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Pat Harvey - Madisonville's Organic, Free-Range Artist

MADISONVILLE, KY (10/1/13) – The word that comes to mind when I think of Madisonville artist Pat Harvey is “organic.” The guy, and everything he creates, just seems to come about naturally, even when there’s struggle involved. I don’t really know how else to explain it. And I don’t mean “organic” in the sense of environment-friendly or naturally-grown either, though I guess Pat and his creations could fit into those categories, too. What I really mean is that Pat, his interactions with friends and family, his artwork, and his approach to music seems purely genuine and intrinsic to who he is. He’s real, and he’s arrived where he is today by remaining true to himself through the good times and the bad.

But Pat hasn’t merely survived life untainted; the grasp he has on his internal passions and the affinity he holds for creativity has allowed him to flourish as a person. From nearly 20 years of playing music and his longtime love of bluegrass, to his relatively recent entrance into the art world and the ensuing festival hops he’s been a part of as a vendor, Pat’s reactions to the world around him have resulted in an ongoing stream of positivity and colorful artwork that stand in stark contrast to an oftentimes drab, pessimistic world around us.

Yet, that’s not what he would say. In his own humble words, he says, “For me, it’s kind of like yoga; I feel better when I’m creating and when I’m not I don’t feel balanced. It’s just something that I have to do. It can be painting or playing guitar—I’ve just got to do something or I’m not as happy as I could be. I’ve got to do it whether someone looks at it or not.”

And his modest words ring true when you spend time with Pat, when you visit his home, when you talk about art and music, when you share a few drinks and laughs, and you have a minute to really see what he’s up to “behind the scenes.” 

What you can expect when you pay Pat a few visits…
When you first walk into his open, forest-lined backyard, you may notice a brightly-colored, yet partially rusted and wheel-less, caged-in Volkswagen Beetle that seems to be hovering about three feet off the ground in the far corner of his property. Pat—who dons a respectable beard and long hair, as well as the occasional faded pair of overalls over a Ramones t-shirt—explains that the VW is the lynchpin of his latest masterpiece: a coup for his chickens Darnell, Cabbage, Tiny, and Alize’. The seat-less vehicle is their nightly roost. Next, Pat may take you on a tour of his studio and garage while he points out automotive projects in-progress, jars of fermented hill-gold, old music equipment, and unique pieces of art that have never really seen the light of day. He says they’re part of his “personal stash.” Then, you might meet Pat’s family—his wife Amy and his daughters Lillian and Mandolyn—all of whom seem to be just as “organic” in their own rights. And once they’ve welcomed you inside their inviting home, you’ll notice several stringed instruments propped up in the corner of their living room, as well as several instrument cases and pieces of textile material adorned with Pat’s vibrant designs and his pseudo pop-art takes on iconic musician portraits. At this point, you may start to feel comfortable and relaxed, and while you have to go, they ask you to stay. It’s hard to leave and that’s when you know you’ll be back someday. 
One of the best parts of these experiences, though, is that Pat‘s candid. He’s straightforward and down-to-earth. He’ll tell you like it is from his point-of-view. There will be no high-brows here, but that’s also the beauty of it all. 

Who is Pat Harvey and what is his artwork all about? He’ll tell you right now. But don’t be shocked when it gets real. 

Tell me a little bit about yourself. Were you born here in Madisonville? 
No. I was born in Evansville [Indiana]. 

I didn’t know that. 
Yeah, I lived in Evansville until ’98, which was when [Amy and I] moved to Diamond [Kentucky]. My grandfather owned some property out there and we just wanted to get out of the city, so we moved. After we moved, we had our kids [Lillian and Mandolyn]. I started my business when we were down there, too. We decided to move to Madisonville because most of the work I was doing was here. 

How old were you when you moved from Evansville? 
Golly, man. [laughs] Let’s see - I was born in ’74 and I’m 38 now, and that would have been 14 years ago, so you do the math. [laughs] I guess it was around my mid to late-20s. I was old enough to drink. I know that because I moved to a dry county and I was like, “What the heck?” [laughs]  

What county is Diamond in? 
Webster County. 
You said you started a business there. What business are you talking about? 
My lawn care business [Harvey Lawncare]. I didn’t start that when I first moved down there, though. I worked at a couple different places before that. I ended up working for a guy who had a lawn care business and I thought, “Man, I can do this,” so that’s what I did. 

What was your childhood like? Were your parents pretty cool people?
Yeah. My dad was a cop actually. 

I would not have guessed that. [laughs]
Yeah, you’ve met my dad before, haven’t you? 

Yeah, he was here the other night. 
Well, he’s not a cop anymore, but he sure as hell used to be. 

What’s your dad’s name? 
Tom. Actually, his name is Realous. That’s his real name. That’s my middle name. It’s a family name. 

What does that name mean? 
It means I’m the realest, man. [everyone laughs]

We’re going to have to fit that into the title somehow. “Pat Harvey – The Realous Man You Ever Met.’ [everyone laughs] So, what was your mom like? 
She was cool, you know? Man, I wasn’t even prepared for questions about my childhood, though. Really, it was just normal stuff. My parents stayed together. They weren’t divorced or anything. I had a lot of teenage angst, so I probably would have wished they were divorced to be cooler or something. That’s something I probably would have thought back then. [laughs] But yeah, I had a pretty normal upbringing over in Evansville.

So, how did you and Amy meet? 
I met her at Chuck E. Cheese’s. [laughs] Seriously. I was Chuck E. Cheese. That was my job. I was the character and Amy was doing prep work. That was a really fun job. 

Really? I was thinking that would be a terrible job. 
No, not at all. It was freakin’ awesome. Chuck E. Cheese’s dressing room is right next to the beer tap, so... [laughs] The manager was really cool, too. Plus, you’d put the outfit on and it was like you were unstoppable. I mean, what is anyone going to do to you? You’re Chuck E. Cheese. [laughs] You could flirt with all the cute girls and smack the guys in the head. The guys might get a little angry, but what are they going to do? You can just laugh and say, “I’m Chuck E. Cheese.” [laughs]

So, basically, you had boundless freedom as Chuck E. Cheese? 
Definitely. Amy and I go back to Chuck E. Cheese’s sometimes and it’s really romantic. We’ve even got our own little table and everything. [laughs] Some of the same people work there, too. 
At what point did you really get into music? 
I always liked music, but I guess I was in my 20s when I really got into playing music. A friend of mine gave me a harmonica when I was about 19 and I messed around with that for a while. Then, the same guy gave me a guitar. I’ve been struggling with it ever since. His name was Jeremy Cates. He’s passed away since then. As a matter of fact, the paints I used for the bullfrog piece I have in my living room – the “horny toad” – have crushed flowers from his funeral mixed in them. That’s the first painting I ever hid a bird in. 

Yeah, the birds are like your signature now. I still can’t find all the birds you hid in the John Lennon case. You said there were five, but I can only find three. 
You’ll just have to keep looking, man. No one except Amy and our kids knew about the “bird thing” for a long time. I didn’t tell anybody about them. They were almost always in my paintings, though. Then I started telling people who had bought my paintings about the birds, because they own them. Now, I’m not so secretive about it. I think it’s pretty neat. They’re in every single one of my paintings, but you have to find them. 

Is there a purpose or story behind the birds? They look like a little like crows. 
The reason I put them in there is based around Jeremy – the guy I mentioned earlier who gave me the guitar. He was a painter too, and he always hid scarecrows in his paintings. I always thought that was really cool. 

So, with music, was there something specific that made you want to get into playing?
I just have this thing inside of me that makes me want to play. I’m sure you have it too; you play, so there’s a desire there and you’ve got to do something about it. I’ve never been really good at playing music, but I really enjoy doing it. I have a lot of fun playing. I actually played with a reggae band in Evansville back in the day. They were pretty good. I was the rhythm guitar player. The guy that was the leader of the band was a Jamaican drummer and a professor at the University of Evansville, which was right down the road from where I lived at the time. I’ve always been into bluegrass music, and reggae is actually very similar as far as the off-rhythm guitar parts go. One of the guys in the band found out I was into bluegrass music and asked me to jam with them sometime. At the time, I couldn’t stand reggae music; it made me seasick listening to those bass lines. But once I started playing with those guys more often, I really developed a strong sense of appreciation for reggae. The guy that led the band was on top of it, too. He had all these code words for changes in the songs and he was a drummer. He was like Phil Collins. It was funny in a way, though, because he was the only black guy in the band. The rest of us were white kids, but we sounded like—and were—a real, legitimate reggae band. We got to play a lot of different shows, too.

What was the name of the band? 
Riddem Culture. 

