Django Reinhardt – illustrating history

Django Reinhardt – illustrating history

A good biography can evoke images which inspire me to want to draw. This happened when I read Django The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend by Michael Dregni. It is a wonderful read.

Django Reinhardt is one of my favourite musicians and he also had an amazing life. At the age 12 he earned money playing banjo busking on the streets of Paris. At the age of 19 he badly burnt the fourth and fifth fingers of his left hand and Doctors believed that he would never play guitar again, but he managed to work out an alternative way to play and go on to become one of the world’s greatest jazz guitarists. He also lived and worked during Nazi occupied France which for a Romani Gypsy is a pretty risky career.

One image that stuck with me while reading the biography was the idea that Django lived in a Gypsy caravan when he played at some of the hippest jazz clubs in Paris. I imagined before his gigs he’d play some music just for himself.

My original artwork was created using felt tip pen and paper. My method was to first draw an image of Django playing his Selmer guitar without using his fourth and fifth fingers of his left hand. Then I referenced a Eugène Atget’s photo Caravans encamped in la Zone from this I drew the background (this camp was southeast of Paris and similar to one which Django grew up in). I also I listened lots of Django records on my record player which definitely helped get the right mood. On a separate night I scanned the pen drawing and coloured it in photoshop.

This artwork was truly a joy to create and I think that joy shows in the artwork.

It has also become my most popular design on my Red Bubble account and recently just for fun I submitted it into the Arts Rutherglen inaugural Wine Label Art Prize and was a finalist so now it’s a wine label.