The Story of a Portrait

If you have a CD or Vinyl copy of my 2020 album release, Wouldn’t You Love To Know, no doubt you will have noticed a somewhat sombre charcoal portrait of myself in the CD’s booklet or the LP’s sleeve. The artist, Roger Schmidt, is an owner of a guitar company called Stonebridge Guitars with a retail outlet of high-end acoustics in Kitchener, Ontario called Brickhouse Guitars. It’s one of the best guitar shops I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. I’ve been playing my Stonebridge (a.k.a. Furch) in concert for years and many of the songs I’ve recorded on the past several albums have also used that guitar.

Roger is a brilliant portrait artist as well. After hearing me tell a particular story in concert, he asked if I’d sit for a portrait which I did last January. Covid was not yet a concern for most of us and Australia was dominating the news with her calamitous wildfires. The combination of Australia’s devastations and various other social disturbances closer to home had me rather soul-disturbed at the time and I had trouble mustering a convincing smile. Roger felt that was ok… he had his own story to tell.

The song, “In Memoriam,” mentioned in Roger’s story below is included at the bottom of this page… as is the song I wrote (Long Shadows) upon return from my visit with him. And just for the fun of it, I’ve included a fingerstyle acoustic song, written by Roger, which I recorded for my Pilgrimage Album.

-Steve Bell

30×30″ Charcoal on wooden panel

FIGHTING FOR THE SONG
The story of a portrait by Roger Schmidt

I began to teach myself to play the guitar at the age of ten, and this lifelong passion ended up providing me with a career in the musical instrument business. I discovered the music of Steve Bell at the onset of his public career, and I have been a fan ever since.

Our personal friendship goes back about 14 years, as a result of a new guitar purchase he had come to make. The instrument that he had acquired happened to be from my company called Stonebridge Guitars. Needless to say I was honoured and delighted to learn of this news. We were able to meet shortly thereafter.

In December 2019, my wife and I attended Steve’s Christmas concert in Brantford Ontario. As always, it was a wonderful performance. For some time, I had been considering the idea of creating a portrait of Steve and had already mentioned this to him in conversation. The inspiration for the piece that has now been completed came to me that evening.  It was after hearing the introduction he gave before performing his newly written song about his dad.  

Steve told us the story of how he had laboured well into the night, crafting a song that was deeply personal and emotionally challenging. Shortly after putting down the final touches, to his horror, he realized that he had somehow accidentally deleted the entire text on his electronic tablet. It was all permanently lost! He related how he stayed up through the night and into the early hours of the morning, working to retrieve his words, “fighting for the song”. That phrase struck me and provided me with the basic narrative and theme I chose to develop. My completed portrait, however, of Steve Bell is not just based on this one event. It is dedicated to his life of devotion, his journey and growth as a songwriter and storyteller.

As I am both a musician and visual artist, I have learned that as a person continuously works at their craft, the deeper understandings and sharper skills that are acquired only bring on more complex battles. I know that this is a beautiful truth! Steve Bell is a person who spends a good amount of time in quiet and honest reflection. He knows that while his songs should be beautiful and poetic, they equally should have words that can make a positive difference in people’s lives.

The pose I selected for this portrait reflects a somber mood—perhaps uncharacteristic of how we visualize Steve. This year, 2020 has been hard for all nations. For many, there has been unbearable loss and suffering. The many formidable challenges facing the world at this time played a significant role in my selection. We both believe it is honest and real. More than ever, we all need to dig in and continue to “fight for our songs.”

Roger Schmidt
rogerschmidtfineart.com

Signed, 10×10 inch, gallery quality, giclée prints are available for $40 (CN) plus shipping and handling. To order, email: orders@signpostmucic.com or call 1-800-854-3499

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IN MEMORIAM
Alfred Clement Bell 1936-2019
Music and Lyrics by Steve Bell

Album: Wouldn’t You Love to Know

Fresh tendernesses burgeoned with the dying of my dad
I love him all the more for it
He lived his life for others’ gain, his death he gave away the same
And I love him all the more for it
This son was fiercely fashioned by his father’s dappled life
The way he loved his children and the way he loved his wife
My dad was hardly perfect, but I hardly give a rip
I loved him all the more for it
Not scandalized by brokenness, not scandalized by pain
But Dad could not abide the curse and hellishness of shame
He’d absorb another’s failures and return them as a gift
We loved him all the more for it

My father was a trumpeter, those days have long since passed
He passed along his passion to me, eager as I was
We’d sit for hours and listen to the Tijuana Brass
I loved him all the more for it
I tenderly remember when a beauty left me rent
I was too young to consider then that love is never spent
He told me pain would linger and would likely leave a dent
I loved him all the more for it

My dad was a believer, he believed that God is good
He was certain Jesus lived to show how everybody could
And that all our earthly sorrows couldn’t be the final writ
I loved him all the more for it
My father was a fortress for my two sisters and I
And more-so for our mom who suffered so much of her life
He taught us how to live and then he taught us how to die
We loved him all the more for it

Fresh tendernesses burgeoned with the dying of my dad
I love him all the more for it

LONG SHADOWS
Music and lyrics by Steve Bell
Album: Wouldn’t You Love To Know

One can tell
That the sun is setting on our fair-thee-well
When our civilization’s betting on its small men casting long shadows
We aspire
With a half a billion animals on fire
To surmount the consequences of desire behind the earth’s sorrows

Those who fall into the pit
Are, finally, the ones who dig it

It’s insane
That the nations rage, and peoples plot in vain
Against the Lord’s anointed saying let’s cast off these shackles
All the while
The one enthroned in heaven casts a smile
And terrifies the ones who know their ways are like the jackal

Those who fall into the pit
Are, finally, the ones who dig it

BORROWED SHOES
song by Roger Schmidt / performed by Steve Bell
Album: Pilgrimage (Steve Bell)

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