Q&A with Massachusetts-based portrait artists Paul & Katie Lowe, their creations feature favorite Blues and Rock artists

"Music and Art are visual and audio forms of expression that can have a great impact on the racial, human rights, and socio-culture implications which can motivate people to come together for the common good and send a message that is time for a change for equal rights, whether it be fund raisers, or petitions for new bills of legislature. There is only one race the human race."

Paul & Katie Lowe: Music Lifts The Art

Paul and Katie Lowe are portrait artists living and working in Central Massachusetts. Their creations feature “the things we love most, friends and family, figures from the Boston sports scene, our big passion, music, particularly our favorite Blues and Rock artists.” Katie says: “I was always involved with creative work, in paper mache, clay and drawing. As a student I began in pastels, with still life and soon learned that I loved it and had talent. Often, I would stay awake late in my room, drawing and listening to music. I received encouragement from friends and loved the energy. In high school I experimented with other art forms, pottery, photography, and portraits, winning some awards for photos and calligraphy. Independent study continued into college, along with drawing and design courses and as a hobby after college. I worked for a screen printer doing paste up and learned how to do tie-die T-Shirts. When I met Paul, we began building portfolio and painting together as a team, sharing opinions on color, detail, perspective and proportion. It is great having a second set of eyes sharing the same interest.  The feedback I get from people is precious and satisfaction seeing my work in their home is a wonderful feeling. Nothing is a better high.”

(Photos: Paul & Katie Lowe / Albert King's portrait)

Paul says: "I became extremely involved in art as early as pre-school. As far back as I can remember I’ve been doing some form of portraiture. Later, I began exploring different types of media— charcoal, acrylics, conte crayons, pastels, oil paints, watercolors, and radiograph pens. Although I made mistakes along the line, I consider those years my experimentation years. I believe that I developed as an artist and I gained respect from my peers, and my art teachers. I was obsessed with realism even if my work was surrealism. I began to explore different artist’s styles from the Renaissance Period, and the style of pointillism, and several illustrators that worked with oils, radiograph pens, and airbrush. I studied contemporary painting, print making, illustration, and surrealistic painting at the Worcester Art Museum for two years, and enrolled in air brush courses at the New England School of Art & Design. Today, along with my artist wife Katie, I concentrate on portraiture for friends and family. This provides most of our commissions, along with our ongoing Bloozart collection. Over the years our artwork has been used for T-shirt reproduction, and concert promotion. We have done artwork for several Blues legends, and athletes." 

Interview by Michael Limnios                   Artworks © by Paul & Katie Lowe

How has the Blues and Rock Music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Paul: Luckily, I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s during this time there were a lot of great musicians, and bands that made a lot of great music and most of them were out of their minds. There was so much about the music and lifestyle that I was attracted to even before I was a teenager. The song writers painted a picture of the times with words. I became a free spirit and engaged in the lifestyle and the music influenced me to take a rebel stance on certain things.

Katie: I’ve had a deep connection to music since I was very young. Music and art go hand in hand. I listened very carefully to the lyrics which described what was happening in the world in the late 60’s and 70’s. I was able to process the information and form my own views, and it gave me an awareness about many different things. What ever happened to peace and love? The music I listened to was more than the songs. It was about the attitude, fashion and lifestyle.

How does music affect your mood and inspiration? What is the hardest part of making a musician portrait?

Paul: Music lifts my spirits and improves my mood and attitude and sparks my creativity whether it is writing poetry, song lyrics, or drawing and painting. I’ve told many people painting portraits is like an acid trip. First there is anxiety while I’m looking at a blank canvas or when something is a little off with my sketch on the canvas. I work through my struggles the likeness improves, and everything is free flowing. It is a spiritual experience. I believe God is working through me because I get in a zone. The music, color experimentation, and the painting become one without much thinking. It happens quickly and comes naturally. When I finish my paintings it is the first high. When people see it and like it that is the second high, and when I sell it that is the third high. I don’t know any drugs that give you 3 highs in one experience. It’s a lot easier now to paint guitar strings than it was in my younger days because my hands don’t shake anymore.

