If you’ve attended an audio show in southern California, you’ve probably been captivated by the paintings of Merryl Jaye, whose remarkable talent captures the soul of the performer on canvas in her jazz and music legends series. Personally, I have my eye on her painting of Miles Davis, but the Willie Nelson is a close second.
Merryl’s life has literally taken her around the world in pursuit of her painting and musical interests. While she began painting as a young teenager, she also studied and sang light opera, and as a performer, traveled to Vietnam with the USO to entertain the troops. After a successful career as a songwriter, recording artist, and performer on stage and television, she chose to follow her passion for painting. And, interestingly enough, now Merryl’s artwork travels around the world with paintings that have been on display in the Ukraine and Oman through the Art in Embassies program, a public-private partnership that promotes cultural diplomacy in more than 200 U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world.
Merryl, who makes her home in the San Fernando Valley, says her paintings of jazz celebrities began as a happy accident like so much of her life. “I feel so at home with jazz paintings,” she says. She also admits that some of her love for jazz comes from the influence of an old friend and jazz great, Dave Pell, whom she used to hang out with at the legendary Charlie O’s jazz club in Van Nuys. Since Dave performed for the club, they always had great seats for performances. It’s probably this experience that enables her to realistically capture the emotions of the performers to produce vibrant, lifelike paintings.
Merryl first established herself as an artist with paintings of cottages inspired by an earlier era. When, she saw the movie, The Color Purple, she was inspired to produce a series of paintings of African American women and children that became art prints that have been produced by several publishing companies.
She ventured into painting jazz with a series she called, Jazz Babies, the first of which was done as a concept for an album cover. These Jazz Babies became popular with the crowd at Charlie O’s, and Charlie Ottaviano, the club owner, asked her if she could paint jazz artists, so she decided to give it a try. “And, bingo, out comes these paintings that I had no idea I was capable of producing.” Jazz music is spontaneous, and Merryl instinctively loosened up her painting style to capture the style of the music. That change and her vibrant color palette have produced pure magic as all of the artists she paints seem to come to life in the portraits she paints.
If you are attending T.H.E. Show in Anaheim in September, take the time to see Merryl’s work in person. You can also see her work online at www.merryljaye.com. And, Merryl, I still have my eye on the Miles Davis portrait.