Thoughts On – Musical Inspiration

Over the last two-months I got to see two of my favourite singers – Mary Chapin Carpenter and Kiki Dee, along with her amazing musical partner and guitarist, Carmelo Luggeri.
Mary Chapin Carpenter ticket - 30 September 2014 (Q8)forblog      Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri ticket
It was great seeing these ladies (and a gentleman) ‘live’ as I have often produced illustration after illustration (often working until the early hours of the morning) whilst listening to them. Some music has gone-the-journey with me, as I have been a fan of Kiki Dee since I was a teenager (which was more years now than I care to reflect on). I remember buying the LP of ‘Perfect Timing’ in the early ‘80s, after saving what seemed like a considerable amount of pocket-money. It was well worth it and even now I still love this Kiki Dee album (although the LP has long since gone and been replaced with a CD).  I’m also a big fan of the new albums , which Kiki and Carmelo have worked on together – ‘Almost Naked’, ‘The Walk Of Faith’, ‘A Place Where I Can Go’

Music really inspires me, and if I am listening to Simon and Garfunkel, Nanci Griffith, Carrie Newcomer, Miriam Stockley, Eva Cassidy and the two ladies above (the list could go on), I know that I will be inspired. Sometimes it’s just a certain song that gets right to your heart. I tend to have favourite songs by nearly all of my favourite singers, but ‘This Shirt’ is one of my favourites by Mary Chapin Carpenter. I love the way that the story unwinds about this much-loved and well-worn piece of clothing. Mary Chapin Carpenter has got a fantastic voice to tell the story.

A newcomer to my musical collection (pardon the pun) is Carrie Newcomer. I am smitten with her songs too. Can anybody listen to ‘Betty’s Diner’ without getting tears in their eyes? It’s great hearing the lyrics about people, from all walks of life, all congregating in the same place and being looked after by a caring and wise waitress, called Melinda.  I will have to do a post on favourite songs on another occasion…

Just want to say a big thank you (out there) to the musical artists that have inspired me over the years… Kiki, Crystal, Belinda, Wanda, Nanci, Trisha, Mary, Emmylou, Eva, Carrie…I salute you!

Songs that I would recommend (to anyone!):

Kiki Dee: ‘How Glad I Am’ (put your dancing shoes on beforehand), ‘Loving and Free’, ‘Song For Adam’, ‘One And Only Love’‘Into Eternity’, ‘There’s A Need’ and all of her hits: ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’, ‘Star’…  I would run out of (cyber)space if I listed them all!
Emmylou Harris: ‘Boulder to Birmingham’, ‘If I Could Only Win Your Love’‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’. Great songs!
Mary Chapin Carpenter: This Shirt’, ‘Down In Mary’s Land’, ‘Quittin’ Time’ (I am listening to that right now!)
Carrie Newcomer: Before And After’, ‘Betty’s Diner’, ‘There Is A Tree’
Eva Cassidy: ‘Fields Of Gold’, ‘I Know You By Heart’, ‘True Colours’…  Wonderful singer!
Miriam Stockley: ‘Arcadia’ and so many more… This lady has a fantastic voice.
Nanci Griffith: ‘Once In A Very Blue Moon’ and ‘Late Night Grande Hotel’ and many more
Belinda Carlisle: ‘Summer Rain‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’
Simon and Garfunkel: ‘Homeward Bound’, ‘Scarborough Fair’, ‘April Come She Will’
Tracy Grammer: ‘April Come She Will’, ‘Gypsy Rose’ and so many others…
Wanda Jackson: ‘I May Never Get To Heaven’, ‘Silver Threads And Golden Needles’ and many more…
Trisha Yearwood: ‘On A Bus To St. Cloud’ (one of my favourites!)
The Carpenters: ‘Top Of The World’…(you should hear me sing it!)

Doris Day       A childhood favourite actress/singer of mine (and worthy of her own post)

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Scarlet Battalions – Nature Illustration

The corn or field poppy (papaver rhoeas) has always been one of my favourite flowers. Despite my favourite colour being purple, the poppy’s vivid scarlet colour is pleasing to my eye. A sight that always gladdens my heart is a field of corn poppies in full bloom. A number of years ago, a ‘field of scarlet’ appeared in my home village in County Durham. My Mum, Dad and the family dog, whilst going for a ramble, couldn’t resist but venture into the outskirts of the field. There’s something about nature that appeals to our inner souls and my camera!
Scarlet Battalions for blogDuring the Millennium celebrations, when I was staying in a lovely part of Los Angeles, I began working on the coloured-pencil illustration – using photographs I had taken on the day of the family walk. It was pretty intense work colouring all of those stems and leaves and not forgetting my ‘signature tune’ ladybird (pardon the pun, but can you spot it?). After what seemed a lifetime of drawing petals and stalks I finished the illustration, which was presented to my friend and former colleague, Helene, as a wedding gift.

This particular illustration has been on my mind this month with the centenary of the First World War and the associated imagery of poppies that is often evoked with the mention of Flanders Field. The title ‘Scarlet Battalions’ is also linked to the soldiers who fought so bravely for their countries and freedom. The inspiration for the illustration came from the Simon and Garfunkel song ‘Scarborough Fair/Canticle’.

The portion of the song that inspired me:

Tell her to find me an acre of land
(On the side of a hill a sprinkling of leaves)
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
(Washes the grave with silvery tears)

Between the salt water and the sea strand
(A soldier cleans and polishes a gun)
Then she’ll be a true love of mine
(Sleeps unaware of the clarion call)

Tell her to reap it with a sickle of leather
(War bellows blazing in scarlet battalions)
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
(Generals order their soldiers to kill)
And gather it all in a bunch of heather
(And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten)
Then she’ll be a true love of mine

Are you going to Scarborough fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine

Michael Quinlyn-Nixon Scarlet Battalions photoforblog
Michael, with the camera, taking shots for the ‘Scarlet Battalions’ illustration