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New Orleans' Collectible Music Festival Poster Art

Four artists sound off on how music influences their work.

Music festival season is here, and with it comes vibrant collectible art. Anticipation is high each year for posters from the French Quarter Fest and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The posters exist because of the festivals, but how key is music itself to their creators? We asked four notables to weigh in.

Tony Green

This year’s French Quarter Festival poster artist, who splits his time between New Orleans and Venice, Italy, may be the first artist to also perform at the fest; catch Green and his Gypsy Jazz band on the Rouses Stage (700 Royal St.) April 9 at noon.

“I’ve always considered myself to be a painter who plays music as opposed to a musician who paints,” said Green. “I feel that I have a deeper understanding of the musician’s hands, facial expressions and general aura of divine creativity that’s being shared with the audience. I try to inject a sense of rhythm into my compositions, while creating visual crescendos through the use of color dynamics.” 

Tony Green's 2017 French Quarter Festival (©FQFI)
New Orleans' second-line music culture informs much of artist/guitarist Green's work. (©FQFI)

Francis X. Pavy

Born on Mardi Gras Day in Lafayette, Louisiana, it’s little surprise Pavy’s vibrant paintings, including this year’s Jazzfest poster of The Meters, are infused with regional motifs.

“I’ve always had music as a muse,” said Pavy. “I think in pictures; generally there’s a narrative. That’s a foundation of my basic technique. It boils through; it shows. The Meters used to come to Lafayette and play back when I was in college. I was blown away. I pictured them as I remembered them from the early 1970s.”

Francis X. Pavy's 2017 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival poster (art4now.com)
Works by Pavy, who also created 1997's Jazzfest poster of the Neville Brothers, are counted among the collections of Paul Simon, BMG Music, Captiol Records and others.

Isabelle Jacopin

Sometimes it takes an outside eye to notice what’s hidden in the open. French native and 2016 French Quarter Festival artist Jacopin sees the street parade from a unique vantage point. 

“Music absolutely inspires me,” said Jacopin, “every aspect of New Orleans, too. For me, the brass band—the second line—is a big subject. In a brass band, the tuba is the heart, the life. You see things in the reflection of the tuba. You see the sky, the people. Sometimes I’m in the reflection. The instruments are very personal, so unique. Some shiny; some rusty.”

2016 French Quarter Festival poster (©FQFI)
As a French Quarter resident, Jacopin is surrounded by music, which is reflected in her paintings. (©FQFI)

James Michalopoulos

The signature swaying buildings in Michalopoulos’ paintings are immediately identifiable. He’s also created six Jazzfest posters over the years, from Dr. John to Aaron Neville.

“Music permeates the culture in New Orleans,” said Michalopoulos. “Whatever I’m doing, the beat isn’t far away. When I make a poster that’s concerned with an artist, I listen only to their music. I want it to marinate and influence the work. Part of the reason I’m in New Orleans is rhythm and movement. There is an effect by being surrounded with so much live music. The groove is what makes the buildings move.” 

Michalopoulos New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival posters
In addition to Dr. John, Louis Armstrong and Aaron Neville, Michalopoulos has also created Jazzfest posters of Mahalia Jackson, Fats Domino and Allen Toussaint. (art4now.com)