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  • John Mavroudis

Bob Dylan Typographic Portrait

Updated: Jul 27


Bob Dylan "Wordsmith" detail from hand painted variant, by John Mavroudis

I've been creating Typographic Portraits for a while now... and I usually am working on a few at once. That way, if I get tired of one, I can switch off to another to liven things up again. I had just finished one of Brian Wilson (as yet, unpublished) and had made a list of candidates to turn my attention to. It's an exciting thought to create something that should do a good job of telling their story in one piece of art.


I made out my list (about 20 people) and was looking over the list when it hit me that Dylan had to be next. He had released Rough and Rowdy Ways to a lot of critical acclaim. We were in the middle of COVID, so touring had to wait... but, still... this was an artist whose work spanned decades with incredible quality.... so it seemed pretty obvious.


I started working on the project by compiling a list of songs I thought should go on there. I'm no Dylan expert, by any means... so I started watching YouTube videos... documentaries... and reading experts. There were a lot of people offering up their lists of great Dylan songs... so there was no shortage of material. I also started filling out the gaping hole in my record collection . I had a lot of Bob Dylan on CD... but I started buying vinyl. Blonde On Blonde (obviously), Freewheelin', Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61, Planet Waves, John Wesley Harding, New Morning... I'd go to record stores and see what gems I could find. I'd play them when I started sketching out how the portrait should look. It all got more intense when I FINALLY bought Blood on the Tracks.


I don't know why... but for some reason, I never listened to that album before. We ALL have holes in our musical catalog. (Yes. Even you. Do you own XTC's English Settlement, The Delgado's Hate, and Able Tasmans' Store In A Cool Place? I thought not.) The huge void in my musical catalog had to be The Zombies' Odessey and Oracle (fixed only five years ago... my god...what an album...) and Dylan's Blood On The Tracks. (yes. I'm sure there's a lot of other major holes... lol)


Blood On The Tracks fueled my journey through this piece of artwork. From the first note of Tangled Up in Blue to the last Bucket(s) of Rain I was mesmerized. This album solidified in my own mind what others had been preaching for years. It all made more sense to me now. (I know it's kind of funny that such an obvious thing happens so late in the game. I've been a music fiend my whole life... but there are some artists whose work I acknowledge as great, but have never really connected with. It's okay. That happens. I've never been into Jimi Hendrix, though I would readily admit his genius. Music touches different people in different ways. That's why records stores have so much variety.


I've recently started getting into jazz. (Listening to Miles Davis' Bitches Brew while on a long drive will do that to you. I had another "EUREKA!" moment.) When I started listening to Blue Note records / artists my friend Richard commented "Your wallet is fucked now!" He's right. Once that fever hits... lol. Bob Dylan is like that. He's Blue Note Top Shelf. The genius is evident, but it might take some people longer.


Back to the art: I worked on this for another month (off and on) and finally had something that I liked forming. It was at that time that I read a social media post from a work friend of mine. He was leaving the Bay Area to become director of the brand new Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, OK. I congratulated him on the awesome gig and went about my business. A month later it kind of hit me. Wait. (I'm slow like that... lol) I sent him a note telling him about my Dylan piece and asked him if they were interested. He replied enthusiastically... and said he'd get back to me. A little later I heard back that Dylan Center would like to buy 120 of the 200 prints to sell at their Center Shop!


I finished off the artwork... the redrew it in Adobe Freco so that I could create vector layers for a screen print. Eventually I made my way over to the Haight Street Art Center to print the piece. Turned out pretty well. I also had some black plates printed onto a wooden board and some on water color paper so that I could individually color the variant prints. (which I'm currently working on.)


All the while Dylan has stayed in regular rotation on my turntable... now a fixture for the rest of my life's playlist. I even saw him for the first time live last month (Fox Theater in Oakland, CA) on his Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour. Absolutely wonderful show.


I hope the art is worthy of his greatness.




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