How long did you play with them? 
A year or two, I think. Then Paul, the leader of the band, ending up moving. He went to a different college to teach. We all separated after that. It was a lot of fun, though. That was one of my first real experiences as far as playing with people and having to learn all these different parts. 
You’ve been a fan of bluegrass for a long time. What’s the story behind that attraction? 
I remember being into bluegrass when I so young that people would ask me where my parents or grandparents were at when I’d go to bluegrass music festivals. [laughs] It’s funny, because none of them were ever into bluegrass music, but I was. I had an old Volkswagen van when we lived in Evansville and we’d drive down to Kentucky to Beaver Dam or Rough River where they have the Governor’s Cup Fiddle Championship, or we’d go to these folk competitions in Petersburg [Indiana]. The folk competitions are really cool, because it’s not just fiddles—it’s banjos, guitars, upright bass, harmonicas, and pretty much any acoustic instrument. I was really into, man. It hit me when I was young, listening to all those cats like Bill Monroe, that I really dug it. I always listened to stuff like Jimi Hendrix, and I thought that bluegrass music was just for old people, but I realized that the old players just didn’t have amplifiers and all that stuff. If you listen to that old Bill Monroe stuff or anything that the Osborne Brothers did—or any of those cats from the very beginning—they get after it. It’s just a different deal. It was a totally different era at that point. But once I understood that, I gained a lot of respect and appreciation for what they were doing. Once I realized that, I was hooked. I’ve loved it since a very young age. They used to do a jam thing in Evansville that was based around bluegrass music, and we would go—but, of course, we would be the youngest people there every time. They loved seeing young people like us there, though. We stuck out like sore thumbs. Things have changed a lot since then, too. 

Yeah, it really has. Now, Americana, folk, bluegrass, and roots-style music has become one of the strongest genres for the younger generation here in the US. 
Definitely. It’s totally changed since we first got into it back then. 

Would you say that’s still your favorite genre of music? 
I will always love bluegrass. I think I’d just say that acoustic music is my thing. If you go to a bluegrass festival and you watch some people standing around their tailgate with a banjo, a fiddle, a mandolin, an upright bass, a dobro, and whatever else, and they don’t have amplifiers whatsoever and are straight getting it, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find something better than that. That’s just badass. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the best. I love it. I love it because it is what it is; you can take it anywhere and you don’t have to have a bunch of stuff like microphones, PA systems, digital effects, or auto-tune. You just go for it. It’s very organic. 

It’s interesting to think about how old a lot of the instruments used in bluegrass really are. Some of them have existed in some form for centuries. 
Bluegrass music just has a drive to it that I’ve always been attracted to. When I was a kid, I was really into punk rock and metal music—or anything that was loud, heavy, and energetic for that matter—but, honestly, I think bluegrass is a really similar thing. It was just a different generation that started playing it. Once you can get your head around that, it changes everything. You start hearing these guys like the Osborne Brothers, who had a drummer and an electric lap steel player, and you realize that they’re really tearing it up. It’s just badass. Anything Jimmy Martin did is badass, too. He’s one of my favorites. 

Another cool aspect is the comradery. A lot of the times that I’ve seen a bluegrass type of show or concert, all these different people from different bands will jam together onstage just for fun. The whole scene seems pretty tight. 
That was one of the coolest things about Romp Fest [in Owensboro] this year. There were a lot of great guys there playing. David Grisman was there and he’s one of my favorites. When I think of mandolin players, I hear David Grisman’s sound. The way he plays mandolin is amazing. Part of the reason Mandolyn’s name is Mandolyn is because I think the mandolin is one of the most beautiful sounding instruments in the world. In the right hands, man, you just can’t beat a good mandolin player. David Grisman is definitely in the top three best players in the world. One of my latest paintings was of David Grisman and I got to personally hand it to him at Romp, which was really cool. 
When did you first get into artwork and painting? 
I got into painting about three years ago, but I’ve always kind of had a leaning towards art on some level. I never painted, though. What got me into painting was my decision to start working with these guitar cases. I thought I would make a fortune from painting on them, which I would parlay into a hotel chain or some crap. [laughs] At the time I came up with the idea for painting guitar cases, I was just doing spray paint and stencil work. The “Jolly Randy” logo I have—the skull and crossed banjos—was a spray paint stencil actually. I made a lot of little things like that. Then, one day, I was messing around, and I thought, “Man, I bet I would have a lot more control if I tried using a brush.” So, I did, and it changed everything. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t tried it sooner after I started. It really did change everything. 

Was there anything in particular that pushed you to take a step into that new, relatively unknown territory? Was there a muse, so to speak? 
Well, I got all these cases from [late Backstreet Music store owner and talented local musician] Randy Herrick. I was just starting in on these guitar cases right before Randy passed away [in 2011] actually, and I had been doing a lot things with [Plowin’ Todd Cowan and] the Sodbusters at the time, which Randy was a part of. I was having a lot of fun. Then, my mom passed away and Randy died right after that. It was about 19 days after my mom passed. So, I didn’t have that outlet anymore. We all stopped playing. I had to do something. All this crap was coming down at once, it was winter time, and I was stuck in the house. So, I sat down in the basement for three months and just painted. My friend Jeremy, who I mentioned earlier, passed away unexpectedly right around that time, too. He passed away in January. He was only 36. October is when Randy passed away. They were two of the closest friends I ever had, so losing them, as well as my mom, all at the same time, was really hard. Plus, like I said, I didn’t have an outlet to play music anymore, so I had to do something. I just painted. 

Yeah, every time I saw the Sodbusters, you guys seemed really close. 
Yeah, we were definitely tight. We did a lot of stuff together and played a lot together. We went a lot further playing together than I could have ever imagined, too. It was always great. We were like brothers. 

And it was you, Randy…
It was me, Randy, Pat [Ballard], and Todd [Cowan]. Brian Hawkins came in a little later, too, but he was definitely right there with us. He played harmonica and washboard. All those guys are really great. 

So, during that time, did it just feel like all this creativity you had brewing inside was about to explode? 
Pretty much. I was working on these cases and everything, and it just went from there. Some of the first cases I wound up painting were for two kids who lived across the street from Randy. Their mom had bought the cases from Randy at Backstreet Music before he passed, and I knew where they were. They were in the shop. She said she still wanted to have them done, so I got them and painted them for her. 

Were those the very first cases you painted? 
No, the “Jolly Randy” was the first case I ever painted and the second one was of Johnny Cash. Then, I did the Bob Dylan case. It was at that point that I realized I might be onto something really cool. So, I got some canvases, and I painted all the people I really wanted to put on a case – Bob Marley, Cash, Zappa, Dylan, and all the people I really love. That’s really how all of it started. Now, though, I paint simply because I love it. I love to paint. I enjoy the crap out of it. There’s no negativity or sadness to it at all. It gets us into festivals, too, so I’m riding this thing as far as I can. The painting has taken me so much further than music as far as getting out there and meeting people. 

It’s funny, because the case that really got me noticed was an old mandolin case that Todd Cowan gave me. I painted Bill Monroe on it – of course – and I took it to the SPBGMA [Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music Association] festival down in Tennessee, walked around with it all day, and nobody wanted to buy it. Then, at the very end of the day, Danny Clark, who was the marketing director for the International Bluegrass Music Museum [in Owensboro, KY] ended up buying it. He said, “I’ll buy this piece from you, but you have to promise that you’ll come to Romp and sell these.” So, I was like, “Of course I will.” Then, when I was at Romp with my new cases, I got to meet this guy named Ed Ward, who founded the Milwaukee Irish Fest. It’s the largest Irish cultural gathering in North America actually. There were 146,000 people there last year. Well, Ed invited us to come up there and he gave me my own tent right up by the bluegrass stage. It was freakin’ awesome. We had a blast. It was the first year they had bluegrass music at the festival actually. They drove us in and out every day and put us in a nice hotel. It really was amazing. 

Did you end up selling a lot of art there? 
Yeah, I did really well actually. I made some decent money and met a lot of really cool people in the process. 

In my humble opinion, your paintings are really phenomenal, man. I really dig the bright colors you use for figures and instruments. When I see one of your pieces, I know it’s yours immediately. As far as I understand, though, you’ve never actually had any formal education or professional training when it comes to art. Is that correct?
Yep. I’ve never really had any education or training. My uncle is a high school art teacher – he actually taught me when I was in high school – and my sister is a poet. I think it just kind of runs in the family, man. But no, I’ve never had any training to speak of. That doesn’t really surprise me all that much either. I mean, sometimes I step back and say, “Wow, I can’t believe that just came out of me,” but it comes naturally I guess. 

