Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Painted Violin: Danse Macabre

Death Plays the Fiddle, detail from the violin Danse Macabre*
Like many artists, music--nearly every kind--is an enormous influence on my work. When I was asked to participate in this year's Painted Violin for the Denver Young Artists Orchestra, I leapt at the chance. These young musicians are amazingly talented, and supporting them enables me to indulge in their phenomenal concerts.
The DYAO provided this old instrument, and allowed me free rein.
The first stage: Painting it red, then drawing with brush and ink.
As kids in third grade, we were lucky to have a phenomenal student teacher for music class. Miss West introduced us to many classical pieces, and her gifts as a teacher fired my imagination--and my subsequent appreciation of classical music. I freely admit that I've always been a music nerd, and the moment Miss West played Saint-Saens' Danse Macabre, I was head over heels in love.

This is a detail of the top front of the instrument.
That piece of music, and many more, has provided rich flights of imagination for me, with drawings of creatures and scenarios continually evolving in my head as I listen to the works.
A detail from the bottom front of the violin.
When I first got this old violin, there was no question in my mind as to the subject. I sketched multiple thumbnails for composition, and designed many characters before slapping on the first coat of red paint. I have eight different versions of the Danse Macabre piece and they thundered in my studio--over and over-- throughout the whole process. It was total bliss!
Not a great photo, but this is the back of the instrument. 
The final piece is a completely strung violin, and it, along with 18 other beautiful instruments by amazing artists, will be exhibited all over Denver. The violins are all for sale*, the proceeds benefitting the DYAO!
Please check them out at www.dyao.org
and check out the violins at www.paintedviolin.com
Thanks for the visit!

*As of November 13, 2013, the Danse Macabre violin has sold and is no longer available.


  1. This is amazing Tom! Not only your work but also your story ! I read it while listening this marvelous piece of music!

    1. Thank you Ludek--that is a great compliment! (I think Saint-Saens is vastly underrated, don't you?)

  2. Replies
    1. I appreciate that, Elizabeth--very glad you like this!

  3. Creepy and really awesome. great for Halloween and Day of the Dead. What made you paint a skeleton onto a violin????

    1. Thanks Kelly! It was from the origin of the musical piece, written for a poem in which Death calls up the spectres in a graveyard by playing his fiddle. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danse_Macabre_(Saint-Sa%C3%ABns)


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