The art of Jim Morton

Jim Morton is an American artist who came to live in Kyoto, Japan over 40 years ago in order to study za-zen and calligraphy, and has remained there ever since.

It is a well known fact that many of the progressive rock albums from the 60s and 70s have conceptual themes running through them, and their artwork tends to display the same kind of imagery. Quite often it is possible to guess who the artist is just by seeing the accompanying front cover artwork. Looking back, it seems that the cover design could almost be seen as the trademark label of the band or artist. (This was also apparent in the logos that were used by the artists and bands of that time.)

This was very much in the mind of Y. Andow, the record producer of Dave’s Stream album when he set out to find a suitable artist to produce the artwork of a similar kind.

At this time, Dave was living on the eastern side of the city at the foot of the slope which lead to the mountains up behind his home. (In fact mountains almost completely encircle Kyoto.)

Soon after moving there, Dave – who has always been a keen sportsman and sailor as well as a former high-jump champion – was soon frequently walking up the slope to the mountain base and climbing the remaining 700 steps to the summit as a daily exercise.

During those walks Dave would sometimes pass another European man, quietly greeting him with a courteous nod or wave. Eventually they started speaking and came to be on friendly terms with each other. The other man’s name is Jim Morton.

Not long after the producer had started his search, Dave phoned him to say that a friend of his, whom he often went walking with, was keen to prepare the artwork for this new album and had already made a few sketches.

At that time Dave hadn’t realised just how great a talent this friend had for the visual arts, but all the same the producer later decided to have a meeting with him.

Later, after Dave visited Jim’s home and saw some of his work lying around, he instantly realised that Jim would be exactly the right person to do the artwork for his Stream album, and therefore decided to play Jim some of the music from it (which at that time was still only in demo form). After that, Jim started working on the front-cover and soon had a rough impression to look at.

 

The record producer, Y. Andow recalls:

“Looking back to that first meeting, Jim arrived on his bicycle with a very large shoulder bag. Once inside the house he opened the bag and showed us what he had done so far.

I’ll never forget the moment when I looked at the picture for the first time. It showed an image of two women in water, one with an outstretched arm with a Buddha-like hand. The eyes seemed to stare right through me. But what amazed me most of all was the blending of Western and Eastern art in a way I had never seen before. This was extremely beautiful and individual work accomplished by using traditional Japanese brushes and paper, and it was exactly what I had been looking for.

I decided at once to ask Jim to complete the work for the Stream album, just altering a few details to fit our requirements.

Another time when I visited Jim’s house I was able to see him working on his calligraphy seated in the seiza position and wearing traditional Japanese working clothes. In this room, hanging from a roof beam, there was a very large selection of expensive looking fude brushes ranging in size from tiny to very large. Also there was a striking carved figure of a Buddha in the corner of the room completed by Jim many years ago. Looking at that carving I could better understand why he was able to produce such amazing work for the Stream cover. The accompanying “Dave Sinclair” lettering work had also been accomplished after years of practising with the fude brush, and again showed Jim’s originality as well as his skill.

Later, while having tea in another room, Jim pulled out an old European instrument from a case and started to play it. It was the lute.

So now I feel that just as the connections between Paul Whitehead and Genesis, Roger Dean and Yes, and Hipgnosis and Pink Floyd are legendary, the same feeling was shared about Jim Morton and Dave Sinclair.”

 

Jim was originally asked to also produce artwork for Dave’s planned En-Circle and Moon Over Man reissue albums. This is the first time that these artworks have been shown in public, exclusive to dave-sinclair.com

All three of Jim Morton’s artworks show his distinctive calligraphy, using the “Dave Sinclair” lettering set into a cloud form.

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