You told me before that you’ve come a long way with brushes and techniques through trial and error. Could you talk about that a little bit?  
I never knew much about brushes, and I still don’t. I still look at basic painting books and think, “Wow, that is awesome. I can’t believe I didn’t know that already.” [laughs

So, what’s your process when approach a new painting?
It always starts so minute. That’s what’s cool about it to me; I’m focusing on these little pieces of what will eventually be the whole. It starts coming together and then I kind of have to focus back in on the little things. It’s always about the tiny parts until the very end. Then I can step back and look at it as one thing. All the little pieces make this huge thing at the end and I love it. It does take me a long time to do it, though. It’s just the way I do it. It probably takes way longer than it would for most. But, you know, I just do my thing, and when I get it right, it’s right. I think a lot of my problem is that I just don’t know proper techniques. I think we’ve talked about this, too, but I tried to paint strings on an instrument with a little tiny detail brush that you couldn’t paint much more than a quarter-of-an-inch at a time with one time. If I had just used the right kind of brush, I could’ve painted one straight line for each string and it would have taken me ten seconds. It took me about four hours, though, and it never looked right, so I just got rid of the strings. [laughs] That one ended up being called “No Strings Attached.” [laughs] I tried at least. 

What’s the most frustrating part of finishing a painting? Are there points where you’re throwing stuff at the walls?
Yeah, there are times like that. Painting is very relaxing, but it can also be super frustrating at times. The worst thing is when there’s a deadline or you’re trying to get something done for someone quickly – like that stupid [John] Lennon case, man. [laughs] That was the hardest thing that I’ve ever painted by far. Seriously. 
Really? Well, it looks great, man. I’m honored to own it. I’m not trying to be a suck-up or anything, but it really is amazing. 
Oh, I hated that case. It drove me crazy. I painted on that one for a month straight. I know I put at least 60 hours of work in on that one—at least. I worked on it every single day when I came home and it changed so many times. Really, if there hadn’t been somewhat of a deadline on it, I would probably still be painting on it, and it wouldn’t be what it is now. But, at the same time, if I never had deadlines, I’d probably never get anything done, and I look at that case now and I think, “Ok, that looks pretty cool.” But while I was doing it, I always felt like it was missing something and couldn’t figure out what it was. I would try something different, but I felt like I couldn’t ever find it. I really struggled with that one. In truth, I always struggle when I’m making something for someone else. When I do it for myself, it’s easier. A lot of the times, I’ll have pieces sitting around that I’m not sure I’ve finished yet, and I’ll hang them up and look at them for a while. I won’t be sure what I want to do with it yet. I might decide to change or add something after I’ve looked at it for a while. If I decide it’s a go as it is, I’ll put a bird in it if it doesn’t already have one, I’ll sign it, and I’ll put clear coat on it. Once the clear coat goes on, there’s nothing else I can do. It’s done at that point. 

It’s funny how that works. If you’re creating something for someone else’s enjoyment or pleasure, it’s so much more stressful. The final product is usually fulfilling, but the process leading up to it can be really hard. When we interview a person or group, and we know them personally or we really respect what they’re doing, there’s a lot more pressure there. You want the person or group you’re writing about to think it’s amazing. It’s a lot different than sitting at home and writing a story for yourself. 
You’re exactly right. I worried and I stressed, because I really wanted that Lennon case to be the best thing I’d ever done. Really, though, I always want everything I do to be “the best thing that I’ve ever done,” you know? If I’m doing stuff that I don’t think is the best, I might as well quit. I want everything to be better. I mean, you can see how my work has evolved over time. I consider the stuff I do now to be pretty simple, but, back when I started, the paintings I made were extremely simple. Everything is a learning process; I’ve learned something from every piece I’ve done. I paint in layers, which is cool, and it works well, but it can get muddy if you’re not careful. It starts getting funky. But it’s all good, because you can just put some white paint over the mistakes and start again. That’s another reason I love painting. If I make a mistake, I can fix it. I really don’t think you can mess a painting up so bad that you can’t fix it. You can just paint the whole thing white and start over completely if you do. 

You said the John Lennon case actually has a few paintings under what you see on the surface, too, right? 
Oh, it’s got several underneath. [laughs

I think that’s pretty cool. 
At some point in the future, if you ever have access to one of those machines that allows you to look through layers of a painting, you’ll see all kinds of stuff under there. [laughs] You know where it says, “All You Need is Love”? Well, before that, it said, “If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace,” and it looked awesome. I thought it was perfect, but, when it was all done, the background color just wasn’t right. When the background is off, you pretty much have to start all over again, so I changed it. I wanted to make something John Lennon would think was pretty cool, you know? I wanted something he would appreciate if he was still alive. I’ve been a huge fan of his forever. 

Are well-known musicians and instruments natural subject matter to you? 
Yeah. That’s pretty much all I paint, because music was really my first creative output. It’s what I’ve done for so many years now. I’m almost 40 now and I started playing when I was 20, so it’s been half of my life. Then, recently, I picked up the paintbrush, and that just underlines the music. It’s just where my mind is at. I mean, almost everything I do has to do with music in some way. I can only think of a couple of pieces that aren’t directly related to music. That’s what I like; that’s where I’m at creatively. Plus, it works out really well in relation to the whole music festival scene. That’s a perfect fit for us, because we get to hang out and sell my stuff to people that appreciate it. I mean, most of the people who buy my art have a beer in their hand and a tattoo on their arm somewhere. They’re not like some high-brow cats in a fancy art gallery. So, I do really well at music festivals. I feel like those people get me. If you’re there to see a music festival, you’re going to get what I’m doing, you know? It works out well. My kids love it and so does Amy, so it’s perfect. 
You do a lot of work on something that resembles raw, un-stretched canvas, too. What led you to start using that kind of material for paintings?
Well, I was given a lot of it several years ago. It’s the brown fabric they use to make the Carhartt clothing out of. It’s perfect, too. You can get different effects with it. Some of my paintings are on a raw piece, but I’ve washed pieces before painting them and it frays the edges a little bit. 

That’s really cool, because Carhartt’s a big part of our local community, but people all over the world wear their clothes. 
Yeah, when we were in Wisconsin, people asked me what it was. I asked them if they knew what Carhartt was and they were all like, “Oh yeah, Carhartt is awesome! Carhartt’s the best!” [laughs] I was like, “Well, that’s what this is. You could wear this painting on your foot for three months and not get a hole in it. It’s badass. It’ll protect you from wolverines and everything else.” [laughs] I love painting on it. It’s really heavy, too. You look at this stretched canvas right here—it’s a joke. You could poke your finger right through it, but that Carhartt fabric is the real deal. 

Before I started painting on that fabric, I was painting on stretched canvas. That stuff is way too expensive, though. I started looking around and I realized that there is crap everywhere to paint on. So, I was painting on old pieces of wood, old metal, and anything else I could recycle in some way. In fact, I really don’t paint on stretched canvas anymore at all. I bought most of the canvas I have a while ago. It just seems ridiculous to me to pay 15 or 20 dollars per canvas. It was once I had started painting on wood and stuff like that that I got the Carhartt fabric. When I tried it, I loved it. I’ve had other artists ask me how I can paint on it, because it’s not stretched, and I guess most artists use an easel when they’re painting. I just lay out on the ground, though. I made a huge banner for these folks one time, and it was like eight by three foot, but I just laid it out on the ground. 

Are your paintings oil or acrylic? 
It’s all acrylic. Everything I do is acrylic. I want to mess with oil paints, but I just haven’t done it yet. I’ve only been painting for three years, so I’m really trying to focus in on the acrylics so I can learn how to use them better. 

With the cases and fabric, do you have to prep or prime them before painting? 
Yeah, I use Gesso. It’s basically just a type of primer. It’s awesome, though, because you can put Gesso on pretty much anything and acrylic paint will stick to it. If I didn’t use that on the cases, none of the paint would stick. I’ve tried it before. I use white Gesso, because when you try to paint on something dark it’s really hard to get the colors right. The white makes the colors pop much better. They make clear Gesso, too. At the end of the day, it just gives the paint something to bite into. I really don’t know what I’m doing, though. [laughs

Ultimately, do you have a goal you’d like to reach through painting? Or is it just something you’re having fun with?
I don’t’ really have a goal. I just want to go wherever I can with it. Like I said, I’ve been really surprised by how far I’ve gotten with it so far. It’s taken me a lot farther than I ever got through playing music. It’s fun and I enjoy it, but it would probably be a hassle if it was how I had to make my living. Although, at the same time, I would love to make a living doing it, because it would beat the crap out of what I’m doing now. [laughs] I just like it and I really enjoy it, man. I don’t care if anybody else likes it; I dig it. I would still do it whether anyone liked it or not. That’s not why I ultimately do it. I’ve got all kind of things I’ve made that are just lying around the house.
The name of your art page on Facebook is Bad Apple Paintwerks. Where did that name come from? 
Amy’s always throwing out names and, if it were up to her, she’d call it something like “Apple Blossom Something or Another.” [laughs] Well, I wanted to take that and make it something a little edgier, and that’s where Bad Apple came from. Basically, I was just wanted to find a way to put all my stuff in one spot where people could look at it online. The Facebook page didn’t cost anything, so that was great. It’s worked out pretty well so far, but you’ve got to put a link to my stuff in here. [laughs] I’m sitting just over 100 likes right now and that’s got to change. [laughs] Seriously! It hasn’t always been Bad Apple Paintwerks, though. Before that, it was Buffalo Pick, which was kind of an inside joke.

