Whilst travelling on tour between 1989 and 1992, Bob Dylan created a collection of drawings that were published in a book entitled 'Drawn Blank' in 1994. These expressive works capture Dylan's chance encounters and observations. The creation of these portraits, interiors, landscapes, still lifes, nudes and street scenes were done to "relax and refocus a restless mind".
Ingrid Mössinger - the curator of the Kunstsammlungen Museum, in Chemnitz, Germany - came across Drawn Blank' during a visit to New York in 2006. Instantly excited about Dylan's work, she contacted the artist's team and was thrilled to learn that Bob Dylan would agree to have his art exhibited in public for the first time.
When Dylan had first drawn the works in this series he had intended to create paintings based upon them. Ingrid Mössinger's proposed exhibition encouraged him to now do this using watercolour and gouache. "I was fascinated to learn of Ingrid's interest in my work, and it gave me the impetus to realise the vision I had for these drawings many years ago," Bob Dylan commented. These paintings formed a collection entitled 'The Drawn Blank Series'. Unlike the delicacy of the drawings in 'Drawn Blank' the paintings are expressive and vibrant. Dylan paints several versions of the same image, using different colours and tones which result in a dynamic variety of impressions, feelings and emotions.
This choice and skill in applying different colour arrangements to the same original drawing enables Dylan to express his feelings and perceptions of an idea or view - continually evoking different feelings and reactions, and thereby creating evolving works of art. This technique is intrinsic to Dylan in all aspects of his creative life. As Tobias Rüther (Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper), who credited Dylan with successfully translating his songs into art, commented: "That which he's done for years on the stage - performing new versions of his old songs in order to give a fresh interpretation - he's now continuing on deckle-edged paper."
THE DRAWING BLANK SERIES GRAPHICS COLLECTION
Prior to the seventeenth century most artists had viewed printmaking (or Graphics as they are also known nowadays) as a preparatory technique, using the medium to create sketches for their final paintings.
The Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) was one of the first artists to use printmaking as a form of art in its own right. Although initially a painter, he became devoted to the medium of etching; creating approximately three hundred etchings during his lifetime. His importance and renown within the art world in this context is of such significance that, when the medium was revived during the twentieth century, artists such as Picasso fervently aspired to be as skilled as him in this medium and, during the 1930s went on to create, amongst many fine art graphics, a series of etchings which featured imagery of Rembrandt.
The series was entitled 'The Vollard Suite', named after the renowned art dealer and critic Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939) who commissioned and published it. Vollard was one of the most important art dealers of the early twentieth century, and worked with artists such as Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). Importantly, it was Vollard who pioneered the idea of painter as printer, bringing printmaking back into fashion and establishing it as a reputable art form that artists enjoyed and enthusiastically used. As Vollard himself commented: "...the painters themselves became more and more interested in the new form of expression. Some of them even made complete albums for me..."
After the Second World War the centre of printmaking predominantly moved from Europe to America and some artists began to dedicate their entire oeuvres to print, which came to be viewed on the same level as painting and sculpture. Indeed, artists such as Andy Warhol (1928-1987) were committed to the medium - repeating an image in many different colour-ways - just as Bob Dylan has done in his works years later.
As part of this tradition, and continuing it into the twenty-first century, a carefully selected collection of Dylan's paintings have been chosen to be published as Signed Limited Edition Graphics to enable collectors, and art lovers throughout the world, access to Bob Dylan's works of art.
This graphics collection entitled 'The Drawn Blank Series' captures the true essence of Dylan's original paintings. In the spirit of Vollard, it is the production of these prints that enables a wider audience to appreciate the skill and imagination not only of Dylan the artist, but also of Dylan the man.
Each edition is published in a limited number of no more than 295 copies worldwide. All are printed on Hahnemühle Museum Etching or Innova Soft Texture paper, certificated and personally signed by the artist.
“Rather than fantasize, be real and draw it only if it is in front of you and if it’s not there, put it there and by making the lines connect, we can vaguely get at something other than the world we know.”
Train Tracks is one of the most iconic drawings from The Drawn Blank Series. The image, of a train track receding into the distance, with no beginning and no end, is perhaps most reminiscent of Dylan’s journey. Having played more than 2,500 shows since June 1988, Dylan continues travelling across the world from city to city. Trains have always played an important part in Dylan’s music, writing and art. In his autobiography, he writes: “I’d seen and heard trains from my earliest childhood days... The sound of trains off in the distance more or less made me feel at home, like nothing else was missing, like I was at some level place, never in any significant danger and everything was fitting together.”
Side Tracks is a running series of 327 unique prints, each hand embellished by Dylan. In each version, he uses the same coloured reproduction as his starting point, but the colour and texture vary depending on the brushstrokes, with each image a more nuanced version of the last. A parallel can be drawn here – between this process of re-working the same graphic to provoke a new set of emotions – and Dylan’s music.
When performing, Bob Dylan strives for the original – so that the audience rarely hear the same version twice. The same progression is true of Dylan’s hand embellished prints. He revisits the same image, re-colouring, re-configuring and re-imagining it; each time producing a new interpretation… and the series multiplies. By doing this, he reveals a flicker of his passing journey, repetitive on the one hand, as he travels from one city to another, but ever changing. Dylan’s prints demonstrate his ability to adapt and refine the original, manipulating our feelings through his revisions. Like their creator, they are themselves on a journey, always evolving, changing, expanding, never still.
Each print in the series has been dated and named by location, evoking a specific time and place on Dylan’s continuous journey. They each reflect a particular emotion and time spent from a life on tour.