"I have done sketching all my life. In notebooks. on napkins, on rough paper, on cardboard plates and coffee pots. basically when there is something to look at. "
Dylan has decorated the covers of his albums Self Portrait and Planet Waves and Music of Big Pink by The Band, all in an expressionist style. "I did this portrait for the cover. I mean, there was no title for that album. I knew somebody who had some paints and a square canvas, and I did the cover up in about five minutes. And I said, 'Well, I'm gonna call this album Self Portrait" For the Bootleg series he drew Another Self portrait in pastel . Twelve of his imaginary pastel portraits are currently exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery under the title "FaceValue'
. A sketchbook of him is published 'Drawn blank' (1994) with pen and charcoal sketches made during three years during his concert tours "mainly to relax and refocus a restless mind. Mostly when I was on a train or in a café, just to make sense of what was in my immediate world. I found it relaxed me." Sometimes he also working with models. In the Biograph booklet one can see photographs of him drawing the view from a hotel window
For the exhibition he reworked these sketches. The drawings were digitally transferred to bigger sheets of paper. and he added bright colours of watercolour or gouache. These fauvist reworkings are not always good, but on the Trains Tracks (image above) it really works. The orange sky it a good addition to the black & white graphics. This drawing is a personal memory of his youth "I’d seen trains from my earliest childhood days. The sound of trains off in the distance more or less made me feel at home".
His portraits show strong shapes and strong contrasts as can be seen on the studio photograph below. During the recording of Oh Mercy he has made a charcoal portrait of his producer Daniel Lanois. He borrowed a sketch pad from a session musician, said: Daniel, do you mind if I sketch your picture? He made a charcoal portrait of him with his bandana and long Indian style hair
During an interview in his touring bus he is sketching the face of the journalist. (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-iFZbrzYb4 ). In the song Highlands, a 17- minute 'talking blues' song, he is describing a scene in a restaurant where he is making a portrait sketch of the waitress:
I'm in Boston town, in some restaurant. I got no idea what I want. Well, maybe I do but I'm just really not sure. Waitress comes over. Nobody in the place but me and her.
It must be a holiday, there's nobody around. She studies me closely as I sit down. She got a pretty face and long white shiny legs. She says, "What'll it be?"I say, "I don't know, you got any soft boiled eggs?".
She looks at me, Says "I'd bring you somebut we're out of 'm, you picked the wrong time to come "Then she says, "I know you're an artist, draw a picture of me! "I say, "I would if I could, but, I don't do sketches from memory."
"Well", she says, "I'm right here in front of you, or haven't you looked?". I say," all right, I know, but I don't have my drawing book! "She gives me a napkin, she says, "you can do it on that". I say, "yes I could but, I don't know where my pencil is at!
"She pulls one out from behind her ear. She says "all right now, go ahead, draw me, I'm standing right here "I make a few lines, and I show it for her to see. Well she takes a napkin and throws it back. And says "that don't look a thing like me!"I said, "Oh, kind miss, it most certainly does", She says, "you must be jokin.'" I say, "I wish I was!"