Behind the Art: Ansonia Takes an Aria

I’ll always remember the first time I heard the song Chalk Outline by the Canadian hard rock group Three Days Grace.

My wife and I had just gotten involved in the contemporary hard rock scene, and I was building up my music collection.

Here’s the thing. I had just retired from from the Bay Area music scene where I had performed more than 150 live shows and put out four full-length CDs.

My last band was focused on roadhouse blues and roots rock, playing a combination of my original songs and covers. For that reason, I was mostly listening to older songs that I could play with that band.

So, when I started to listen to hard rock, it was an exciting breath of fresh air. Today’s bands feature great musicianship, excellent songs and powerful hooks.

And that is clearly the case with “Chalk Outline,” one of my favorites by Three Days Grace. The lyrics tell a great story of abandoned love.

At one point, the singer says “the dead can’t speak, and there’s nothing left to say anyway. All you left behind…is a chalk outline.”

The song came on Octane and I was blown away with the hook. As a former songwriter, the imagery really jumped out at me — that lost love made someone feel like a chalk outline.

I had already been thinking of a new painting that would feature a lot of space and a lone figure. Then I got the idea to just outline the central figure with creamy white paint and leave the bulk of the person open to interpretation.

I captured  the central lyric from the song’s chorus and painted that in. And to enhance the sense of isolation, I put a chair in the lower left of the painting.

To me that symbolizes the sense of separation. This has become one of my more popular images and I think it’s because people can see themselves in the painting.

After all, we have all had some sense of being left behind, by a lover, a friend, a colleague. And at times of personal changes, we can feel a certain detachment from ourselves, a sense of introspection that we are moving to a new phase of life, a journey that proves rewarding in the end but can make us feel suddenly alone and a little out of place.

To enhance that feeling, I decided to use a fairly limited color range. So, I focused on purples and blues, leaving out my custom reds, oranges and teals. Inside the character, there is a separation of blue and purple, suggesting a personal divide.

I believe the title “Asonia Takes An Aria,” gives the viewer a sense of a person reciting a soliloquy. It’s also a sly joke. St. Ansonia is the name of the band that the singer of Chalk Outline formed after leaving Three Days Grace.

So, to me, the painting also represents the feeling that musicians have when they leave one group and forge a new identity, something I was very familiar with after having broken up my former retro alternative rock band.

I think all my passion about music and the understanding of life’s changes comes through in this painting. Clearly the stark nature of the painting itself appeals to many art fans, which I think helps explain why this has become such a popular image.