Marianne Morris Art Work - Count Basie

Follow the Art Work of Marianne Morris 12 Art Works subject : Historical Jazz Musician

Marianne Morris

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William James "Count" Basie was yet another groundbreaking jazz pianist turned band leader and composer. In 1924 he moved to Harlem, the hotbed of jazz, where he met and performed with other jazz greats, including Louis Armstrong and Billie Holliday. He was a true improvisor, with his band routinely playing without notation and Basie guiding the show.

One thing I love about watching the old footage of Basie performances is his sense of play. He truly looks like he is having a ball. He practically dances on his piano bench, fingers flying across the keys, with amazing (and sometimes hilarious) facial expressions and interactions with the band. I can only imagine what it must have been like to lindy-hop at the Savoy Ballroom with the Basie Orchestra on the stage…


Follow up Step by Step Art Work Count Basie
Louis Armstrong
Marianne Morris


Step 1

Marianne Morris Art

As with the rest of the pieces in this series, I've prepped my canvas with black gesso.



Step 2

Marianne Morris Art

I put my music on before I start in with my white paint pen. At this point I want to get the mood of the music and try to channel the Count's sense of play. I have a great album from the '50s, "Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings"… I love this album and its the one I started with for this piece. Of course I also had his signature tune, "One-O'clock Jump" on my playlist. I couldn't work on a Basie piece without that one…


Next Upload 09.11.2014

Step 3

Marianne Morris Art

I don't want this piece to be too dark, so I add in quite a bit of white at this point. I scratched into the wet paint with a toothpick to add some texture and give some life to the flatter areas. The black peeks through in these areas and will hopefully show a bit when I get to my final layers.


Next Upload 10.11.2014

Step 4

Marianne Morris Art

In keeping with my colour palette for this series, I lay in the first layers. I do this with the music on, trying to keep the feel of the music. I want lots of interest, so I don't just put flat layers with a brush, I use whatever tool I instinctively reach for and improvise.


Next Upload 13.11.2014

Step 5

Marianne Morris Art

The first layer of colour seems a bit too thin, so I add another layer, building up my surface textures. It has a bit more depth at this point, so it's a good base to start bringing out my subject.


Next Upload 15.11.2014

Step 6

Marianne Morris Art

There are lots of photos of Count Basie around, but many of them have him with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, or he's making a face at somebody. While these pictures give me a great idea of what he must have been like as a person, that's not the man I want to portray. He has to be smiling, of course, and looking like he is enjoying himself. My final drawing is a composite of photos, and I've had to age him backwards to the era I want to depict, the golden age of Jazz. I don't bother to do a complete, final drawing as I really just need a guideline for the planes of the face and positioning of features, but it is more detailed than some of my others as I was having difficulty getting a likeness.



Next Upload 16.11.2014

Step 7

Marianne Morris Art

I hadn't added in the piano in my final drawing, but I do want it in my composition. I have decided it doesn't need to be a detailed depiction, but more of a suggestion. Here I've sketched and cut out the basic shape to suggest the piano, and I position it on top of my drawing in the approximate position it would be in.


Next Upload 20.11.2014

Step 8

Marianne Morris Art

I position my tracing paper where I want it over my painted background, and add in a chalk outline so I can determine if I need to make any adjustments as I proceed. There is a couple areas I can see… there's a dark blotch right in the centre of where his face should be, and the top right corner behind his head will be a bit too dark for my linking.


Next Upload 21.11.2014

Step 9

Marianne Morris Art

I want his hat to stand out from the background, so I add in some white texture to the top corner. I also cover that black blotch with white, which will make it easier to render his face.


Next Upload 23.11.2014

Step 10

Marianne Morris Art

I fill in the colour over my new white areas, bringing it down to a mid-tone. This way I can add both highlights and shadows to build up the form in his face.


Next Upload 24.11.2014

Step 11

Marianne Morris Art

My drawings are now cut out and taped to my canvas. This will serve as a mask which I will paint around, separating my figure from my background. I originally came to this method of working while thinking about "the zone" that musicians get into when they are completely absorbed by their music. The background and the figure are one in the same…. the music is within them as much as outside of them.


Next Upload 26.11.2014

Step 12

Marianne Morris Art

Painting around my mask, I use white on the inside where I want the definition between figure and ground to be strong, and dark blue on the outside edges where I want the edge to blend


Next Upload 28.11.2014

Step 13

Marianne Morris Art

Looking at this again I can see that my background is too dark in the top left. I really didn't want this one to be as dark as some of my others, so I lighten this area up with more white paint and lines with my paint pen. I also have changed my mind about where I want the edge of the hat to start to fade, so I add white to that upper edge as well.


Next Upload 31.11.2014

Step 14

Marianne Morris Art

I add transparent colour over the newly painted white areas.


Next Upload 01.12.2014

Step 15

Marianne Morris Art

I use white pastel to transfer my drawing onto the canvas. It doesn't have to be detailed at this point… it's more like guidelines. With my dark blue I darken up the edge behind the piano to add some depth. His suit will have some detail, but I want the piano to come forward.


Next Upload 03.12.2014

Step 16

Marianne Morris Art

Here I'm starting to define my edges and bring out my highlights. I haven't quite decided how I'm going to approach his face, so I'll go to work on the suit and figure it out as I'm working.


Next Upload 06.12.2014

Step 17

Marianne Morris Art

I start to build up the form in the face by laying in some highlights. This process is going to take a bit… I don't necessarily want him perfectly, realistically depicted, but like my Duke piece, I might have to have the shapes defined in order to achieve a likeness.


Next Upload 08.12.2014

Step 18

Marianne Morris Art

After adding the shadows, I can see it starting to look a bit more like him


Next Upload 10.12.2014

Step 19

Marianne Morris Art

I go over the white with some colour to tone it down and blend it in. Adding the lights and darks in layers builds the form and gives me a luminance I can't get with any other painting technique.



Next Upload 13.12.2014

Step 20

Marianne Morris Art

Darker shadows are added to give some contrast to his features.


Next Upload 14.12.2014

Step 21

Marianne Morris Art

Count Basie just doesn't look right without the moustache


Next Upload 16.12.2014

Step 22

Marianne Morris Art

White brightens up the highlights again. His forehead still doesn't look quite right… I wanted to capture the expression and the slightly raised eyebrow. I'll have to keep working on that.


Next Upload 17.12.2014

Step 23

Marianne Morris Art

Well, I might as well go all out and make it really bright. I can always paint over it if it doesn't work.


Next Upload 18.12.2014

Step 24

Marianne Morris Art

white paint pen - I love these pens. I put on the music, in this case it was a "best of" compilation, and A few more layers of colour and some darker shadows around the eyes… that helps.


Next Upload 19.12.2014

Step 25

Marianne Morris Art

A bit more colour here and there. A few finishing touches should do it.


Next Upload 21.12.2014

Step 26

Marianne Morris Art

The Final Art Work

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Team Global Vernissage




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