Ben Webster: Not “out of another man’s bag”

“not out of another man’s bag” by nan lehnert

“If you try all different styles that are in vogue, I think you con yourself. Me, I just stick by my guns. I don’t want to play out of another man’s bag.” – Ben Webster

     If you’ve ever sat quietly and listened to the soft, emotional whisper of Ben Webster playing his tenor sax, you’ll understand the rich, emotional complexity in his playing. Claiming to have learned his style from Johnny Hodges (quite evident in his recording of “Blue Moon” with the Ralph Burns Orchestra, 1955), Webster created his own style, which included a growl, a whisper, and swirling emotion, tangled in tempo.

     In this painting, I hoped to capture that individual style, and rich melodies unique to Webster. Have a listen to Webster playing one of my favorite tunes, “Tenderly.” Then, hear how his improvisation plays off of the feeling Billie Holiday sets in “Fine and Mellow.”

Ben Webster “Tenderly”

Ben Webster “Fine and Mellow”







“swimming in a sea of you”

These paintings are based on photographs of two young girls from Syria.

Often, when I’m playing with blind contour, I feel as though can see inside the eyes of my subject. If I’m quiet, present, and lucky, their soul “speaks” to me.

These girls spoke to me. They spoke of their struggles, of swimming through a sea of friends, family..and of hope.

“swimming in a sea of you”























I thought of Yusra Mardini and her courage, passion, and talent in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. In an article from the New York Times, I was struck by one of her stories:

Mardini and her sister were packed with 18 other people, including a 6-year-old boy, on a dinghy meant to accommodate six. On their first attempt, they were caught by border agents and sent back. On their second, the engine died after about 20 minutes, and the dinghy took on water.

Of the 20 people on board, only the Mardini sisters and two young men knew how to swim, so the four of them jumped overboard. It was about 7 at night, and the turning tide had made the sea harsh and choppy.

“Everyone was praying,” Mardini said. “We were calling the Turkish police, the Greek police, saying: ‘Please, please help us. We have children! We are drowning!’ And they just kept saying: ‘Turn and go back. Turn and go back.’”

Inspired by her story, and the story of the nearly 5 million Syrian refugees, I painted these two portraits.

“Syrian Girl: Color and Hope”

To read the entire article:

The Hi-De-Ho Man: Cab Calloway (1907-94)

When my kids were little (and I was able to hook them into jazz), we spent our mornings watching Cab Calloway videos on YouTube. Vivacious, mesmerizing, enigmatic — this cat, with his definitive style and swagger, was on fire!

Folks, here’s a story ’bout Minnie the Moocher
She was a red-hot hoochie-coocher
She was the roughest, toughest frail
But Minnie had a heart as big as a whale

Hi-dee hi-dee hi-dee hi (hi-dee hi-dee hi-dee hi)
Whoa-a-a-a-ah (whoa-a-a-a-ah)
Hee-dee-hee-dee-hee-dee-hee (hee-dee-hee-dee-hee-dee-hee)
He-e-e-e-e-e-e-y (he-e-e-e-e-e-e-y)

Cab Calloway
“cab calloway” (watercolor and ink)

Derrida Deconstruction Dissemination “Dab!”

One of my favorite classes in college was Major Critical Theories, which focused on the writings of many great thinkers from Socrates to Kant to Butler. Derrida made my head dizzy. We had to memorize two passages.  It still hurts to look at this one:

“A text is not a text unless it hides from the first comer, from the first glance, the law of its composition and the rules of its game. A text remains, moreover, forever imperceptible. Its laws and rules are not, however, harbored in the inaccessibility of a secret; it is simply that they can never be booked, in the present, into anything that could rigorously be called a perception.”


I prefer this sweet little piece of brain taffy:

“To pretend, I actually do the thing: I have therefore only pretended to pretend.”

Derrida Deconstructs Daylilies
“derrida deconstructing daylilies” by nan lehnert

Nan Lehnert: Abstract Flora, Fauna, and Faces

Mackintosh and Poppies


HyperFocal: 0
“California Poppies” by Nan Lehnert

The watercolor roses of Charles Rennie Mackintosh delight the eye and tickle the fancy. His are not weak flowers, but sturdy and elegant — much like our brilliant orange California Poppies. On June 7th, 78 Derngate invited fans to post photos of flowers for Rennie.  I painted these vibrant, persimmon colored poppies.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a brilliant Scotsman, an architect, designer, and artist. In the early 1900s, Macintosh and the “Glasgow School” were major influences in the Art Nouveau and Modern movement in architecture, design and watercolor. His unique furniture design, in my opinion, was ahead of its time.

This painting is available on my Etsy store   Nan Lehnert | abstract flora fauna and faces

78 Derngate: The Charles Rennie Mackintosh House, Northampton UK

Sew Cool (#notcool)

Sew Cool

In this painting, these eyeless workers sew dresses in a sweatshop. Abusers avoid eye contact…as do their victims…and their thread slowly turns to blood.

An excerpt on an article on child labor from Unicef…

Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 32 sets out the right “to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.”


“Often such children are as young as six or seven years old. Often their hours of labour are 12 to 16 hours a day. Often their place of work is the sweatshop, the mine, the refuse heap, or the street. Often the work itself is dull, day-long, repetitive, low-paid or unpaid. Sometimes the child works under the threat of violence and intimidation, or is subject to sexual exploitation.”

“In the 1990s, child labour has found a new niche in the rapidly expanding export industries of some developing countries. In one small carpet factory in Asia, children as young as five were found to work from 6 in the morning until 7 at night for less than 20 cents a day. In another, they sat alongside adults for 12 to 14 hours in damp trenches, dug to accommodate the carpet looms on which they wove. In a garment factory, nine-year-olds worked around the clock sewing shirts for three days at a stretch, permitted only two one-hour breaks, during which they were forced to sleep next to their machines. Extracting such high human cost, child labour is nevertheless cheap. A shirt that sells in the United States for $60 can cost less than 10 cents in labour.”



“love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love…”

"LoveIsLove" honoring LMM and those who lost their lives at the Pulse in Orlando
“Love Is Love Inspired” by Nan Lehnert

Art inspires art, truth inspires truth, love inspires love — painted this last night, inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s beautiful sonnet, and the tremendous outpouring of love for the LGBTQ community and…well, all people. 

My friends and family asked if I would make prints available  — so here it is, but only if you will allow me to donate proceeds (after digital capture cost) to GLSEN.

For each print sold (30 limited), I will proceeds to GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network).