John Bukaty is an artist who does a performance art kind of thing where he paints in tandem with live music. It's really cool and I've enjoyed it every time I've worked with him. John is very affected by the music, he claims he HAS to have it. We change up styles and subject matter, mood and tempo and so on and watch how the music and atmosphere affects the painting. He uses some kind of acrylic, the paintings are generally a pretty good size, about 4 x 6 or larger and very colorful. Generally they are not abstract but impressionistic, many times he actually paints the musicians.
He works very quickly and when the band quits playing the painting is done! There have been times when we decided the painting wasn't quite done and so we would extend the song, play another solo or whatever. Usually 2 to 4 paintings in a 3 or 4 hour period. The paintings are for sale and generally are in the neighborhood of $1000.00. It's quite an artsy scene - people stand around and watch John paint. That sounds trite, I can't really give descriptive justice to what happens. It really is performance art. It's pretty fascinating.
He sometimes will express some performance anxiety to me. I think he definitely feels the pressure to "perform." I look at what he does as kind of like what I do. I don't always know what I'm going to do, I make decisions on the fly, there's lots of room to improvise, and the result is what it is. Sometimes I'm happy and proud of the result and sometimes I just want to go home and forget about it. But the improvisation and the chance-taking are all done in front of an audience, that is what makes it exciting. When there's a screw-up, it's in front of people. That's one of the things that jazz is all about, and that's one of the things John is about. I consider him to be the artist equivalent of a jazz musician.
Sometimes he'll definitely play to the crowd. One time he told me, "While I'm doing this next painting I want all Beatles songs." He also requested Imagine by John Lennon. So we're playing his requests and he's painting like crazy. It looked like, I don't know, some kind of abstract hodge-podge of colors and shapes. I couldn't tell what it was, and nobody else could either. I thought maybe John had gone off the deep end this time. After about 20 minutes, he stepped back and said, "Yeah!" Everybody was like, "What the..." It didn't look like anything. Then John stepped up to it and turned it upside down, which was really right side up. It was a very recognizable portrait of John Lennon - he had painted it upside down. Massive applause!
Even though the presentation was a stunt, the painting was very recognizable as a Bukaty. He has a definite style that comes through in everything he does. I do not consider myself a connoisseur of art by any means, but I know a Bukaty when I see one!
Here are some of the Bukaty paintings that I'm in:
Here's John and a better picture of the just completed painting - of me!
L to R: Me, Mark Valentine, Phil Brenner, Kevin Johnson, Andy DeWitt
Me and Hadji Ahkba
I'm on the left, Phil Brenner is in the middle, and Hadji is on the right
Saxophonist Phil Brenner and artist John Bukaty
Myself and John Bukaty - after a couple of Jaeger-bombs. I love my job!