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Song sketches: Artist Kenneth Marunowski to exhibit pieces born from nights sketching bands at Fitger’s Brewhouse

Artist Kenneth Marunowski sketched The Boomchucks during a performance at Fitger’s Brewhouse and later turned it into an oil painting that will be part of his exhibit “The Brewhouse Drawings.” (Photo from kennethmarunowski.com)

There were nights when Kenneth Marunowski left Fitger’s Brewhouse with 17 new drawings in his sketchbook — one for each song performed by Charlie Parr or whatever musical act was on stage that night.

“Basically, I love live music, I love drawing and I love good beer,” the visual artist said. “Fitger’s Brewhouse provides the possibility for all those things to come together.”

Marunowski’s exhibit “The Brewhouse Drawings” will feature larger pieces born from the artist’s sketches and will be available for viewing through April 30 at Beaner’s Central. The opening reception is 6-8 p.m. today and will include music by some of the musicians Marunowski has drawn: Alan Sparhawk, The Boomchucks and Gossamer Road.  

Marunowski started making small sketches of Parr, who has had a standing gig on Wednesday nights at the Brewhouse. When Low played a seven-week stand in January and February at the venue, the Black Eyed Snakes fan checked it out — sketchbook in hand. (Though, sometimes the crowds made for close quarters and he had to sketch down at his knees, he said).

Back at home, Marunowski would use the sketches as a point of reference for larger works of art.

Brad Nelson and his band, The Boomchucks, got Marunowski’s treatment this past winter. The drummer knew the artist was at work during the band’s mid-week set, but it did not cause any distraction.  

“He’s just sort of sitting over there quietly doing his thing,” Nelson said. “You can’t see what he’s doing. It would almost be difficult to focus on him.”

Nelson said he hasn’t seen the final version of Marunowski’s portrait, but he trusts the artist based on his other work.

“I think he really captured the essence of Charlie Parr,” Nelson said. “It’s almost a stained-glass aura to it. I’m anxious to see what he did with us.”  

Over time, Marunowski said, the sketches began to change.

“I went from a fairly literal depiction of the band members to more of the feeling the music gives me,” Marunowski said. “I entered into a great deal more abstraction.”

Marunowski, a professor in the writing studies program at the University of Minnesota Duluth, said he started out as a representational artist who needed to see what he was working with. This changed as the project went on.

“I relied on my memory of the event,” he said. “Once I became familiar with the people, I relied on my memory of them to guide my drawing.”

Marunowski said he attracted the attention of music fans.

“People are always curious when they see me with a sketch book,” he said. “I get a variety of reactions, mostly favorable. Duluth is a really great town in terms of its art scene. It’s really receptive to artists, generally.”

Sometimes he would be offered money in exchange for a drawing, he said. But he never sold a piece. They were part of his research for the final piece.

Marunowski’s show will include large pastel images and oil paintings. He also will have his drawings on display. 

Go see it

What: Opening reception for “The Brewhouse Drawings” by Kenneth Marunowski

When: 6-8 p.m. today

Where: Beaner’s Central, 324 N. Central Ave.

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