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MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2007
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One of Birmingham artist Ahmad Austin’s paintings in his “All Jazzed Up” collection on display at Carnegie Visual Arts Center.
Daily photos by Gary Lloyd
One of Birmingham artist Ahmad Austin’s paintings in his “All Jazzed Up” collection on display at Carnegie Visual Arts Center.

jazz.
Birmingham artist uses dad’s music influence at early age to convey poetic movement of musicians in his paintings, on display at Carnegie

By Danielle Komis
dkomis@decaturdaily.com · 340-2447

The sax croons. The trumpet walks. The piano seduces.

The wild red, yellow, blue and black brush strokes depicted in artist Ahmad Austin’s energetic jazz musician scenes bring to life his passion for jazz music.

The Birmingham artist’s exhibit of 35 jazz-themed paintings and mosaics entitled “All Jazzed Up” opened Friday at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center and will be on exhibition until March 3.

Many of Austin’s pieces are created using thick, acrylic paint on canvas, acrylic on paper or painted pieces of paper made into mosaics.

Birmingham artist Ahmad Austin says he uses a less realistic approach when painting jazz musicians. “I didn’t try to concentrate so much on the detail,” he said. “I sort of just let go.” His style of using scribble lines and a cake icing technique with a palette knife is unique.
Birmingham artist Ahmad Austin says he uses a less realistic approach when painting jazz musicians. “I didn’t try to concentrate so much on the detail,” he said. “I sort of just let go.” His style of using scribble lines and a cake icing technique with a palette knife is unique.
In Austin’s “Get Moving,” five jazz players play together; the sense of movement and energy conveyed through red, blue and black streaks on the white background.

“Do What you Like,” is a darker canvas piece with deep gold and blacks, but with the same sense of movement.

Austin, a 29-year-old elementary school art teacher who paints at his home studio and in his classroom during his free class period, attended the Alabama School of Fine Arts when he was 12 and went on to study art at Alabama A&M University. His works have been displayed across Alabama and as far away as Belfast, Northern Ireland.

He was first exposed to jazz music as a toddler. His father, a musician, often listened to it in the car and around the house.

The seed was planted then, but Austin didn’t rediscover the music until his college years when he, too, started listening to it in the car and around the house.

“I really just took it full force and began to appreciate it more,” he said. “I found myself doing the same thing my dad was doing. It was kind of ironic.”

‘Just let go’

Ahmad Austin, Birmingham artist and elementary school art teacher, was first exposed to jazz as a toddler. His father, a musician, often listened to it in the car and around the house. His collection “All Jazzed Up” is on display at Carnegie Visual Arts Center.
Ahmad Austin, Birmingham artist and elementary school art teacher, was first exposed to jazz as a toddler. His father, a musician, often listened to it in the car and around the house. His collection “All Jazzed Up” is on display at Carnegie Visual Arts Center.
With a history in landscapes and abstracts, he delved into painting jazz musicians with a new, less realistic approach.

“I didn’t try to concentrate so much on the detail,” he said. “I sort of just let go.”

The “letting go” approach seemed to work — his jazz paintings received a lot of positive feedback, so Austin stuck with it. While many artists have tackled jazz in an impressionistic style, or with a stylized approach, Austin said his style of using scribble lines and a cake icing technique with a palette knife is unique.

However, his young art students who see his work don’t always appreciate or understand his loose style of painting, he said.

In Ahmad Austin’s “Get Moving,” five jazz players play together; the sense of movement and energy conveyed through red, blue and black streaks on the white background.
In Ahmad Austin’s “Get Moving,” five jazz players play together; the sense of movement and energy conveyed through red, blue and black streaks on the white background.
“I get funny comments, like ‘Their head’s funny,’ ” he said. “Or, they want to know where the eyes or where the nose is ... I tell them it’s not about the eyes or nose, it’s about the movement and stuff.”

Children aren’t typically trained to think outside of the box, and it’s difficult to get them to loosen up and not always paint or draw exactly what they see, he said.

“In art there’s no right or wrong or certain areas. ... You have to explain to them that it’s OK for the grass to be purple,” he said.

When Austin comes to the Carnegie in mid-February, he will tour area schools and possibly hold a workshop with local children to share his talent and experiences with them.

Visitors of all ages who come to check out his work will hopefully leave feeling refreshed, he said.

“I want them to feel happy, excited, just like jazz music will make you feel,” he said. “A lot of people who bought my work say they feel happy when they look at it.

If you go

What: “All Jazzed Up,” art exhibit by Ahmad Austin

Where: Carnegie Visual Arts Center, 207 Church St. N.E., Decatur

When: Through March 3, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday

Admission: Free, though donations are accepted.

Call: 341-0562 for information.

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