This 24x36" watercolor of Kurt Cobain was painted with Cottman's paint.

24×36″ watercolor of the late Kurt Cobain

I was particularly inspired to paint this portrait of a modern music icon, Kurt Cobain. I was working in a record store when Nirvana started to break, and though the sound wasn’t to everyone’s taste, it was undeniably powerful and genuine.

1991 was a year of great transition in the music industry. I could see that the popularity of ‘hair metal‘ or ‘party metal‘ was waning, and that younger customers were quick to see through the over-used formulas being served up to them on MTV.

The entire grunge sound was especially exotic to me, since I was living in the southeast at the time. Seattle was as far as you could get from me (within the Continental US).  That may not seem like a big deal in the global village of today, but at the time kids weren’t able to communicate with people a few counties away without running up their parents’ phone bill.

The great thing about Nirvana (and the whole scene that they helped usher in) was that it was doing two things simultaneously:

  • It was completely different than anything people had heard before. It was a much more organic, even messy, approach to the art form that we all call rock-and-roll.
  • It was textbook rebellion,  at least from the outside. It appeared to be different for the sake of being different, just like so many iterations of the art form. Of course, that assessment was wrong, as it almost always is.

Kurt did not live an ideal life, but it might be said that he lived a true artist’s life: misunderstood, painful, full of poor decisions, and all too brief.

This work is my largest to date, at 24 x 36″. Painting at this scale was a challenge, but well worth it.