Local teens channel Jimi Hendrix on canvas

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

Nearly a dozen local teenagers rocked out to the music of rock and roll legend Jimi Hendrix, while attempting to copy one of his watercolor paintings at the Forest Park branch of the Clayton County Library System.

As Hendrix's "Foxy Lady," "Purple Haze," and "Hey Joe" played in the background on Tuesday evening, youngsters dipped their brushes in watercolor paints, and then dipped them in water. Then, they quickly drew lines across their paper with their brushes. As the watery paint touched the paper, it fanned out in various directions.

After a few colors had been added to the pictures, Youth Services Librarian Amanda Corbitt remarked that some of the youngsters' paintings began to take on a "psychedelic" look, as the burnt-orange mixed in with the yellow, and the brown, and the blue, and the aquamarine.

"I don't think Jimi would mind, though," Corbitt told the teens. "He'd probably say that's a very cool approach that you're taking."

Many people never knew Hendrix made watercolor paintings until recent years, Corbitt said, when they were discovered along with previously unreleased Hendrix songs. "They were found in the ‘vault' — the ‘Jimi Hendrix vault,' where ever that is," she said.

How many watercolor paintings were done is not publicly known, according to Corbitt. She said she saw five of his paintings during a show at a gallery in east Atlanta earlier this year. She said the paintings she saw were done by Hendrix when he was in school, years before his musical career took off. Those are the only paintings she knows of, but she added that she would not be surprised if there were many more.

"If he did five, you know he probably did more, because no one does just five paintings, and then quits," Corbitt said.

One of his paintings has made its way into circulation, however. Earlier this year, a compilation of previously unreleased songs Hendrix did in the late 1960s, was released under the title "Valleys of Neptune." Corbitt said the painting on the cover is one of those done by Hendrix.

The painting on the cover features a desolate valley, with some mountains in the distance, a few trees in the foreground, and a setting sun overhead. It was that painting that the teens were trying to recreate on their own.

"I like the easiness of his paintings," Corbitt said. "You can listen to his music and breathe. In the same way, you can look at his paintings and just breathe ... He was a visual person. You could tell that just by his outfits. If he wasn't a visual person, he wouldn't have worn such cool outfits."

Several of the teens said they enjoyed the experience of getting to work with watercolors. "It was really random, but awesome," said Stockbridge resident, Kristin Gray, 20, who came with her friends, Fayetteville youths Brooke Stanley, 15, and Tabitha Welsh, 19.

Still, the Jimi Hendrix factor played heavily in the decision for some of the youths to attend. Forest Park's Daniel Stewart, 18, said it was the deciding factor in why he wanted to participate in the class.

"I'm pretty interested in Jimi Hendrix's music, so I decided to give it a try," Stewart said. "I'd seen some watercolor paintings [by other artists] before, but I hadn't really been interested in it until this came along. This was pretty cool. I'll probably go online and check out some of his other watercolor paintinsgs."