It would be a challenge to find an artist let alone a painter that is as prolific as Denver performance artist Keith “Scramble” Campbell. The self taught artist is regularly found at music events creating an original painting comprising all of the elements offered up by the concert experience. The band, music, audience and surroundings are all represented in a rainbow of flowing acrylics and canvas. Campbell brings the art to the people using the live experience and music as his pallet exploding into a flurry of color and motion, dancing to the music while completing an entire painting within the time frame of the show.
For over 20 years Campbell has been attending events, painting over 700 different bands and creating over 2200 unique artworks. It was at one of these concerts that Campbell’s performance art came to the attention of documentary film maker Eric Peter Abramson. “I first saw him paint at a festival Leftover Salmon put on in Lyons around 1997 and was instantly hooked on his energy, attitude and artistic output. In my work with bands, festivals and live concert shoots, we would cross paths over the years,” said Abramson.
Seeking positive and fun subject matter for a documentary film Abramson reached out to Campbell to pitch a new project. “Out of the blue he called me and asked if I wanted to be the subject of a documentary telling a little bit about my story,” said Campbell. Soon after the pair began working on the documentary “Scramble Vision.”
Over two years in the making, Abramson followed Campbell to many different events, shooting hours of footage and securing interviews and appearances from many different artists including Jeff Austin, Ben Kaufmann, Bill Kreutzmann, John Popper, Little Feat, Leftover Salmon and String Cheese Incident.
The timing was right for the artistic matchup between the director/camera and the subject/artist with the pair working from mutual respect of the others art. “Scramble is not only a generous and amazing artist in his own right, he is also a great student of documentary film. It’s been very gratifying to have a subject that appreciates and respects my art form as well as his own,” said Abramson.
The last major documentary Abramson worked on won an academy award. “From 2007-2009, I had been working as a cameraman with OPS on a project called “The Cove”. After another hard subject documentary explains Abramson, “I returned home and realized I needed to change gears and make something happy and inspiring.”
Campbell’s performance art grew out of the clubs of the Orlando Florida area painting to the music of DJ’s at raves with bright neon paints under black light. “I was doing this cartoon surrealism stuff and really not getting accepted in group shows.” Campbell’s first big break came in 1991 being accepted as a participating artist in the first year of the music festival Lollapalooza. The first year was 12 cities with 12 artists and the idea of bringing the art to the people solidified with Campbell’s vision and direction.
When the Jam Band scene began to develop in the 90s Campbell found a new focus for his performance art. After completing a commissioned piece for Wide Spread Panic’s drummer Todd Nance, the band invited Campbell to paint one of their shows at Red Rocks. That was June of 2000.
Now Campbell is as much at home painting the symphony as he is at Red Rocks. In his off time he works with children demonstrating the performance art process and then setting the young artists loose on their own mural or canvas.
Denver area residents can view Campbell’s paintings in a newly installed show at the Highlands Pacific Restaurant featuring paintings from this year’s Jazz Fest in New Orleans and at the Red Rocks visitor center theater room in from July 3-10.
The “Scramble Vision” world premiere is at Mountain Film in Telluride this Friday, May 25. “The film explores larger themes of creative spirit, presence, improvisation, audience participation, live performance and most importantly: not just witnessing art happening but making art yourself!” explains the movie Facebook page. Denver and Boulder area viewings will be announced in the near future. For more information visit www.scramblevisionmovie.com and www.scramblecampbell.com.