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May/June 2006
Cool, Smooth Brush Strokes - The Blues Influence Artist Mick Williams
Artist Mick Williams Captures the Essence of Blues and Jazz on Canvas.

by Michelle Valigursky + photo by Nancy Fay

• • •

The hot notes of Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” strike a chord with New Market, Md., artist Mick Williams. “The raw energy in jazz and blues fascinates me,” Mick says of the subject he revisits often in his work. “In New Orleans, Paris, South Beach, or in the smoky clubs around Maryland, music resonates. I translate that soul into color, line and movement in each of my paintings.” Selected by the Washington County Arts Council as the official artwork of the 11th Annual Western Maryland Blues Fest, Mick’s multi-layered “Terrapin Blues” captures the essence of music in an iconic Maryland context. “I chose to depict the passion of Blues Fest against the backdrop of Washington County, with its historic architecture and rolling landscape,” explains the self-described abstract expressionist.

Mick is most inspired to paint in the morning, when natural light and quiet are plentiful, with Great Danes M and Chance his steadfast companions in the studio. He reserves afternoons and weekends for family time with his wife, Leslie, and children, Sammie and Hayden. Mick gives back to his community, coaching hockey and teaching kids’ painting and cartooning workshops in summertime. “It’s gratifying to inspire young artists,” he says.

Mick’s own creative growth emerged from the commercial art foundation he gained as a student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. “Graphics represent a challenge, but ultimately you work for a client,” he notes. “In pursuing fine art, the freedom is quite fulfilling.” Drawing upon two decades as a graphic designer, syndicated cartoonist and illustrator, Mick’s style is vibrant. His extensive study of Modern and Impressionist artists continues to lend inspiration. “We draw what we see but each of us interprets a subject differently. We stylize, streamline or exaggerate. The more we render, the more our individuality evolves.”

Technically, Mick experiments to develop new finishes. “Chinese bamboo, fine tipped red sable, Home Depot utility brushes — when I’m laying in color in a preliminary wash, I use what’s handy and test the effects.” He mainly uses watercolors on paper, and is exploring the chiaroscuro effects of acrylics and oils on canvas. Watercolors from Mick’s “Music and Architecture” series can be seen locally at Benjamin Art Gallery in Hagerstown, where co-owner Cliff Springer identifies Mick as a rising star. By exploring all facets of musical expression, “he is establishing a signature look to his pieces. He moves from Contemporary to Impressionism to Realism, but in every genre Mick’s style is distinctive.”
The recognition this distinctiveness engenders opens doors of opportunity. For example, the estate of legendary country singer Waylon Jennings commissioned Mick to create a series of original paintings that will be reproduced as limited edition prints and released to the public by year’s end. Charitable foundations like the Murphy-Harbst House for Fragile Children and Champions of Hope, a global youth service organization, also have commissioned Mick’s paintings. “When I was beginning to explore fine art, I created seven paintings for Champions of Hope, a group with outreach to more than 200 countries,” Mick recalls. “My art was presented at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. The dignitaries attending were so inspired by my work they’ve since initiated a children’s art project to hang in the Hebrew Museum in Jerusalem. It’s a true honor, and it’s somewhat humbling to have affected such an outcome.”

For more details about the Western Maryland Blues Fest and to purchase raffle tickets to win Mick’s “Terrapin Blues,” go to www.blues-fest.org.

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