You definitely deserve more “likes” than that. We’ll put a link in here and try to get more people on your page for sure. 
Man, in all honesty, you’re the only person in all of Madisonville who’s bought one of my pieces. It’s hard to sell art here. It just feels like there’s something holding people back in Madisonville, but I’m not completely sure what it is. 

Well, that actually relates back to something I wanted to ask you about. Why should people appreciate the talent of local artists and musicians? 
That’s somewhat of a personal question. If you don’t appreciate art, then that’s your deal. You can’t make someone appreciate something like art against their will. And, really, art has no face value by itself; it’s not worth anything on its own. Art’s value comes from the personal connection someone might have to it. For me, it’s pretty easy to say why art is important. If you’re sitting around feeling bad because you’re stuck in one place—which can also apply to the creative part of your brain—art can serve as a vehicle to move forward in a sense. For me, it’s kind of like yoga; I feel better when I’m creating and when I’m not I don’t feel balanced. It’s just something that I have to do. It can be painting or playing guitar—I’ve just got to do something or I’m not as happy as I could be. I’ve got to do it whether someone looks at it or not. But I can’t tell somebody else why it’s important. 

Well, in closing, do you want to give any shout-outs? 
I want to thank Flavor Flav and Chuck D. [laughs] I also want to thank the Hopkins County Art League, because they’re trying to do their thing. I think it’s a good deal. Anybody in town that’s into any kind of art should probably check them out. In doing so, they might meet some great, new people. I met a ton of people through the Art League that have helped me out in other areas as well. There aren’t a whole lot of young people that are members, but I think that could change. If more young people were involved, I think it could bring something new to the table at the very least.  

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To check out Pat Harvey’s artwork, visit his official page, Bad Apple Paintwerks, by clicking here.

To learn more about the Hopkins County Art League (HCAL), click here

Sugg Street Post
Writing/Interview by Luke Short
Photos by Jessi Smith

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  • Published in Music

Fair-Weather Kings – Weathering Bowling Green’s Rolling Musical Seas

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (8/22/13)—Hearing it from the proverbial “horse’s mouth” makes it official: “energetic” ranks highest among the descriptors fans use to define the sound and feel of Bowling Green, KY’s beloved five-piece band, the Fair-Weather Kings. And it’s a fact that is duly justifiable. Comparison-wise, many say the quintet’s unique style is akin to the vibrant, nationally-acclaimed indie sounds of The Strokes and The Arctic Monkeys.

Yet, once you start trying to dial in their insightful works any further—to do their sound justice through words, so to speak—the process of classification becomes much deeper and, perhaps, more metaphysical. That being said, here’s my personal take: the Fair-Weather Kings strike hard on the head of modernity’s pop-rock stake, while remaining punctual, compositionally edgy, fun, and experimental in a not-too-abstract way. Their lyrical originality, atmospheric grooves, and consistently frantic, multi-layered live performances—which come courtesy of vocalist/guitarist Wesley Stone, guitarist Zach Barton, bassist Jason Williams, keyboard/synth player Craig Brown, and drummer Marcus Long— mix together well, producing a seemingly perfect storm amidst an electric and inspirational musical climate.

While the Fair-Weather Kings have yet to gain a large-scale, national following, they have received a wealth of veneration from all corners of our region and beyond. In fact, the respect the Fair-Weather Kings have deservedly garnered from their peers since forming just under two years ago is evidenced by the fact that they have remained afloat, relevant, and well-loved in the virtual sea of talent found in Bowling Green.

So how do the Fair-Weather Kings maintain their prowess in such a saturated musical market? What’s their origin story and creative process? And what is their ultimate goal with music? To find out the answers to these questions and much more, I recently got the chance to speak with FWK frontman and guitarist, Wesley Stone, who informed me that weathering west Kentucky’s blooming and inspirational entertainment scene isn’t always an easy task to master.

Who are the members of the Fair-Weather Kings, where is each member from, what are your ages, and what instrument(s) do each of you play?

I’m Wesley Stone and I’m on lead vocals and guitar. Zach Barton plays guitar, Jason Williams is our bassist, Craig Brown plays keys/synth, and Marcus Long is our drummer. Zach, Marcus and I grew up in Hopkins County, KY. Craig and Jason grew up in Bowling Green. We all currently live in Bowling Green. We are all in our late 20’s, with the exception of Marcus, who is in his early 30’s.

How and when did the band first form?

We first formed in October of 2011 with Zach and I just sort of jamming around on occasion and presenting songs to each other. After a bit, we tracked down a drummer and bass player to sort of feel out the whole band thing. After a couple months, we had worked out a few songs, but our drummer and bass player at the time weren’t really a good fit with the type of music we were writing, so that’s when Marcus joined, along with another friend of ours, Will Kronenberger, who played bass. Shortly after they joined, we picked up Rory Willis to play keys, who was Will’s roommate at the time and the owner and operator of Greyskull Recordings. We all wrote and worked on the songs that would end up on our debut, self-titled EP and played our first show in January of 2012.

Where did the name of the band originate and how does it fit with the music or “feel” of the band?

The name sort of became a formality at a certain point. We knew we had to call ourselves something, so we just started throwing out a bunch of ideas over the course of a week or so. Ultimately, “The Fair-Weather Kings” came about when we combined two of our favorite names that we had come up with. I can’t really remember what those were, though. Fair-Weather….something and something…Kings. There isn’t really any intended significance as far as the name representing our music or style. I’m sure I could dig up some philosophical meaning to it, but, really, it was just the first name that we all agreed upon that remotely sounded cool.

What influences do you all draw inspiration from both musically and in life?

We have a wide variety of musical influences—too many to even begin listing them—but we all draw from some variety of rock or pop music, and we all have our own favorite singer-songwriters. We also get inspiration from the many great bands we hang out with and play with around Bowling Green. Mainly, our songs are inspired by love, life, and the universe, and revolve around observations within each.

How has the band changed over time?

The biggest change that has occurred for us has been losing and gaining members. Will and Rory got busy with their jobs and other projects, and that is when Jason and Craig stepped in. They both came in with completely different styles than Will and Rory, which ultimately changed our sound. But it was for the better. Each previously written song has since evolved into something that is, in many ways, completely different from what you hear in our recordings, which were all done with Will and Rory. Again, this evolution has been for the better. The songs have gotten tighter and even experimental at times, which make them fun and different every time we play them live. You will very rarely hear the exact same version of a song from show to show.

How do you all define the sound of the Fair-Weather Kings?

That’s always a hard question to answer, and I usually just refer to what others have compared it to or said. The most common word used to describe our music is “energetic,” and we have been compared to The Strokes and The Artic Monkeys.

Like you just said, a good deal of the Fair-Weather Kings’ music is highly energetic and, at times, feverishly frantic, which comes across well during your live shows. By the same token, you all seem to be very tightly-knit as a multi-piece band. That being said, how do you approach the creative process? Do songs come together spontaneously or is it more of an intensive, day-by-day process?

The majority of our songs were songs that I had already written or were nearly complete ideas that I then presented to the entire band. From there, everyone just sort of filled in the gaps with each of us giving the others input and experimenting with various ways to approach them. However, we have also written several songs that blossomed out of a jam session during practice.

While the band’s sound is ultimately rooted in rock, you all also incorporate a variety of electronic, synthesized sounds in your music through guitar effects and keys/synthesized sounds. Do you think it’s important to remain open to different sonic avenues in the modern age for the sake of creativity?

We keep ourselves open to various sounds and even various styles for the sake of creativity. I think if we confined ourselves to a specific sound, or tried to write songs that adhere to a specific style or sound, it would hinder us creatively. We are constantly picking up things from other bands and each other, which steers each new song or idea in a slightly different direction.

You guys hail from one of the region’s most vibrant music scenes—Bowling Green, KY. How much of an effect has that environment had on the band’s approach and creative evolution?

It has its positives and negatives. On one hand, all the bands are learning, supporting, and challenging each other to become better. On the other hand, it’s a constant struggle to keep from getting lost in the mix of all these great bands and musicians in the area. Either way, we are proud to call Bowling Green home and love being associated with its rising music scene.

You all played at the inaugural Mad Flavor Arts & Music Festival in Madisonville this past June. Why did you all decide to play the festival and what was your overall take on the event?

