Live-painting artist Scramble Campbell lets the music move him
Scramble Campbell works on his piece, Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks.
Keith "Scramble" Campbell's studio moves around: sometimes it's at the Five Points Jazz Festival, sometimes at the Fox Theatre and other times it's at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. In fact, Campbell has painted at so many concerts that he has created a database-driven web site where you can look up one of his 2,255 paintings by venue or by the band that was playing while he was painting. For Campbell, summers are the busiest season as he sets out to paint at as many shows as possible, and this summer he's even busier, as he readies for the release of a new documentary, Scramble Vision, which showcases Campbells's lifestyle; his work will also be showcased at Red Rocks July 3-10.
Campbell took some time to talk to us about what music and art have in common, why he lives in Colorado and the best thing about seeing a show at Red Rocks.
How did you get started live painting at concerts?
Back in the late '80s and early '90s, I started painting with DJs, as part of the rave scene. So I would be at the night club showing my installations and then I would be on stage painting during the show. Then I started doing it with friends in bands, and eventually I started painting more and more for bands.
How do you pick who to paint for? Do bands call you, or do you call them?
I kind of make-up my own schedule. Now I am in partnerships and relationships with different bands and venues. I don't make a mess and I've been doing it a long time, and so the long term relationships developed out of trust and respect. I have a lot of freedom, though -- I largely just decide who I want to paint and when I want to paint them.
I saw that you were at a Snoop Dogg show, which seems different than the bands you usually paint -- are you a fan?
I'm a fan of Red Rocks, so I paint the different people who come into Red Rocks, like Snoop Dogg, and it creates some diversity. I've painted over 700 bands, so I've run the gamut -- from Colorado Symphony, to rock, to jam bands. Jam bands are who I've been painting since '93, so those are the people I've been painting with the longest, but I wouldn't say I only paint for one type of band.
What does your process look like?
When I come to do the painting I largely don't know where I'm going to be, so I make up my composition when I get there. Sometimes I focus in on the band, or sometimes I focus on the audience or the venue itself, but even if I am very familiar with the band itself, I make it different every time, just like they make it every time. I've painted String Cheese over 170 times, and they never play the same thing, so either will I. Ill be painting with them again this summer at Red Rocks.
Panic on the Rocks, Scramble Campbell
How does the music lend itself to your technique?
I let the music dictate the painting. If the band is playing fast and furious, then I put that energy in it. I make my whole body an instrument with which to do my art. I dance with my body, and then let that movement dictate the course of the painting. The band will make a left turn sometimes, and I'll just go with them.
I try to evoke some sort of emotion in my art, where you can teleport back to the show and you can feel what you felt that night. It does change from someone like Norah Jones, who is very mellow, and her paintings are tight and whimsical, to someone like Nine Inch Nails, which would be more aggressive, where I am throwing painting at the canvas and there is a splatter effect.
Why do you think music and art go so well together?
Music is similar in nature to art in that a lot of music is done in isolation and then put on display. That's the same as a lot of visual artists. I'm trying to see the process as layers, just like music, and that the act of doing the art is entertaining, as well.
June 2, 2001, Scramble Campbell
Are you a musician, as well?
No, I'm not a musician. But I have always loved going to concerts and this is a way to have audience participation. Concerts have all these participators, like the silk dancers and hula hoopers. Ive been doing this for 20 years, and it's something else that's going on in the show. A lot of the times, with the jam bands, they let you tape the show and share the music around, so I take that approach and share the painting.
Did you intentionally move to Morrison, to be by Red Rocks?
Yes, we tried to . We went around the country and there is no place that compares to that particular spot. I was a 30 year resident of Florida, but coming out here and finding that spot, it is such a great place and bands really put on their best performances because it is so special. I like living there because I can bring the art to the people instead of waiting for them to come to a gallery or a museum. I bring it where they might not expect it.
Get the Arts and Theater Newsletter
Weekly information keeping you in the know when it comes to the art and theater scene. Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events.