Katie: When I’m listening to music my mind is in a creative space that takes my blues away. I experience serenity and peace. I find the most difficult part of painting a portrait is to capture the sparkle in the eyes which shows expressive emotion. When you get it, it is a little creepy because the eyes follow you around the room.

"I think Music and Art have played a significant role in changes in the world since the beginning of time. With all the social media in this generation I think music and art are being exposed to more people than ever to bring a world-wide awareness of the negative impacts of racism, social injustice, and the need of equal rights for different, genders, races and cultures." (Photos: Paul & Katie Lowe with Dr. John / John Hammond Jr portrait)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? Are there any memories that you would like to share with us?

Paul: There are so many I could mention. Someday I may write a book in the future about all the onstage painting presentations, and backstage stories, jokes and friendships that Katie and I have developed with many musicians. I’d like to mention my painting presentation to Dr. John.  This happened 8 days before he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His longtime drummer Herman Ernest died earlier in the day. He loved the painting, along with all the fans. He invited us back stage after the show. Katie and I, and our photographer James Peters met with him after the show. He sat down and played some songs back stage on and old piano to unwind after the show. It was catered. He was so hip and he spoke his own language of slang. He was wearing a brim fedora, a suit, a tusk necklace and beads, snakeskin boots and a really cool cane with different things hanging off of it. I shared that I am also in recovery and he liked that, and he shared his gratitude for his sobriety. He told stories about how he developed the Night Tripper image. He said he may want a painting from a photo taken during the making of Triumvirate album with Michael Bloomfield and John Hammond Jr. We took photographs and he signed a print of my painting.

Katie: I would like to share a few memorable experiences. The first one was when I presented a painting to Mud Morganfield on stage to a sold-out show at CHANS in Woonsocket RI. He was so excited when he saw the painting, he asked the crowd to give me a second standing ovation. Another great memory happened on May 12, 2016 the same day Peter Wolf was given the key to the city by the Mayor of Boston. The Governor of Boston declared it Peter Wolf Day. He was featured on a television program that same day. I presented a painting to Peter Wolf at the sold-out Somerville Theater. He was so excited he asked me to have photographs with him holding the painting after the show. This was arranged by his bass player Marty Ballou who I happened to do artwork for him several years later.

What do you miss nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of music?

Paul: My favorite music is the Blues and Rock and Roll. It is sad because the Blues musicians are masters of their instruments and they play and sing with feeling. I feel it is becoming a lost art with other genres of music. They are not getting as much wide stream airplay as it had in the past, and they are not being double billed with the Rock acts which is how I discovered the Blues when I was young. Today the whole world is suffering from the CO-VID pandemic and my fear is that many venues may close.  We have joined a lot of blues fans by making donations to help the musicians, and keep the blues alive. I think it will bounce back because almost everyone is dying to see live music again. The Blues is the root of all music. My friend Pinetop Perkins used to say ”If you don’t like the Blues you have a hole in your soul.”

Katie: I think in the past the popular music was more about the music and creativity and a lot of the popular music today is more about the image and special effects. The competition was stronger in the past, and today anyone can put an album out whether they have talent or not. My hope is that the Blues musicians get more recognition, compensation, and airplay. My fears is the loss of live shows because of the pandemic. Hopefully times will get better in the future, and things will get back to how it was before the pandemic.

"Music lifts my spirits and improves my mood and attitude and sparks my creativity whether it is writing poetry, song lyrics, or drawing and painting. I’ve told many people painting portraits is like an acid trip. First there is anxiety while I’m looking at a blank canvas or when something is a little off with my sketch on the canvas. I work through my struggles the likeness improves, and everything is free flowing. It is a spiritual experience." (Photos: Paul & Katie Lowe / Son House portrait)

What would you say that characterizes Massachusetts Blues scene in comparison to other local US scene?

