigg Nez, 2012. By Travis Simpkins


Bigg Nez performing stand-up at The Comedy Studio


For more info, visit: http://therealbiggnez.webs.com/


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Currently Accepting Portrait Commissions...

 If you are interested in commissioning me to do a portrait, send me a message with a general idea of what you'd like to have done (with a reference photo attached*) at email: travisliam@aol.com


    I will be able to estimate a price based on the info and photo provided
(simple, single subjects are very affordable, starting as low as $50, prices increase relative to quantity and complexity).

* it is integral that the photos be clear, with decent lighting (no bright flash)


Hank Williams III, 2012. By Travis Simpkins


Quiet Desperation #8, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

John McCauley, 2011. By Travis Simpkins

Tom Rush, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

Golden Bloom, 2011. By Travis Simpkins

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Portrait Illustration: Elizabeth Ziman (Elizabeth & the Catapult)

Elizabeth Ziman, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     I met Elizabeth Ziman about five or six years ago. As the front woman and creative force of Elizabeth & the Catapult, she is impressive to say the least. With a beautiful, soaring voice and huge ambition that belie her small stature, her songs convey a full plethora of emotions that give an honest look into who she truly is. Elizabeth & the Catapult is easily one of the best live acts I've ever seen. Her musicianship is amazing and her songwriting is impeccable. Quite simply, she is a fun, cute, cool gal with loads of talent.

Elizabeth & the Catapult- "Race You"


Elizabeth Ziman, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

Elizabeth & the Catapult- "Mama's Boy"


Elizabeth Ziman, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

Elizabeth & the Catapult- "Taller Children"


Interview with Elizabeth & the Catapult


Elizabeth Ziman, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

Friday, April 6, 2012

CLOSE UP: Ira Proctor

Ira Proctor, 2011. By Travis Simpkins


Ira Proctor- Stand-up Comedy Reel


For more info, visit: http://iraproctor.com/home.cfm


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Richie Havens: Profiles from the Illustrations

Richie Havens, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     On Tuesday, March 20, 2012, it was announced that Richie Havens was retiring from performing at age 71 due to health concerns. This sad news marks the end of a forty-five year non-stop tour around the world for Richie, one that brought his music and kindness to millions.

Richie Havens- Just Like a Woman (Bob Dylan)


     It all started in New York City coffee houses in the 1960s, with Havens developing a distinct, powerful style delivered with soaring vocals and furious guitar strumming in open tune. By the late 1960s, Havens had a hit album, Mixed Bag, and as a career defining highlight, whether by fate or chance he was the opening act at Woodstock in 1969... performing for hours because all the roads were blocked and the other performers had yet to arrive. His impromptu rendition of Motherless Child, "Freedom", has become a classic anthem. 

Richie Havens- Woodstock, 1969


Richie Havens, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     His interpretations of Bob Dylan and Beatles songs are legendary and his own composition ring with a sensitive truth...

Richie Havens- The Key


Richie Havens, 2012. By Travis Simpkins
Richie Havens- High Flying Bird


     Richie's absence in the performance circuit will be felt, he will be missed. But his catalogue of work and the happiness felt by those (such as myself) who were lucky enough to meet him is as great a legacy as anyone could wish for.

Thank you for everything, Richie.


Richie Havens, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion: Art and Music (Songs that Inspired the Illustrations)

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, 2011. By Travis Simpkins

Holdin' Back

Kindness

Speed of Light



Johnny Irion, 2011. By Travis Simpkins


Target on Your Heart

This Land is Your Land (Woody Guthrie cover)

Sarah and her Dad, Arlo Guthrie


Sarah Lee Guthrie, 2011. By Travis Simpkins

For more info, visit: http://www.sarahleeandjohnny.com/


Monday, April 2, 2012

New Portrait Illustration: The Handsome Family (Brett and Rennie Sparks)

The Handsome Family, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     Brett Sparks and his wife Rennie have been performing together for almost twenty years as The Handsome Family. Each's individual efforts are perfect compliments to one another and essential to their unique sound as a whole (she writes the lyrics, he writes the music). Brett's baritone voice and expert guitar playing and Rennie's haunting words make them a favorite among fellow musicians. Each album they make is a work of art, and with eleven albums to their credit, The Handsome Family continues to grow artistically as well as keeping up what has sustained them thus far: They are a cool couple that write cool songs.

The Handsome Family- "So Much Wine"


Brett Sparks, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

The Handsome Family- "Bottomless Hole"


Rennie Sparks, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

The Handsome Family- "Amelia Earhart"


Brett Sparks, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

For more info, visit: http://www.handsomefamily.com/


Friday, March 30, 2012

New Portrait Illustration: Ron Hansen (Author/Novelist)

Ron Hansen, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     My introduction to Ron Hansen came in 2006, when I went to his lecture on "Writing as Vocation" at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. At that point, my knowledge of Ron's writing was limited to his novel, The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, his historic-fiction masterpiece about the old west outlaw, that was then being made as a feature film starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck.
     Ron's lecture and the way he articulated himself inspired me to seek out his other works, many of which are now amongst my favorite books. His prose rings as beautifully true and smooth as poetry... Atticus, Desperadoes, Hitler's Niece, A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion... to name a few.
     Subsequently, Ron and I developed a cordial, friendly correspondence in which he provided me with insight, thoughts and tips, not just on writing, but on all art in general. He is a very talented artist, and a gracious, helpful and kind man. I'm glad to know him.

     And I'm glad this portrait met with his approval.


The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford- movie trailer


Ron Hansen talking about his novel, A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion


Ron Hansen Reading at Cornell University


Read more about Ron Hansen here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Hansen_(novelist)


Ron's classic: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (1983)



Ron's latest: A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion (2011)







Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tom Rush: Profiles from the Illustrations

Tom Rush, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     Starting his musical career in Cambridge, MA in the early 1960s while attending Harvard, Tom Rush had already become an established performer before graduating. While other Folk musicians found a niche and stuck with it, Tom didn't subscribe to any one particular set, instead combining traditional songs, blues and country into a unique style that perfectly complimented his gentle voice.

Tom Rush- Panama Limited


     After releasing a few great albums, he hit a career highlight in 1968 with The Circle Game, which combined his own original compositions with covers of then-fledgling songwriters, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and James Taylor.

Tom Rush- No Regrets

Tom Rush- These Days


Tom Rush, 2012. By Travis Simpkins

     Recently celebrating 50 years as a professional musician, Tom Rush still performs to both large and small crowds alike. His keen ear, humorous wit and smart song selection make his shows as current and relevant as ever.

Tom Rush- Child's Song

Tom Rush- Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian

Tom Rush- The Remember Song

For more info, visit: http://tomrush.com/

Tom Rush, 2012. By Travis Simpkins