Happy Birthday To Folksinger Patty Larkin And Her Machine Gun Guitar
What’s this?? A birthday caricature without a clock?? I’m afraid so. That’s because the original B&W drawing was done more than 20 years ago, before I came up with the idea of “birthday clocks,” before I had Photoshop, before I had my first computer. I decided
to add some color to the B&W original to make it more engaging.
Our honoree: folksinger and guitar heroine Patty Larkin (b. June 19, 1951). Here’s the final:
A close-up detail image:
I first heard Patty Larkin on Life According To Four Bitchin’ Babes, a live album featuring Larkin and three other female singer-songwriters. Shortly thereafter, I saw her perform live at the Colonial Theatre in Keene, New Hampshire. I was enormously impressed, by her wit and rapid-fire guitar playing.
I decided to do a caricature. I gave her a guitar that was part automatic rifle, as if she’d just fired off a long burst and all the musical notes had caught in her hair. Here’s the B&W original:
I used to use a lot of solid blacks in my B&W work. I scanned the original caricature into Photoshop, and used the Pen tool to carefully select and delete the solid black areas from the automatic rifle, the clip, and the hole in the guitar. Then I added the color.
Here’s how the two versions compare:
Patty Larkin grew up in the American Midwest. She taught herself guitar and began writing songs in high school. She performed in coffeehouses during her college years in Oregon, then moved to Boston after graduation. She recorded her first album in 1985,
and has been recording and performing for over 25 years.
Like many folk performers, she’s never had a hit record, and enjoys a devoted cult following rather than popular acclaim. It’s not difficult to understand why: her lyrics can be cryptic, her playing complex. She does not write catchy melodies or “feel good” music. She’s an original, and that makes her an excellent role model for all artists: she works hard at her craft, is true to herself, and forges on come what may.
Here are some photos which span her long career:
I’ll end with this video for Traveling Alone, a song about the pleasure of driving solo through the beauty and grandeur of the American West. The guitar playing is restrained, but it’s a good example of Larkin’s playful nature and the quasi-mysticism of her lyrics.
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