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How artists can learn from Jeff Beck's guitar playing? Try jamming with a blackbird!

I was saddened to hear about the death of Jeff Beck, my guitar hero for longer than I care to remember. For my money, he was his generation's outstanding guitarist, and I place him on a par with Jimi Hendrix, although of course, they differ significantly in style. I first saw him play at Lancaster University in 1973 and knew then that he was an extraordinary and unique talent. More recently, I was able to see him in York, on tour with Jonny Depp and Sharon Corr. He did not disappoint, the sounds he generates from a Fender Stratocaster are simply mesmerising, and his musicianship and phrasing are always highly innovative and imaginative. As a guitar player, I have tried to work out how he achieves such beautiful phrasing and extraordinary sequences of notes and chords. Up to a point, I understand the mechanics, the notes, the neck position, the pitch bending and volume control, but I can never seem to combine all of these elements seamlessly. This is another level of craftsmanship and inspiration.

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The Voice of The Forest (Detail)

I know what you are thinking, how can a rock guitarist have anything to teach us about the art of painting? Is there a connection? Surely these art forms are worlds apart. You may recall both Klee and Kandinsky talked about the parallels between music and painting. They focused on the visual elements, finding equivalents and parallels, often drawing our attention to major and minor chords with the deployment of cold and warm colours, and also making reference to harmonious and discordant colours through line and shape. I think these observations are entirely legitimate and painters use aspects of this understanding, sometimes deliberately sometimes intuitively. In the last few days, I feel as if I have discovered new insights into the process of painting and I owe those discoveries to Jeff Beck. If you have never seen a live performance of Jeff Beck, take a look at his Ronnie Scotts Club concert, recorded over 10 years ago. You will find the entire show on YouTube. Apart from the wonderful music, the recording is notable for the close-up shots of Jeff Beck's guitar work.


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The Voice of The Forest 100 x 80 cm

The close-up video is a testament to the sheer manual dexterity required to achieve this level of virtuosity and musicality. It displays an almost symbiotic relationship between the human hand and the neck of a guitar, the ability to trigger harmonics with precision using an innate sense of timing and touch. This is all about knowing exactly what the materials will allow you to do. In the case of an electric guitar, the resistance of a rosewood or maple fingerboard, the tension across a set of steel strings, knowing how far they can be stretched and detuned above and below a note, all the while making adjustments to the output volume on the fly with his fingers resting on the vibrato arm. It is the interaction of these multiple control methods that allows him to generate highly original and expressive guitar sounds. I would argue that Jeff Beck goes a stage further; he pushes this control of the medium to its limits and beyond those limits. I believe his genius lies in a willingness and a desire to take risks, to stretch the envelope. How many countless hours must he have rehearsed with his guitar, recreating the high-pitched song of a blackbird? It is worth noting that he used a dinner fork to get the sounds and not a conventional plectrum or his fingers. Jeff was always experimenting with new ways of playing, introducing new elements and ideas.


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The Voice of The Forest (Detail)

I know this may seem an extravagant claim but think I try to do something similar with paint. Although the medium is completely different the creative ambition and objectives are connected in many ways. You have to develop fluency with paint, confidence in its handling and a sense of control that only follows from a certain level of mastery. If you can work at speed, the paint retains and embodies the energy generated at the moment of application. Physical movement is an integral part of the act of painting, creating the image yet retaining direction and velocity. Vigorous movements of the hand, arm and upper body are recorded directly in the material. It isn't possible to create a sense of dynamism and energy without engaging in dynamic and energetic movements of the body. The dynamic range associated with loud and soft passages in music can be echoed in paint, through colour intensity, tonal variation, impasto, texture and scale. Jeff Beck was able to move between the softly lyrical and poetic extremes of expression and power. He always endeavoured to move beyond the obvious and cliched phrase, and he invariably succeeded. If I could only achieve a fraction of his invention and creativity in the medium of paint I would consider myself to be an accomplished artist.



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The Voice of The Forest (Detail)

In an interview recorded after the legendary Ronnie Scott's gig, he provided an insight into his playing style. He was fulsome in his praise for the musicians who played with him and how he was inspired and influenced by so many different artists. He also used a word that you wouldn't normally associate with creativity; he talked about some passages of his guitar work being 'barbaric'. I think this was a significant moment of self-reflection and a telling phrase. It was a reference to his expressive range and the extent to which his powerful voice depended on a commitment to being bold and fearless and using whatever technical and creative means available to achieve his musical goals. He will be greatly missed.




 

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I hope to see you there or around the Cambridgeshire art galleries and UK exhibitions. If you can't wait until then, you can view my artwork online! If you find an artwork you love and want to know more about or make a purchase just contact us directly. All artworks are for sale and commissions are welcomed. I look forward to hearing from you to guide you through the process of buying art online from the UK to anywhere in the world. Another option is to come to one of the Affordable Art Fairs in England, my work can be seen in person at the affordable art fairs, and come back to find details on free tickets to future fairs too.







Upcoming Exhibitions and Art Fairs

I will be exhibiting abstract landscape artwork inspired by the Fenlands in Britain at future Affordable Art Fairs, for the newsletter to keep up to date. I will be exhibiting with Linton 59 and Darryl Nantais Art Gallery is representing my artwork. I do hope you can be there.


Peter Corr Affordable Art Fair Hampstead 2022 Art Artists Artist to look out for watch this space, emerging artist cambridgeshire cambridge local art painting abstract landscape karl linton 59 linton59 the darryl nantais gallery aaf affordable art painting for sale paintings
Forest Paintings by Peter Corr at the Affordable Art Fair Hampstead 2022

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