Jimmi Accardi

"I think part of the soul of the artist gets stamped in the piece if the moment of creation is totally on, alive; and then, the one who is looking at the art vibrates with it."

Jimmi Accardi is an artist of many different moods and styles as well as art forms which include music, theater, film and works on paper. He has worked professionally in New York as a songwriter and recording artist, touring and performing with many other artists including Evan Lurie, Chubby Checker, The Monkees and the Kojacks.

He has recorded with Harry Nilsson, The Laughing Dogs, Rupert Holmes, Boogie Down Productions (KRS-1), E.J. Gold and many others. His soundtracks have been featured in such motion pictures as The Complete Beatles and The Loveless, starring Willem Dafoe. His music ranges from simple melody to experimental jazz, and with more than thirty albums to date he continues to produce what he calls “sound art”. His dedicated approach to art for its own sake has brought him from New York to California to work with the Grass Valley Graphics Group.

Accardi is very prolific and his large collection of works on paper include charcoal, pastel, watercolor, pen and ink, and mixed media. He has incorporated some of his images into music video productions, and his use of specifically combined images and sounds produces unusual and powerful moods.

In his own words, “Art is the magical language through which higher and lower dimensions can communicate.”

From an interview with Jimmi Accardi:

“I started playing music and doing art around the same time, when I was really young. I was doing drawings before I started playing music, but I consider music something I’ve done forever.

Whatever I learned in music I applied to art, and whatever I learned in art I applied to music. They’re different ways of communicating, different languages. But it’s more fun for me to do the artwork at this point, because in art I never focus on the rules, so I’m just breaking them—not that there are rules, but there are conventional ways of doing things.

You’re chiseling away everything but what you want left in. The same approach is used in songwriting. Or writing a book, or anything. All these ideas come, and out of all the ideas you choose which ones to accept and which ones to reject.

I always try to get something down on paper before my mind tries to think it out or go any certain way. I learned that from E.J. Gold. Just essence on paper. Then you can bring in details, a dash of color, whatever you feel is necessary to the piece.

In the late 60s everybody used to hang out. Everybody had congas and bongos, man, and we played until everybody was just gone. After a while, something would take over. You stop trying to do it, and it’s not that you’re doing it or it’s doing you. There are not two things any more. It’s just happening and you let it. You are directly plugged in. When you get out of the way, there is no cause and effect. It could just as well be that the music was getting us to play it.

When I’m doing my best work is when I’m sitting right at the edge. The mind is only there enough to keep me afloat above the water so I don’t drown, or allow myself to throw paint all over the house, just because it would be a groovy thing to do.

Art and music are my disciplines. Art is what I do to produce changes in myself. That’s not the only reason I do art, but I use it that way too. It’s a feedback mechanism. I try to get the music and the art to do certain things. The effort of getting them to do what I want them to do forces me to change.

It’s like when you play Zelda (a Nintendo game). That’s a discipline, because playing it over and over again forces a change in you, in order to get to the next step, and then to the next. So from the point of view of an artist, to get better and better, you put yourself in situations where you are forced to change.

If the arts were used more alchemically, art would produce real changes—changes in the Being of the individual, and the art would reflect those changes. The art is what’s left over. That’s what you see of the change. If I wasn’t using art and music, there would be no way to see the changes. You can’t see the changes directly. The art is the feedback.

I think part of the soul of the artist gets stamped in the piece if the moment of creation is totally on, alive; and then, the one who is looking at the art vibrates with it.

It’s aliveness that makes a good piece. If your attention isn’t on, there can’t be much aliveness.

Most artists that I know consider their sketches to be their best work. I think the finished painting would be more an effort to communicate, to talk the language of the art observer. That’s definitely the case with music. The demo that you do with your band in the basement—you can never recreate that when you bring it to a professional recording studio. When the producer hears that crummy-sounding demo you did in your basement, he says, ‘Oh, there’s magic on this tape.”

I’ve heard this a million times. ‘There’s magic.’ That’s the word they use in the music business. Then you go in the studio and pay $150 an hour, and there’s no magic coming out. The producer keeps putting on the basement tape and saying, ‘There’s something on that tape! Why aren’t we getting it?“ And you’re coping all the parts; every single beat, every single bass note is the same, all the inflections in the singing. But nothing’s there. Then you put the cheap demo back on, with all its noise and static, but the truth is on there too. That’s what the magic is: the truth. And it’s in the demo, the sketch.

That’s the stuff that’s forever, that’s real. I don’t mean the paper that you leave with art on it; I mean the moment where the creation is happening. What’s happening to you as a result of that is something real. But only if you’re alive while it’s happening. I don’t mean you’re drawing something so you can sell it to make some money. I don’t mean that at all, in music or any other thing we would call art. Art has nothing to do with money. I’ve made money in the music business, but that wasn’t art. I made an effort to put things in a language that was universally understandable, so I could sell it. There’s no magic in that. I thought that was how you had to do it.

You only have to talk the universal language if you want to get to the masses. And if you don’t care about that, you’re free. Trying to communicate with the masses limits you. The masses never understand anyway. It’s always the minority that really get the communication. So why not just go to them, find them and be more truthful in what you’re doing?

It requires a lot of attention to get a good piece. A good piece is where there are hardly any breaks of attention. A piece that doesn’t have a lot of attention in it looks unprofessional in the sense that the artist hasn’t put heart and soul into it. That’s why I like simple pieces, because my attention is down the tubes after about three lines. A face, an eye, slap some color on there, and all of a sudden my mind’s trying to shape it into something.

When I’m doing pieces, I spread them all over the floor. A lot of times I’ll do half or three quarters of a piece and put it on the floor and go to another one, and do a whole mess of them like that. I do it to the point where the brain starts to think, ‘”his could go this way,“ and I just stop. I wait until there are maybe fifteen of them on the floor, and look at them. I put down the least amount to suggest what I want to come out.

If you could do a piece in a minute without any breaks in attention, it would be incredible The essence of each of my pieces is done within the first two and a half seconds, without exaggeration. And the essence is on the page; the color, if there is any color; the definition; the most important thing is there.

I don’t wait to get into a certain frame of mind. I just start doing it, drawing anything, and it takes a while. It will get me there. I get myself into the posture of an artist. After a while, it takes over; just like with music. I feel guilty putting my name on my best pieces, because I didn’t have anything to do with them. All I did was get out of the way one hundred percent.

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