Paul: The Massachusetts Blues scene has great venues that book national acts. Many of the famous Blues Musicians have identified CHANS in Woonsocket RI. as their favorite venue to perform. This is also my favorite venue. The owner John Chan is a great artist that promotes our artwork. New England is rich with Blues Legends including : Ronnie Earl, Sugar Ray Norcia, Troy Gonyea, Anthony Geraci, Duke Robillard, The J. Geils Band and the young guitar virtuoso  Tyler Morris to name a few. There are plenty of Blues societies and Blues Festivals. The fans take the blues serious in New England. It does take a back seat to Chicago, New Orleans, and Texas.

What does it feel like to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says?

Katie: I relate more to his song “I Feel Good.” I don’t feel like it is a Man’s world. I feel equal, but I’m not saying I don’t feel like I have something to prove this gives me the drive to create.

What would you like to ask Buddy Guy & Junior Wells? What touched you from Lynyrd Skynyrd music?

Paul: I met Buddy gut a few times and he was cool. He answered questions and told some stories and joked with us. I presented a painting to him at Legends in Chicago on his 63rd birthday. He really liked the painting. This is a great memory. I never met Junior Wells although I saw him play a bunch of times. I did some artwork of Junior but I was not able to get it to him because he got sick and died shortly after. I would ask him if we could trade hats and if he could show me a few riffs on harmonica. I’m a big Lynyrd Skynyrd fan. I loved the song writing of Ronnie Van Zant and I could visualize the stories in the songs. Great musicians. I did a painting once for Artimus Pyle he was real cool. He told us a few wild stories and he gave me some autographed drumsticks.

"My favorite music is the Blues and Rock and Roll. It is sad because the Blues musicians are masters of their instruments and they play and sing with feeling. I feel it is becoming a lost art with other genres of music. They are not getting as much wide stream airplay as it had in the past, and they are not being double billed with the Rock acts which is how I discovered the Blues when I was young." (Photo: Paul & Katie Lowe with Artimus Pyle and Lynyrd Skynyrd's artwork)

What would you ask Johnny Winter & Muddy Waters? What touched you from the Beatles Music?

Katie: I would ask Johnny Winter “Were you intimidated as a young white man playing with older black musicians and how did it feel to be accepted by your idols?” I would ask Muddy Waters “How were you able to rise above racism and hard times?” ‘How did it make you feel to be the major influence on the British Blues Invasion?” I loved the Beatles free spirit, song writing, and experimentation with instruments and other sounds with their genius producer George Martin to develop a whole new sound of music. I liked the messages that you could hear by playing records backwards.

What is the impact of music and art on the racial, human rights and socio-cultural implications?

Paul: Music and Art are visual and audio forms of expression that can have a great impact on the racial, human rights, and socio-culture implications which can motivate people to come together for the common good and send a message that is time for a change for equal rights, whether it be fund raisers, or petitions for new bills of legislature. There is only one race the human race.

Katie: I think Music and Art have played a significant role in changes in the world since the beginning of time. With all the social media in this generation I think music and art are being exposed to more people than ever to bring a world-wide awareness of the negative impacts of racism, social injustice, and the need of equal rights for different, genders, races and cultures.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Paul: I would like to go back in time and wear my tye dye attire and be in the front row with my wife, and several friends for the first Woodstock Music Festival and watch Jimi Hendrix, Ten Years After, Mountain, Santana, The Who, and Johnny and Edgar Winter. I would soak up the whole psychedelic experience. It would be an unbelievable experience. I would definitely stay all 3 days.

Katie: I would like to be at the Monterey Pop Festival and watch Pete Townsend smash his guitar and watch Jimi Hendrix light his guitar on fire after both band play incredible sets. It was such a great lineup of bands. Times were simpler back then. I would have fit in well with that whole scene.

Loves Art Works - Home

Jimi Hendrix, Bo Diddley, Howlin Wolf & Muddy Waters / Artwork © by Paul & Katie Lowe

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