It sounded like a fun time. Again, Zach, Marcus, and I grew up in the area and still have friends and family there, so it seemed like a great opportunity to not only play our music to some different faces, but to also visit with some familiar ones. We had a great time and got some great feedback on our set.

If I’m not mistaken, your self-titled EP and single, “Satellite Galaxies”, were both recorded at Greyskull Recordings in Bowling Green. Tell me a little bit about what it’s like recording there.

During those recording sessions, Rory Willis was still our keyboard player. We recorded all the tracks on the EP in a “live” fashion where everyone was being recorded at the same time, minus the vocals, so, really, it was just like a more structured and professional practice—except we played every song a dozen times. We did “tracking” for Satellite Galaxies, meaning we each recorded our parts individually. That process is slightly boring, but produces a much higher quality end product. It also allows for changes, and gave Rory the ability to piece together the best parts of each take.

Are you guys working on any new music at the moment?

Yes. We have two new songs that we have been playing live for a while that haven’t been recorded, and we are currently working through some ideas for at least three more. We are taking our time with the new material—screening it so to speak. The first album was composed of literally every song that was presented. This time around, we are being a bit pickier and are presenting lots of ideas that will be narrowed down to a few songs at a time.

From your perspective, why is it important for area citizens to get out and support local musicians and artists?

Because most of those local musicians and artists want to be national musicians and artists, and the road to that outcome is paved by every single person’s support.

Over the years, what’s been one of the band’s favorite shows and/or biggest accomplishments?

One of our best shows was a house-show at a place dubbed The Manor. It is right next to Greyskull—which is where we rehearsed at the time—in the basement of this old Civil War hospital that is now a private residence. There were a ton of people all giving us as much energy as we were giving them. Those are the best types of crowds. I’ll take a crowd of 20 people that are all getting into the music over 2,000 motionless bodies any day, and that’s when we put on the best show, too. It’s a give and take relationship when it comes to our performances, and we were getting and giving quite a bit at The Manor that night.

What is the end goal for the Fair-Weather Kings?

Ultimately, we want to reach as many people as possible with our music. So, short answer: major label support.

Where and how can people check you out and purchase your music?

We have a ReverbNation profile, as well as a Bandcamp profile. We don’t really charge for digital downloads, and both places have all of our recorded material for free. We have physical copies of our debut EP, which we have re-released with “Satellite Galaxies” for sale on our Bandcamp page. We have stickers and t-shirts for sale there as well. Of course, you can pick up any of those things at our shows, too.

In closing, feel free to give any shout-outs you want.

All of our fellow BG Sceners…
Canago, Buffalo Rodeo, Morning Teleportation, Schools, Chris Rutledge, Sleeper/Agent, Cage the Elephant, Opossum Holler, The Reneaus, The Beech Benders, Plastic Visions, The Black Shades, Lost River Cavemen, Fat Box, The Hungry Ears, Technology vs Horse, and others…

Also…
D93 WDNS, Revolution 91.7 WWHR, Spencer’s Coffee House, and Greyskull Recordings.


____________________________________________________________________

Want to hear the Fair-Weather Kings right now? Check out the ReverbNation player attached below this article. Want to support the band by downloading some Fair-Weather Kings tracks or purchasing some merchandise? Visit the official FWK BandCamp page by clicking here.

For more information on the Fair-Weather Kings, such as upcoming shows and updated news, visit their official Facebook page by clicking here.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photos by Jessi Smith

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  • Published in Art

Kristian Rowland – Confronting Existence

"credit" Jessi SmithHOPKINS COUNTY, KY (8/21/13) – Famous abstract expressionist Philip Guston once said, “Painting is an illusion, a piece of magic, so what you see is not what you see.” While one may capture a moment or emotion in a photograph, a painter is left to convey their feelings on an entirely different plane. A painter creates a work of art out of nothing more than emotional intention and a self-determined method of displaying it. One of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th Century, Pablo Picasso, described painting as a blind man’s profession, “He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.” The same may be said of local artist and Hopkins County resident, Kristian Rowland. Rowland’s work seems to outwardly express his inner struggles with life and his need to find his purpose within that existence.

"credit" Jessi Smith
The Sugg Street Post had an opportunity to sit down with Kristian Rowland and really delve into who he is, as well as the reasons he creates such brilliantly-colored and oftentimes abstract pieces of artwork.

What inspires Rowland’s creativity? It all boils down to his passion for humanity and the intensity of his expressive endeavors to uncover the secrets of human existence.

“Emotion, real life situations, and struggle inspire me,” explains Rowland. “Struggle is a big inspiration for me. Anger inspires me. The human form inspires me. I think the human body is, literally, perfect, and I think faces are fascinating. I feel like people put on masks every day. We have to adapt to what we are doing during the day and it’s hard to be yourself. I find myself constantly trying to cope with real life and trying to understand the limitations we have. Why does everything seem to be working against us? Why do we live in such a messed up place that is so beautiful at the same time? It’s a double-edged sword.”

"credit" Jessi Smith
Kristian Rowland was born in Madisonville, KY and has lived in Hopkins County his entire life.

“I had a really cool childhood. It was pretty adventurous,” says Rowland. “When I was young, I used to play out in the woods all day. I was always building forts, drawing, and painting. It was a lot of fun. I played sports growing up, but I was always ‘in my head’ instead of ‘in the real world.’ I was always reading comic books and stuff.”

Reading comic books is what actually influenced Rowland to start drawing at an early age.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“I taught myself to draw by tracing comic books. My favorite comic book growing up was probably Spider-man. Then, when I got older, I was more into Batman. Eventually, I got into stuff like Spawn and Daredevil. It got darker as I got older,” laughs Rowland.

In time, Rowland started to develop a passion for drawing the human form.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“I just really admire the human form,” says Rowland. “The human body is like a machine. It does whatever it wants to do.  It cleans itself and heals itself. It can regenerate new skin cells. It’s really wild when you really think scientifically about all the things the human body can do.”

Although he had been participating heavily in them, Rowland started to realize that school sports weren’t really his passion near the end of elementary school. He began putting more time and effort into his drawings, and by the time he’d reached his sophomore year at Hopkins County Central High School, he decided it was time to take art more seriously.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“I felt like this is what I was supposed to be doing,” says Rowland. “I just knew that was what I needed to do with my life. I had some really cool art teachers at Central. Mrs. Evans and Mr. Crabtree really helped me out. I took every art class I could.”

Rowland was always experimenting with new ideas during the creation process. He was never satisfied working within the strict confines of someone else’s ideas.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“You know how sometimes you can bust the head of a pen open and it drips everywhere? I would do that on purpose,” laughs Rowland. “I really like the drippy, Ralph Steadman look [most commonly associated with the works of iconic author and journalist, Hunter S. Thompson].”

Eventually, Rowland started branching out into new and different mediums, all the while experimenting with varying processes to achieve a final product he could be proud of.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“I started using charcoal, spray paint, acrylic, and oil,” says Rowland. “I like to use more than two mediums when I paint. I feel like I get more out of it. I feel like it’s more expressive. I use a little bit of everything.”

A new endeavor Rowland is toying with is the creation of his own clothing line.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“I would like to start my own clothing line, but it seems too business-like for me. I’m trying to beat the system and it’s beating me,” laughs Rowland. “I’d really like to mess with some graphics and put them on t-shirts and stuff.”

And while Rowland says he respects pop art by artists such as Andy Warhol, he ultimately feels like pop art is hit and miss when it comes to his personal tastes.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“I love street artists like Shepard Fairey,” shares Rowland. “I think street art is probably what the future of art will be, honestly. I really respect street art. I actually want to do street art. I really love Banksy. Banksy is the man right now.”

One of Rowland’s favorite things to paint is faces. However, he enjoys put ting his own spin on them.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“I find myself painting a lot of faces,” says Rowland. “I like taking an idea for a face and just distorting it. I also love painting the human form. The human body invokes so much emotion in people. Let’s say you painted a picture of a nude prostitute, made it really huge, and people saw that in a gallery. They are either going to be pissed off and think it’s nasty, or they are going to love it. You’re going to get something out of it, and that’s the point of art. Artists are trying to conjure up a wealth of human emotions.”

"credit" Jessi Smith
Rowland says that he utilizes a range of colors in his works to both voluntarily and involuntarily symbolize differing emotions as well.

“For me, blues are more mellowed out, while reds are more angry,” explains Rowland. “Sometimes I pre-plan it and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it’s just random and I won’t even understand it. A lot of people believe that creating art is like a communication between your conscious and your unconscious mind. To me, it makes sense. Sometimes when I’m painting, I’ll get this really weird feeling in my gut. It basically tells me to do something and then it turns out awesome. Then, my rational mind will be like, ‘Why did you do that?’”

