At the corner of Banjo and Watercolor

A couple of weeks ago, I went onto YouTube (the modern source of all wisdom and knowledge) to find a video of someone playing or singing “Cumberland Mountain Deer Chase,” an old Uncle Dave Macon tune. My local dulcimer group was playing it, and I needed to get a good idea of the melody.

I found a lot more than I had bargained for.

One of the guys I watched do this tune was Patrick Costello. He was doing it on the banjo, and he was using the tune to teach frailing, a method of playing the banjo. I have played bluegrass (another method of playing the banjo) for many years and have never felt I was very good at it. I had read about frailing once, but the description of how to do it convinced me that it was way beyond my talents.

But there was Patrick, describing frailing in the simplest of terms and saying, “You can do this.”

I was hooked. I watched several of this tutorial videos, and by this time I had swallowed the hook and the bait. I got out my banjo, which I hadn’t touched for months, and began trying to do what Patrick was teaching. It was awkward and difficult, but Patrick kept saying, “You can do this.”

That was two weeks ago. I am nowhere near where I want to be with frailing, but I’m better than I was a couple of weeks ago thanks to Patrick.

So what about the watercolor?

Well, this week I was trying to think of something to do during the painting group meeting, which comes together each Wednesday. At the last minute, I got this idea of putting the banjo in a rocking chair in my den and then imagining it on the front porch of some old cabin in the mountains. I managed to pull of the banjo-in-the-rocker thing and surrounded it with some banjo-related atmospherics.

The result is at the right:

Banjo at Rest

Banjo at Rest, watercolor, 11 x 14

Meanwhile, I joined Patrick’s Facebook group, Daily Frailers, and decided to post the painting as my first post. (I’m nowhere near good enough to do a video of my banjo playing just yet, which is what most of the posts on that group consist of. One guy worth listening to is Pete Glaze, who does neat songs and has a cool hat to boot) Some of the folks there made very kind comments about the watercolor, and a couple of them even requested prints, if they were available.

I went to a local office supply store yesterday and had several non-archival prints made. I will be shipping those off to the folks who have requested them next week.

And that’s how Banjo and Watercolor intersected for me this week.

I’m now thinking seriously about doing a watercolor with the banjo and rocking chair on the front porch of a mountain cabin with the wall of the cabin and may some of the surroundings in the background. I still have yet to work that out completely.

Meanwhile, I am frailing away.

 

About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall teaches journalism at the University of Tennessee.

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