Suzanne Cerny

Jazz Sketches


In 1995 I moved from Tucson to Santa Barbara. My brother Brioni had just set up a new glass blowing studio. He had moved over from Hawaii where he had previously blown his glassware.

I rented a small apartment. There was a green down near the bay, where artists set up on the weekends to display their art.

I read in the local Independent News that a new jazz club was opening in Santa Barbara on Victoria Street. As I was always looking for good places to relax and draw, I headed over there. I had been sketching musicians in Mendocino, in the old Sea Gull cafe so I knew that I liked that type of venue to be free to draw in a small setting and listen to music.

The owner, Ridah Omri, liked what I showed him and he invited me to be his sketch artist in The Jazz Hall Club. Ridah was himself a trumpet player. He had a definite passion for music. I had the freedom to sketch whatever I felt, often harking back to techniques that I learned in art college. I began sketching the charcoal portraits of Jazz Musicians on 8x10 pastel paper which I held in my lap. The performers liked looking at the sketches as Ridah hung them on the walls, and they could look at them during their breaks. I stayed late until the music was over and asked the performers to sign my sketches,. A horn player wrote “I can hear it breathing”. The music helped me to bring the drawings, and later the paintings, to life.