"credit" Jessi Smith
Even though creative spurts will arise intermittently, inspiring him to create when emotions are high, Rowland says he much prefers planning a painting out before starting on it.

“I actually like to plan it out a little bit,” says Rowland. “I really like to sketch out an idea first. I’m at that point now where I feel like my technical skill isn’t really where I want it to be. So, I’m thinking about going to art school. I got accepted into an art school in Chicago, but I’m still trying to figure out if that’s what I want to do or not. I’d like to graduate school first and get that out of the way. I’d like to make a living off of my art. One day, I’d like to open my own gallery and help people out by teaching workshops. I’d like to help people learn to express themselves. I’d like to give them a place - an outlet - to express themselves. I don’t ever want to get comfortable with my art. I want to keep getting better and never stop experimenting with new things and ideas. It may be my ego talking, but I really want to leave my mark on the world. I want to inspire people to do what they love. I would love to have a group of artists transform this whole community. That’s what I’d like to do.”

"credit" Jessi Smith
In addition to the possibility of honing his craft on a grander scale through continued education, Rowland says he also draws inspiration from sharing ideas with and enjoying the works of other like-minded artists.

“Other people’s work really inspires me. It makes me feel good knowing that there are other people who might understand what I’m going through. I don’t know why creative people are so crazy but they are,” laughs Rowland. “I like reading biographies about the lives of famous artists. That really inspires me.”

"credit" Jessi Smith
So, who are Rowland’s favorite artists?

“I think that Vincent Van Gogh is the greatest artist of all time,” says Rowland. “Starry Starry Night is a landscape, abstract, and expressionism all in one. Seeing that painting in person was amazing. I actually touched it, too. I got yelled at, but I was like, ‘Forget it. I’m here. This is mine now. I touched it.’ Van Gogh is my number one. I’m also a big fan of Jean-Michel Basquiat. He was big in the ‘80s. I really like Pablo Picasso’s African period as well. Egon Schiele was a really big figure artist in the 1800's and I like his work. I also really like Marc Chagall. I like all artists, really. But my big three are Van Gogh, Basquiat, and Egon Schiele.”

"credit" Jessi Smith
Why, specifically, is art so important to Rowland, though? Ultimately, he says that he utilizes art as a form of therapy.

“It gives me an outlet,” shares Rowland. “It lets me step outside the box and make sense of all this. Art is my therapy, man. All art is therapy. Why else would you want to make something? You have to have the emotional drive to make it, or some kind of need to make it. That’s therapy. You are helping yourself out. On the surface, it helps me cope. It helps me deal with the daily struggle. It helps me make sense of all this. It helps me deal with the stress at work, stress with other people, and the stress of my environment.”

"credit" Jessi Smith
 “I want people to know that it’s ok to be weird and creative. It’s not a bad thing,” adds Rowland. “People are blessed with this ability to create. Whatever you believe in—creationism, the big bang, or that we’re all just randomly here—we’re all creative creatures and we need that. It helps us all out. It helps me understand myself better. It’s a visual journal to look back at paintings you did in the past. It allows you to see where you were at during that point in time.”

And Rowland believes that everyone is truly a creative person from birth.

“I feel like artists take their ability for granted. We’re blessed,” says Rowland. “I think all people are creative, they just don’t know it. That’s why all little kids like to draw. They stop drawing when they get older. They just stop doing it. They have to grow up, get a job, and work on 'Maggie’s Farm.'”

"credit" Jessi Smith
In Rowland’s opinion, art allows the community to look at itself with a different perspective.

“I feel like art and creativity helps the human race grow,” says Rowland. “Without creativity, Steve Jobs never would have made any of this. There would be no architecture. There would be no colors, no blue shirts, none of this stuff at all—whatever all this is—without this creativity. I think it expands our environment and it expands us. It helps us to understand things in a different perspective, really. It allows us to see things in new ways and it helps us expand whether we want to or not. It can even expand our minds subconsciously. I think the universe is constantly expanding and I think it might be infinite. One day, the day I leave this body, I will find out, whether I accept it or not. That’s the cool thing about death, I suppose. Death is the ultimate answer. And that’s another reason why I’m thankful for my ability to paint. Whenever I’m dead and gone, that painting [motioning towards a nearby painting] will still be somewhere. I’ve never seen anybody throw a painting away. If I ever see a really good drawing in the trash or anything—I don’t know why I’m digging through trash; I'm just speaking hypothetically—I’m taking it.”

"credit" Kristian Rowland
Another interesting thing about Rowland’s work is that many of his pieces don’t necessarily get titled.

“I don’t know what to call a lot of them,” says Rowland. “I like what Jackson Pollack said about titles. He feels like titles take away from the work, because then the person looking at it expects something. If I paint a face weeping and I call it ‘Sorrow,’ then people will be like, ‘Oh. This makes me sad.’ What if I call it ‘Salvation' or something’ Then you’ve got a completely different outcome. Whatever it is, that’s what it is.”

Finding the time to pour into one's craft can be hard to do. With that in mind, Rowland forces himself to make the time even though he works a third shift job, because otherwise he feels like he’s just spinning his wheels.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“Whenever I’m not painting or drawing, I feel like I’m wasting my life,” shares Rowland. “I try to paint or draw a little bit every day. Honestly, I just want to paint all day, every day. That’s all I want to do. I don’t want to go work some stupid job that I hate. I don’t want to work on 'Maggie’s Farm.' I work a third shift job at Bremner in Princeton [Kentucky], so I can’t really paint as much as I want to. I’ve just got so much passion for what I do and I don’t want my job to define me. When I tell people I work at a cookie factory, I don’t want them to think that’s all I will ever do with my life. I want to be recognized as an artist, because I am an artist. That’s what I want my mark to be.”

All in all, Kristian Rowland’s abstract work challenges and confronts you. The brilliant colors in his work arouse the emotions and heighten the senses. It’s very easy to get lost in his paintings as you wrestle with his—and perhaps your own—inner struggles visually.

To follow Kristian Rowland’s work, keep an eye on kristianrowland.carbonmade.com/, his Instagram account @kristian_rowland, and his Facebook page.

Now that you've had a chance to see some photographs taken by Sugg Street Post photographer Jessi Smith, scroll below to see some photographs taken by Kristian Rowland of other pieces he has created.

"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian RowlandSugg Street Post
Written by Jessica Dockrey
Photos by Jessi Smith and Kristian Rowland

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  • Published in Art

About Face - Trayvon Martin

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (8/7/13) – Former Madisonville, KY resident, Ernest F. Camel III, graduated from Hopkins County Central High School in 2000. He obtained his Bachelors Degree in Art with a concentration in Graphic Design from Murray State University in 2004, and later went on to obtain his Masters Degree in Mass Communications from Jackson State University in Jackson, MS. Ernest currently works full-time at the university as a media production coordinator and has recently discovered a love for photography.

The Sugg Street Post will be sharing Ernest’s portrait work with you regularly in an effort to introduce more art into our everyday lives. By doing so, we hope to enrich your world as much as we possibly can.

“Currently, this piece is untitled,'" says Ernest.

"credit" Ernest Camel"This is an image of Trayvon Martin surrounded by images from the past that shape African-American fears around his case, 'Stand Your Ground, Stop and Frisk,'" explains Ernest. "I created this piece in an effort to pictorialize the emotions tied to the event."

"I created this piece on my iPad using Procreate," says Ernest.

You can contact Ernest via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit his Facebook page.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Ernest F. Camel III
Drawing submitted by Ernest F. Camel III

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About Face - Trayvon Martin

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (8/7/13) – Former Madisonville, KY resident, Ernest F. Camel III, graduated from Hopkins County Central High School in 2000. He obtained his Bachelors Degree in Art with a concentration in Graphic Design from Murray State University in 2004, and later went on to obtain his Masters Degree in Mass Communications from Jackson State University in Jackson, MS. Ernest currently works full-time at the university as a media production coordinator and has recently discovered a love for photography.

The Sugg Street Post will be sharing Ernest’s portrait work with you regularly in an effort to introduce more art into our everyday lives. By doing so, we hope to enrich your world as much as we possibly can.

“Currently, this piece is untitled,'" says Ernest.

"credit" Ernest Camel"This is an image of Trayvon Martin surrounded by images from the past that shape African-American fears around his case, 'Stand Your Ground, Stop and Frisk,'" explains Ernest. "I created this piece in an effort to pictorialize the emotions tied to the event."

"I created this piece on my iPad using Procreate," says Ernest.

