Early Drawings

Erik ReeL early drawing
Drawing of John Coltrane by Erik ReeL age 15, pencil on paper, 1967

When I was a kid, my one great refuge was the public library. In those days it had two floors, the first floor was for kids, the second for adults.

I tried desperately to get check-out rights to the adult section when I was in elementary school, but to no avail.

Finally I turned 12 and could get a full library card. This meant I finally had access to the adult section’s LP music library. Classical and jazz LPs I would otherwise have no access to were freely available for check out. I was in heaven and pretty much checking out LPs at my max quota on an ongoing basis.

One of the things a lot of these LPs had were photos of the musicians, composers, and conductors on their back covers and sleeve inserts. So I started drawing from these photos. From about 5th grade to 7th grade I  developed the naturalistic style that you see here in my drawing of John Coltrane drawn during the summer before I entered 8th grade. I was 14.

I listened to a lot of Miles Davis and Coltrane that summer.  Here is a drawing from about the same time of Miles Davis.


Erik ReeL early drawing
Drawing of Miles Davis by Erik ReeL at age 15, pencil drawing on paper, 1967

It’s a very early shot of Miles Davis. A few years later, I was fortunate enough to hear Miles Davis play live, in Seattle. This was during his Bitches Brew years and with his full Bitches Brew ensemble, though, oddly, this concert is not listed on his Bitches Brew concert list. He played a long set between sets by Bill Evans trio, then followed by Cannonball Adderley’s group.

The last drawing I post here is a drawing done about ten months earlier of Shostakovich, the great twentieth century Russian composer. You have to remember that this was at the height of the Cold War and a lot of people in the ignorant milleau I was growing up in were quite upset that I was drawing a Soviet composer. I pointed out that the composer had had a long and troubled relationship with the authorities, but this seem to fall on deaf ears.

I knew he’d already been in trouble with the authorities twice and had composed a symphony, number 13, in memory of Babi Yar, a site of war-time atrocities, that had premiered in 1962.  At the time, I was not able to get a copy of a recording of this thirteenth symphony, but I wanted to commemorate this composer who I felt was standing up to authority and composing what his heart demanded, so I drew this drawing, again, based on a photograph on an LP I had checked out from the local public library.

Erik ReeL drawing
Drawing of Shostakovich, the composer, by Erik ReeL at age 14, pencil on paper, 1966

I should point out that all three drawings above are quite small, only a few inches across, probably about the same size as what you see on your screen and are typical of what I was drawing at that time, which was sixth through the summer before ninth grade.

My primary tools were a black pencil, a pink pearl eraser, and paper, sometimes I used colored crayola crayon. I did most of my drawing during summer when I had more time to draw without the imposition of school.

#drawing, #Shostakovich, #MilesDavis, #JohnColtrane