Alphabet of Jazz Masters: C – Rosemary Clooney

Rosemary Clooney

May 23, 1928 – June 29, 2002

Vocalist, Actor

Favorite Song: “Tenderly

In college, while working as a DJ at KNTU (the jazz station at the University of North Texas), I fell in love with Rosemary Clooney’s voice and phrasing. For years, she was my favorite female vocalist and I was lucky to have seen her a few times at the Hollywood Bowl. I adored her and wanted so badly to paint her…however, I failed…repeatedly. First, I tried blind contour. She looked a strange version of Dinah Shore. Tried again…even worse. So, I thought about “Tenderly,” and my favorite line, “the shore was kissed by sea and mist, tenderly” and thought, “Hey! I’ll do Clooney as a mermaid!” So…this is the best I could do. Sorry Rosemary!





Alphabet of Jazz Masters: B – Count Basie

William James “Count” Basie

August 21, 1904 – April 26, 1984

Piano, Bandleader

Favorite Composition: One O’Clock Jump

Recording to Watch: BBC Special with Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, and Joe Pass (1980)

I started Count Basie as a blind contour then added paint…a lot of paint! Started with watercolor, then sketched over with a Sharpie, and finally added acrylic…and voilà — my interpretation of Count Basie.

Count Basie
“count basie”

Alphabet of Jazz Masters: A – Mose Allison

Mose Allison

November 11, 1921 – November 15, 2016

Trumpet, Piano, and Vocals

My Favorite Tune: The Seventh Son

With this piece, I started with watercolor on paper. After it dried, I created a blind contour sketch, using a sketching pencil. Next, I went over the parts I liked with a Sharpie and then accented with titanium white acrylic…and ta da! Mose Allison -well, kind of. 

Mose Allison
“mose allison”



“…odilloing in his armour”

My son and I have themed paint nights at home, always with a specific topic. Our last paint challenge was “armadillos with hats.” My ‘dillo reminded me a bit of Don Quixote and “The Beginning of Armadillos,” from Kipling’s Just So Stories.

I’ve never sailed the Amazon,
I’ve never reached Brazil;
But the Don and Magdalena,
They can go there when they will!

Yes, weekly from Southampton
Great steamers, white and gold,
Go rolling down to Rio
(Roll down–roll down to Rio!).
And I’d like to roll to Rio
Some day before I’m old!

I’ve never seen a Jaguar,
Nor yet an Armadill–
Odilloing in his armour,
And I s’pose I never will,

Unless I go to Rio
These wonders to behold–
Roll down–roll down to Rio–
Roll really down to Rio!
Oh, I’d love to roll to Rio
Some day before I’m old!

-Rudyard Kipling (1902)

“odilloing in his armour”

“these fish in my brain”

Today, at my Los Angeles Ralph’s, a carefully placed chorus line of shimmering silver fish stared at me. Mesmerized, I stared back into their lifeless eyes and recalled this Raymond Carver poem…and a certain ghost who haunts my brain.

So, I came home to paint this:

these fish in my brain
“these fish in my brain”


“The Current”

These fish have no eyes

these silver fish that come to me in dreams,

scattering their row and milt

in the pockets of my brain


But there’s one that comes —

heavy, scarred, silent like the rest,

that simply holds against the current,


Closing its dark mouth against

the current, closing and opening,

as it holds to the current.

-Raymond Carver



“the distance between stars” (or “the absence of a muse”)

the distance between stars
used to fascinate me —
the longing,
the space between,
as they waltzed,
spiraling in gravity

now, their space feels purposed
void —
their soulless,
faceless points of light
that cannot guide my sail
to you
and I am lost
staring at the black,
meaningless sky

“Reflecting the Night Sky” by Nan Lehnert

“…numb as a fossil.”

Last night, I worked on  a blind contour sketch, while looking at a Lee Jeffries photo of a little girl. Using watercolor, acrylic and India Ink, this sad face appeared — the face of a much older woman, seeming numb, with a frozen stare. Behind the paint is the young Jeffries girl, unseen to all, except for me. Reflecting, I remembered a line from a  Sylvia Plath  poem — “I lean to you, numb as a fossil” (from the poem, “Two Campers in Cloud Country”)

“numb” by nan lehnert

Two Campers in Cloud Country

(Rock Lake, Canada)

In this country there is neither measure nor balance

To redress the dominance of rocks and woods,

The passage, say, of these man-shaming clouds.


No gesture of yours or mine could catch their attention,

No word make them carry water or fire the kindling

Like local trolls in the spell of a superior being.


Well, one wearies of the Public Gardens: one wants a vacation

Where trees and clouds and animals pay no notice;

Away from the labeled elms, the tame tea-roses.


It took three days driving north to find a cloud

The polite skies over Boston couldn’t possibly accommodate.

Here on the last frontier of the big, brash spirit


The horizons are too far off to be chummy as uncles;

The colors assert themselves with a sort of vengeance.

Each day concludes in a huge splurge of vermilions


And night arrives in one gigantic step.

It is comfortable, for a change, to mean so little.

These rocks offer no purchase to herbage or people:


They are conceiving a dynasty of perfect cold.

In a month we’ll wonder what plates and forks are for.

I lean to you, numb as a fossil. Tell me I’m here.


The Pilgrims and Indians might never have happened.

Planets pulse in the lake like bright amoebas;

The pines blot our voices up in their lightest sighs.


Around our tent the old simplicities sough

Sleepily as Lethe, trying to get in.

We’ll wake blank-brained as water in the dawn.

                                                                                                                                         — Sylvia Plath, 1960