You can contact Ernest via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit his Facebook page.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Ernest F. Camel III
Drawing submitted by Ernest F. Camel III

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  • Published in Music

Community Collage: Sugg Goes to Forecastle

"credit" Jessi SmithHOPKINS COUNTY, KY (7/24/13) - I got the news that I'd be covering the Forecastle Festival in Louisville, KY a week before the three-day event via email from festival "first mate" Holly Weyler. I was barely awake and still had one eye closed, so I didn't fully believe that I was reading it correctly. It had been a long-time goal of mine to cover a major music event and the Forecastle Festival happened to be headlined by one of my favorite bands, The Black Keys. The annual music fest also featured many more bands that I desperately wanted to see. Ranging from talented up and comers to a legendary frontman, Forecastle was expected to draw an estimated 75,000 fans over a three-day weekend.

A visit to the official Forecastle Festival website tells you all about the history of the event:

Founded in 2002 by Louisville native JK McKnight, Forecastle has grown from a community event to one of the country’s most anticipated summer festivals, which now draws tens of thousands of fans from across the world to Louisville’s scenic 85-acre Waterfront Park. In addition to featuring a who’s who of musical acts such as The Black Keys, Widespread Panic, My Morning Jacket, Bassnectar, the Flaming Lips, Band of Horses, Sleater-Kinney, and The Avett Brothers, Forecastle has consistently promoted local artists as well as focusing on environmental activism and outdoor recreation. Past Forecastles have featured prominent organizations, industry leaders, and distinguished speakers, such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (Riverkeepers), Rob Caughlan (Surfrider Foundation) and Christopher Childs (Greenpeace International). Forecastle is co-produced by Knoxville-based AC Entertainment, one of the country’s premiere independent concert promoters, putting on more than 750 concerts throughout the Southeast as well as producing major events such as Bonnaroo, Gentlemen of the Road and Mountain Oasis.

The big day arrived. With my media bracelet on my wrist, the gates opened and an incredibly entertaining weekend commenced. I'm not a music critic or a writer, I don't have the gift of being able to tell you why I love a performance or what makes a song good, and, honestly, I went to the festival to document it with my camera. That being said, here you'll find in no particular order, my top memories of the weekend, as well as a few photos of the sights and sounds of Forecastle 2013.

"credit" Jessi SmithRobert Plant:
Before he started the first song, Plant promised a day of 1970's nostalgia, he waved puffs of incense over the crowd, and entertained us with witty banter between songs. With a set that included old Zeppelin favorites, as well as his new material with the Sensational Space Shifters, he proved that the pipes were still strong and the Golden God could still let loose. In putting the mic to the crowd to help sing “Black Dog,” Plant also showed he could engage a crowd as good as ever. However, what really made it memorable was when ominous clouds began to roll in and in his English accent he apologized for bringing the "naughty, naughty, clouds" and began a powerful version of “What Is and What Should Never Be.” Not far into the song, the rain began. What was at first a sprinkle, turned quickly into a full-blown downpour and rained onto us like a magic potion turning us into a crowd worthy of Woodstock. All while Plant sang fitting lyrics:

Catch the wind, see us spin, sail away, leave today, way up high in the sky. 
But the wind won't blow, you really shouldn't go, it only goes to show 
That you will be mine, by takin' our time.

With the rain in his face and thunder booming in the background like an extra member of the band, it felt surreal; it's how I imagine being a fan felt back in the day. Security ran around worriedly telling each other, "We gotta get him off the stage!" With coverings breaking loose and flapping in the wind, the crowd went crazy until Plant finished his set (sadly, earlier than planned) and we, soaking wet and muddy, were told to take cover under the overpass for the duration of the storm. It truly was as if Plant somehow conjured us up a 1970's experience.

"credit" Jessi SmithThe Black Keys (and crowd):
If you take a band that can fill an arena and stick them on a river bank, you can expect a bit of a crowd. As the headliners, I knew I'd see the biggest crowd at the Keys’ show, but I didn't fully realize how big until I was in that massive hoard. Forecastle tweeted an aerial shot of the crowd and it speaks for itself.
"credit" ForecastleThe guys from Akron gave an energetic set for their last stop of the 129-show-long El Camino tour. I was lucky enough to attend the opener in Cincinnati as well, and comparing the two shows, it was clear The Black Keys didn't lose any enthusiasm during their grueling schedule. Keeping the setlist mostly the same, minus the popular disco ball-lit performance of “Everlasting Light,” they finished strong with the classic “I Got Mine” that only reinforced for me that my favorite Black Keys performances only have two people on the stage.
"credit" Jessi SmithThe People:
Seriously, all of them—the crowd, the staff, security, photographers, media…everyone. I don't know whether I should chalk it up to southern hospitality or the general lighthearted vibe of Forecastle, but I loved everyone I met: the lady who held my spot in the crowd while I was in the photo pit; the guy who shared his water with me after we'd been standing in a crowd for hours and hours; the fellow photog who helped me sneak into a pit I wasn't supposed to be in; the roadie who came out of nowhere and gave me a setlist; the media guy that took me under his wing when I first arrived, fighting a serious case of nerves and feeling out of place; the seasoned photographer who helped me get a tough shot of Jim James and gave me pointers on my camera settings; the security guards that chatted with me while I waited for the shows to start; and even the festival “bigwigs” that treated all the media people the same and answered every question so equally that I still don't know which one of the guys was the one from Rolling Stone magazine.

"credit" Jessi SmithThe Art:
You could see the passion and pride the vendors had for their art in every booth. Artisans peddled jewelry, clothing, hammocks, delicious foods, and t-shirts. The poster alley held the works of many of the best in the gig poster world, most of whom had clients that were performing as you browsed. In the center of the venue, being overlooked by a lifeguard, a solid white boat sat like a blank canvas, which was exactly the intention. A group of artists gathered around to spend the weekend making the "S.S. Freebird" into something amazing. There was also the wall, where graffiti artists spent the duration of the festival tagging and creating a beautiful mural that, at festival close, they cut into pieces that you could buy for $10 a square foot. In fact, the festival itself was a work of art. It isn't easy to blend nautical and Kentucky roots themes successfully, but they did it. The bourbon lounge was a tent where you relaxed on burlap-covered hay bales surrounded by barrels while sampling Kentucky's finest bourbons. Step outside the lounge and you see "waves" that doubled as chairs, which were rarely unoccupied. The motto of Forecastle was, "Music. Art. Activism," and that's exactly what they provided.

"credit" Jessi SmithEverything:
Ok, this is a cop-out, but I mean it. I loved everything. I had to spend two of the three days of the festival without my friends there and I was worried about being bored, but that never happened. Everywhere I looked there was a stage, canvas, booth, or person whose purpose seemed to be to entertain me. People tossed footballs around and hula hooped. There were cornhole tournaments and games of giant Connect Four. The lesser known performers mingled with the crowds, and had such a lack of pretension that the only way you could tell they were going to be on stage was the pale wristband embroidered with 'ARTIST' and the occasional super-fan getting their picture made with them. Everyone shared an enthusiasm for being there, and during nearly every set you could see one of the other bands in the wings watching with as much excitement as the crowd. In most of my pictures of Old Crow Medicine Show, you can see the members of Houndmouth grinning widely behind them. It was a weekend made for laid back, free-spirited fun.

"credit" Jessi SmithWell, there they are, the top things that pop into my head when someone asks, "So how was it?" I'm sure critics and the like have completely different moments to recount, but that's the beauty of music festivals. You get to customize your experience. They take a broad range of musical talents and combine them to expose people to old favorites and new discoveries. You take from it what you want and have as much fun as you let yourself.

Now I'll leave you with the last photo I took at Forecastle. As I walked to the exit with the sound of The Avett Brothers' excellent set finale filling the air, this guy stopped to tell me I’d dropped something, and when he found out I was taking pictures for Sugg Street Post in western Kentucky, he asked me to take his picture because his mom lives in Princeton and might see it. So here you go cute guy on the hay bales, I hope she does.

"credit" Jessi SmithScroll below to see more photos taken at Forecastle Festival 2013.
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Written by Jessi Smith
Photos by Jessi Smith

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About Face - Work in Progress - Strength, Peace and Freedom

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (7/3/13) – Former Madisonville, KY resident, Ernest F. Camel III, graduated from Hopkins County Central High School in 2000. He obtained his Bachelors Degree in Art with a concentration in Graphic Design from Murray State University in 2004, and later went on to obtain his Masters Degree in Mass Communications from Jackson State University in Jackson, MS. Ernest currently works full-time at the university as a media production coordinator and has recently discovered a love for photography.

The Sugg Street Post will be sharing Ernest’s portrait work with you regularly in an effort to introduce more art into our everyday lives. By doing so, we hope to enrich your world as much as we possibly can.

“This is a piece I'm working on called 'Strength, Peace and Freedom,'" says Ernest.

Ernest Camel"I loved the serenity of the image," says Ernest. "I am using my iPad and have been working on it with the nomad paint brush my sister bought me for my birthday. It is literally a paintbrush for the iPad."

