SKETCH #4    SPRING 2017


In my thoughts on the four stages of the creative process this final stage is where most of the fun lies.

After artists (1) find a subject (2) use all their senses looking at or listening to all the possibilities, (3) edit to clarify the story, (4) they get to put their stamp on the creation and it becomes uniquely theirs. They can go wild and add dabs of color, twist a phrase or add a new note as long as it is in the artist voice. No one who came into a room and heard  Louis Armstrong or Frank Sinatra would have had to ask who it was. A Woody Allen or Coen Brother movie is pretty easy to spot. A Van Gogh painting shouts Van Gogh. A Mark Rothko painting is sublimely a Rothko.

This act of interpreting is when craft becomes art.

Artists don’t always set out to  insert their individual stamp on their creations. It is just that creating freely is generally allowed, usually encouraged and often liberating.  When you create for yourself you get to do anything you want. I enjoy  art most when I see what the artist wanted to say in his/her work.


I have been fortunate to be around artists at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café who remind me what interpreting sounds like. They remind me that it is OK to express myself. Every artist who shows up at the Dirty Dog comes with a style and an attitude that is his/her own. I usually leave the club inspired.

While I have been away in Provence I have been equally inspired by friends with creative souls.



While I am in France I will spend time with a friend of many years, Pascal Balay. Pascal has supported herself and successfully raised three children with her skill as a potter. Pascal is more than a potter, she is an artist. Her work is uniquely hers and each piece stands on its own as a work of art. Her spirit comes with the purchase of everthing she produces.

Pascal was trained in England so I can understand her when she talks about her art. She makes it clear that her art is always going to be her art. Even though the potter’s wheel goes round and round in exact circles it is her hands that will create a Pascal Balay piece. There will be no perfect circles nor repetitive color glazes. It will be easy to know whose hands did the work. For Pascal each pot, bowl, plate or platter will be a new adventure. She has a healthy respect for keeping art in her craft. I have spent some time rummaging around her workshop. She has any number of discarded pieces thrown into the bushes and along the studio wall. I would love to own most of her rejects. They are Pascal’s and they are unique and they are special.

Many artists like Pascal will probably never be wealthy. They will be satisfied with rich lives, lives that they define. The decision not to produce products but to follow your vision has benefits. Among the benefits are the  respect of other artists, users, listeners and viewers. Pascal Balay has always willingly shared her passion with students.

Watching her with eager young potters reminds me of Detroit’s master teachers working with up and coming jazz artists.


Jean Paul Versino is a very good friend of mine. I have learned to admire him for his respect for the people and land around him. He is easy to like even thought his surety can be intimidating. He grows grapes in probably the most honored wine region in the world, the designated appellation of Chateauneuf- du-Pape. The vineyards in Chateauneuf stay in the family generation to generation. The vines are mostly ancient and grow in the rocky terrain that has produced sugar rich wine grapes for thousands  of years. The restrictions on the production of the wines are severe and traditional methods of blending the grapes are highly regulated and enforced. The wines are almost guaranteed to sell and be liked.

John Paul agrees that this is all good. He adheres to all the traditions and rules. They help guide him as he makes extraordinary wine. John Paul’s hand is on the wheel of the tractor, pruning shears, tasting pipette and can be seen in the design of the wine itself. The wine is labeled Bois De Boursan for a forest near the domain.

John Paul is an artist. His art is making wine. His is a personal creative venture and he is assuredly in charge of the whole process. He has a lot of chances to screw up. His decisions will determine how the wine tastes when opened years from now.

I once asked John Paul who helped him taste the wine to keep him on the right track. John Paul laughed as he made it clear that it is his wine. Only he can taste when it is on the right track and he will end up with another great Bois De Boursan.

Being around highly skilled but wildly creative artists like Pascal, Jean Paul and the jazz musicians at the Dirty Dog I am able to detect a playful attitude, a freedom to express themselves that borders on bravery. They lack a fear of failure. They are very fortunate.

We are always very fortunate when we bring these creative people into our lives and get to see what is possible.

John Osler




Shahida will be the first of two of Detroit’s best interpreters of jazz USC. She will put her personal stamp on many standards along with seldom heard but should be heard tunes.

JUNE 9 – JUNE 10


This week the Dirty Dog has programmed two of Detroit’s finest jazz artist back to back. Alexander will follow Shahida with his one of a kind act. Alexander Zonjic will challenge his pals to keep up with this true Detroit icon.


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