Inspired by the painting Shearer created for Urban Scrawl in 2018, Riddle crafted a melancholic piano ballad that serves as a musical score for the work
Going into Urban Scrawl in 2018, painter Lucie Shearer had a clear plan of attack.
“I had a completely finished digital painting. I had all of my colors set up and ready to go,” said Shearer, noting that she was nowhere near as prepared for this year’s event, which takes place at 400 West Rich in Franklinton on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 24 and 25. “I also very purposely set myself up to paint in a certain method. It was almost color-by-numbers, where I went in and drew the whole thing and knew where the colors were going to go. It was a slow process.”
Shearer, who first painted at Scrawl in 2013, wasn’t even deterred by the usual miserable conditions, where hot, often rainy weather can turn the affair into an unexpected test of endurance. “You get worn out, but if you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t matter,” she said. “It’s worth it.”
One thing Shearer couldn’t account for, though, was how the work might be received after it was finished, and how it could take on new life when filtered through other artists.
When Johnny Riddle, musician and director of development at 934 Gallery in Milo-Grogan, first encountered Shearer’s completed painting, which depicts a mysterious figure floating against a moody blue backdrop, a beam of light stretching from the person’s torso into a night sky filled with stars, he was immediately struck by the image. In the days and weeks following Urban Scrawl, he’d often find himself returning to photographs of it, drawn in by the piece’s surreal nature, its ethereal palette and the way it appeared to be telling a larger story. The allure Riddle felt is particularly apt considering the name Shearer bestowed on the piece: “Connection.”
Gradually, as Riddle revisited the work, a loose melody started to take shape in his head. Eventually, he reached out to Shearer to get more details about the painting and its inspirations, utilizing these new insights to construct a dreamy piano instrumental that serves as a soundtrack, of sorts, for the work.
“After I saw it in its completed phase, I started thinking, ‘What happened before? Where is this person rising to?’” said Riddle, seated next to Shearer for a mid-August interview at 934 Gallery. “We continued speaking, and I would send her updates and be like, ‘Does this sound right? Does this sound true to what you were trying to convey?’”Get news and entertainment delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter
The musical piece opens in a more somber, minor key, conveying a sense of melancholy mirrored in the landscape blues of the painting. It then gradually shifts, major keys introducing an element of hope that Shearer described as essential to the painting, suggested by the brilliant beam of light that draws the figure upward. “The idea is that all of these stars are souls, and the souls have made connections,” Shearer said.
“When he sent me just the couple of notes in the beginning I was like — excuse me — ‘Holy shit!’” Shearer continued, laughing. “It was interesting, because it’s the kind of music I like, and there was something about the melody that felt like home, that felt like it was part of the piece, that felt like me. To have that auditory experience match how I felt when I made something was really, really mind-blowing.”
It also served to remind both Riddle and Shearer that the inspiration an artist puts into a work can carry on even after it’s completed, and sometimes in surprising ways. In recent weeks, the pair have even started brainstorming for a new art show that could further explore this relationship, incorporating multiple musicians and artists who would then create similar visual/auditory pairings.
“I feel like that’s such a subconscious part of it, because when I create, I’ve been inspired by another artist, whether it’s visual art or dance or performance, or whatever it is,” Shearer said. “That, I think, is the beauty of art. It’s this very internal communication where I’m taking something that I’ve absorbed and I'm putting it back out to the world in my own language. And I know what that means is that someone can then pick it up and carry it on with them.”