"The symbols are Adinkra and they are representative of the title," says Ernest.

"This is part of a series I am working on called Black Beauty," says Ernest. "The Black Beauty series is a series of portraits I create, and have created, that depict the beauty of the African-American Woman. I feel that the beauty of African-American women isn't always represented in the art world. I have chosen to do this to pay my homage. I want to create at least five to ten great pieces for this series."

You can contact Ernest via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit his Facebook page.

Sugg Street Post
Written by Ernest F. Camel III
Drawing submitted by Ernest F. Camel III

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  • Published in Music

Clarksville's 'Coup' Brings Progressive Thought Downtown

PHOTO: The Coup's College Street location.

CLARKSVILLE, TN (6/26/13)—Within five minutes of walking into the new location for The Coup, I was horizontal on the venue's floor with Zach Lerman, Matt Watkins, and Josh Williams experiencing how cold tiles can get when air-conditioned.

I was happy to get some relief from the humid, hot weather outside, but I was still fairly surprised by what was going on.

I wasn't surprised by the fact that I was starting an interview with a few small business owners by collectively laying down on their tile floor—The Coup has been hell-bent on breaking conventions for the last five years—it was the room's air conditioning and the floor's cleanliness that surprised me.

The Coup never had much control over the climate of its former College Street location—heat lamps kept people warm in the winter while every set in the summer was punctuated by a mass exodus of people to the fresh air outside—but The Coup's crew has picked up a new set of keys.

And beyond just adding air conditioning and heating, The Coup has taken on a location that will be the biggest step towards engaging the greater Clarksville community that the music venue/community center/restaurant has taken.

With Clarksville’s conservative establishment in their backyard, the new location will likely test the owners of The Coup—their current cash-strapped status won't make it any easier—but the move will also offer big opportunities, both to Clarksville and The Coup.

An Outpost of Progressive Thought

The Coup's movement over the last five years—from the outer fringes of downtown on Crossland Avenue and College Street to the heart of Clarksville on University Avenue—is material evidence of the journey The Coup has taken since it was founded five years ago.

Lerman and the rest of the management had the freedom to be nearly as wild as they wanted when they were running a dirty venue in one of Clarksville's poorer neighborhoods. And that's what it seems like the founders were looking to do: have a place to get weird.

PHOTO: The Coup's first location on Crossland Avenue.

At first, The Coup was strictly a music venue. They hosted shows, but didn't serve food or alcohol. They eventually wanted to get a beer license, but they found out that they would have to get a restaurant license as well in order to keep the venue all ages.

So they went nearly bankrupt getting both licenses.

After three years on Crossland Avenue, they picked up and moved to College Street, a move that told Clarksville they were no longer content being a concealed outpost of progressive thought.

Their new perch on College Street, while not in downtown, was essentially a welcome sign for people heading towards the center of Clarksville. Whether or not they were interested, the average Clarksville resident saw what was going on at The Coup.

When Lerman set up a PA on The Coup's front deck to broadcast his monologues, passing motorists had no choice but to hear diatribes against corporate America. Drivers had no ignore button to press when they saw The Coup's patrons playing with fire or massive hula hoops in the parking lot.

And this third move will bring The Coup and its message even closer to the culture of Clarksville that it so often rails against. For better or worse, Clarksville's finest will now be at The Coup's door faster than ever before and Clarksville's leaders will have a tougher time ignoring what happens at one of the city's only bastions of liberal, progressive thought.

The implications of this move don't seem to be lost on the people behind The Coup.

PHOTO (from left): Matt Watkins, Josh Williams, Xanthi Diamond and Zach Lerman

"Dan Choi [one of The Coup's volunteers/employees] made the comment, 'Oh we're about to move here. Time to make some new friends and some new enemies.' That sounds about right," Lerman said. "Some people will like it and some people will not like it."

Lerman's attitude betrays a confidence that him and the rest of The Coup's owners—Stacy Gazenski, Kory Kyle, and Matt Watkins—have gained since they set up shop five years ago. The Coup is no longer a place to hide out from the establishment—it's becoming an institution that wants to be noticed.

More Than a Venue

The Coup's latest move may be its furthest step towards central Clarksville, but it's also the completion of a circle. Lerman got his start promoting shows at the new University Avenue location when it housed The Icehouse bar.

"I was always trying to book shows and stuff, but it was really stupid because nobody really wanted it," Lerman said. "So this was just a place I already knew. I knew people that worked here. I knew the owner."

But The Coup will look far different when it returns to The Icehouse's former location. Shows will still be put on, but it's more accurate to call The Coup a community center than a venue.

Depending on when you were at The Coup's College Street location, you could see people gardening, doing yoga, reciting poetry, playing trivia, belly dancing, meditating, riding bicycles, falling off unicycles, spinning hula hoops or playing with fire.

And food has moved far from its humble beginnings as an item on a legal checklist.

Some of the best bread in Clarksville comes out of The Coup's kitchen now that Josh Williams has been added to The Coup's management and a constantly shifting menu has given Clarksville its first seasonal, vegetarian-friendly eatery.

Williams brought serious kitchen tools into the College Street location, but, with the addition of a professional gas stove and oven, this move will give The Coup its biggest culinary step up.

And that means that when The Coup opens its University Avenue doors, it won't just be bringing liberal politics and avante-garde music to downtown—it'll be putting quality, handcrafted food in what is nearly a good-food desert.

The Coup's homemade bread will stand out against The Blackhorse's ready-made pizza—downtown's most popular pizza place doesn't make it's own dough—and The Coup's emphasis on real, locally-sourced ingredients will be a stark contrast against The Gilroy's provel-cheese-covered menu.

The Coup has been one of Clarksville's earliest supporters of craft beer, but they won't be alone on University Avenue. Clarksville's most carefully-curated beer menu will be next door at The Pea Patch, and even The Gilroy, with it's penchant for highly-processed cheese and corporate pop music, which has embraced craft beer.

But there's talk of acquiring a wine and liquor license at The Coup—if that happens and The Coup stays to their usual ethos, that will mean that Clarksville will finally have a place to get great quality, local beer, food, wine, and liquor in one place.

And that's something that will stretch The Coup's appeal beyond its usual clientele.

If they can keep their quality up and not scare off University Avenue's foot traffic—and that second point is a fairly big if—The Coup could become the most popular food spot downtown.

PHOTO: A look inside The Coup's new location.

The pieces are there for The Coup to flourish in their new location, but, with money increasingly tight, nothing is guaranteed.

"We don't have any money right now," Lerman said. "We're just throwing every penny and every borrowed penny we have into opening this place in the hopes that it will be successful."

But this isn't the first time that The Coup has been down to their last dollar—family and friend donations have propped the venture up at various points—and money has never really been The Coup's inspiration.

"We were really extensive about our business plan. We did all the numbers and projections and everything... the numbers never ever actually worked out," Lerman said. "We would do the math hundreds of times and it just came up like, this is not going to work."

But five years later, The Coup is still working and the community around it is still growing.

"We get a lot of good reviews from Nashville bands that like to play here, mostly because of the people," Lerman said, "and that has generally been what has kept this place alive—people that actually care and are involved and feel like they belong. And it's not necessarily a certain type of person, but a common theme: open-mindedness."

Liberate Te Ex Jesse Smith, Methdad, Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt, and Little Ruckus are kicking off the new Coup with a $3 show this Thursday, June 27th at 9pm.

Thursday night we'll be the weirdest University Ave has gotten in years—here's to hoping it's only the first of many weird nights.

Sugg Street Post
Writing/Photos by Klaus von Sprekels

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Contributor Collage: Mad Flavor Fest in Retrospect, Part 3

"credit" Casey PiscitelliHOPKINS COUNTY, KY (6/25/13) – Scroll below to see a Contributor Collage, provided by Madisonville resident Casey Piscitelli, full of photos from the first year of the Mad Flavor Arts & Music Festival.

See previously posted photos by clicking the links below:
Community Collage: Mad Flavor Fest in Retrospect, Part 1
Community Collage: Mad Flavor Fest in Retrospect, Part 2

Thanks again to all of you who helped make the inaugural year such an overwhelming success!
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Written by Jessica Dockrey
Photos by Casey Piscitelli

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Community Collage: Mad Flavor Fest in Retrospect, Part 2

"credit" Jessi SmithHOPKINS COUNTY, KY (6/25/13) – Scroll below to see another Community Collage full of photos from the first year of the Mad Flavor Arts & Music Festival.

If you haven't already seen the first Community Collage from the fest, click this link.

Included, are a few shots of the Sugg Street Post promoting the Mad Flavor Fest at the first Friday Night Live of the summer.

Thanks again to all of you who helped make the inaugural year such an overwhelming success!

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Written by Jessica Dockrey
Photos by Jessi Smith

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