Category: The Masters' Gallery

Drawn Blank: The Early Paintings of Bob Dylan

Photo by Chris Hakkens


“That which he’s done for years on the stage – performing new versions of his old songs in order to give a fresh interpretation – he’s now continuing on deckle-edged paper.” –Tobias Rüther, Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper


Legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan considers himself a poet before a musician. Whether it’s political poetry of sound or beautiful ballads of paint, Dylan is expressive, honest, and real with his creative endeavors. While traveling the world on tour between 1989 and 1992, Bob Dylan made his first venture into the world of visual art. He made drawings that capture the world around him, recording his observations with emotional and eloquent marks. The creation of these portraits, interiors, landscapes, still lifes, nudes and street scenes were done to “relax and refocus a restless mind.” Dylan later published this collection of early drawings in 1994 as a book titled Drawn Blank.

Bob Dylan, Statue of Liberty, Giclee on Paper, 28 x 22 inches


Ingrid Mössinger – the curator of the Kunstsammlungen Museum, in Chemnitz, Germany – came across Drawn Blank during a visit to New York in 2006. Instantly excited about Dylan’s work, she contacted the artist’s team. Throughout his career, Bob Dylan became known as a notoriously private person. The Rolling Stone Magazine described him as “the most secretive and elusive person in the entire rock and roll substructure.” Mössinger was thrilled to learn that Bob Dylan agreed to have his art exhibited in public for the very first time.


“I was fascinated to learn of Ingrid’s interest in my work, and it gave me the impetus to realize the vision I had for these drawings many years ago.”
-Bob Dylan


Dylan explained that his original intention after first creating the early tour drawings was to use them as studies, and to later create more developed paintings based on the drawings. Ingrid Mössinger’s proposed exhibition was a catalyst, and encouraged him to revisit the early images using watercolour and gouache as a new medium. These paintings formed a collection entitled The Drawn Blank Series, and propelled Dylan forward into the world of fine art.

Bob Dylan, Woman in Red Lion Pub, Giclee on Paper, 36 x 28 inches


These paintings push the expressive line work of Dylan’s drawn studies several steps further, creating more passionate and vibrant images. Dylan painted several versions of the same subject, using different colors and tones for each depiction. His decision to render one image several times with varying palettes resulted in a dynamic breadth of impressionistic, emotional pieces. This collection of multiples allowed Dylan to express his many different and changing feelings about an idea, ultimately creating an evolving series of artworks.


Bob Dylan performing in Hard Rain- his first television special.


This technique of creating and recreating is intrinsic to Dylan in all aspects of his artistic life. Tobias Rüther, of Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper and who credited Bob Dylan with successfully translating his songs into art, once commented: “That which he’s done for years on the stage – performing new versions of his old songs in order to give a fresh interpretation – he’s now continuing on deckle-edged paper.”


Works from Bob Dylan’s The Drawn Blank Series are available to view and purchase at Merritt Gallery and Renaissance Fine Arts.