by Lynn S. Schwebach
Like most Tom Petty fans, I went into shock on October 2, when I heard of his sudden death. My painting of Tom Petty amidst wildflowers was hanging in a restaurant in Fort Collins, Colorado at the time, and at the particular moment I heard of his passing, I stood in front of it. I had brought my cousin who was visiting from Chicago to the restaurant to see this and my other paintings on display. As I was telling her how and why I painted this Tom Petty portrait, my phone started dinging with text messages from friends and family telling me the sad news. Both of us stood staring into those blue eyes, feeling the irony of looking at someone's picture as we heard the news of his death.
After recovering from this bizarre experience, and still feeling despair over losing someone whose music I listen to daily, I decided to create a few products using my images. Mugs, t-shirts and luggage tags are the result, and I am humbled that many have sold this year as fans want to keep the impact that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had on their lives front and center. I get personal notes of how Tom Petty affected lives, and how devastated my customers were to hear of his death. These notes especially mean a lot to me as I feel that fans of anyone they admire bond together in unique and "creative" ways.
Late last year, I heard Tom Petty's announcement that he and the Heartbreakers would tour for the band's 40th anniversary in 2017. I sat down around Christmas and painted an image of Tom Petty in black ink. I was stoked. He and the Heartbreakers would be performing at Red Rocks in late May, and that was a concert I didn't want to miss.
At the beginning of May, I found myself housebound and off my feet with a kidney stone, and so I started doodling to pass the time. I was worried I would miss the concert, so I did some positive imaging to get myself better. These doodles became another Tom Petty portrait— in this case using alcohol inks and the title of "You Belong Among the Wildflowers." I eagerly anticipated the concert over Memorial Day weekend, because I had last seen the Heartbreakers in 1980 during the "Damn the Torpedoes" tour. Many years later, I was an even bigger fan, because I loved Tom Petty's independence and funky, free-spirited attitude he maintained for 40 years. He was legendary in my book of creative greats. His piano player, Benmont Tench, is also one of my favorite musicians.
I made it to Red Rocks, and the concert went beyond what I could have imagined. It is the only time I ever sat in the front row for any concert, and it was well worth it. It is now seared into my mind's "greatest experiences ever" database. And then the news came in October of his death. But I still listen to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers every day in my studio, in my car, and as I cook dinner. He will always inspire me.
Thanks for reading my blog, and thanks for all your support in 2017. And thanks to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for 40 years of songs that inspire me every day and through every era of my life.
Check out Tom Petty prints and products available on my Etsy shop. For all Tom Petty fans out there, these are great remembrances of a rock hero whose music became the soundtrack to our lives.
Also to view the original Tom Petty Wildflowers painting custom matted and framed, visit Schwebach Arts.