Whitacre

“Birth of Aviation” is among the works by musician-artist Brett Whitacre.

Before he started shaking up the music world as drummer for the Legendary Shack Shakers, Brett Whitacre was an artist.

"I've always been creating art, but in kind of a nonserious way. I messed around with different styles," said Whitacre, who joined the rockabilly-blues band in 2005.

"That was in the first summer after I really started to paint every day," he added in a phone interview. "I was still working a day job then and not able to put a ton of time in my painting."

Whitacre, whose band has had regular gigs at the Rock Island Brewing Company through the years, will display his paintings in a show titled "Maximum Wage," beginning Saturday at L&D 15 in downtown Davenport.

His success in the band, Whitacre said, kept a cycle going where he could provide for himself as an artist.

"Once I joined the band, and we'd go on tour for a month and a half, two months at a time, I'd come home with money and I could live off that and paint all day," he said. "Once it was time to go on tour again, I'd go on the road to places that could put up my art somewhere."

After moving to Chicago in 2001 — he has since moved to Sycamore, Ill., where his wife is an organic farmer — he abandoned canvas for found items, mostly glass, to paint on.

"I've always been kind of a salvager since I was young, and my mom would take me to garage sales. She'd look for junk and treasures and stuff," recalled the 38-year-old Belvidere, Ill., native.

"People throw out the craziest things in Chicago. Good stuff — I've never had to pay for a TV or a vacuum, because I can just fix things," he added.

His favorite pieces to paint on are windows, as he found when the neighborhood where he lives was undergoing gentrification and abandoning old windows.

"When you find one, you find 30. I immediately saw dollar signs. I'd paid for canvases for years, and for an artist with no money, that can be expensive," he said.

The works on display in Davenport, he said, show off his sense of humor and whimsy, although he keeps his repertoire eclectic.

"If you look at my body of work, my subject matter is all over the place just because I have so many interests," he said. "I don't understand how an artist gets locked into painting one thing. I see that in street artists; they just get one thing and that's all they do.

"As an artist, wouldn't that get really boring?"

Travel on the road with the band inspires him, he said.

"I'm really inspired by cities, architecture, lines and squares," he said. "More of the human effect on the world rather than nature. I like nature, it's calming, but I'm not inspired artistically by trees and grass and wood and all that stuff. You'll never see me do landscapes."

Whitacre is color blind, which he said provides a challenge in his painting.

"Anything with red and green in it is just mucked up. It's the wrong tint, the wrong shade," he said, adding that his wife inspects the paintings to see if his colors are used correctly.

The Shack Shakers, he said, will release the album "Southern Surreal" on Sept. 11. It's on Alternative Tentacles, an indie-punk label owned by Jello Biafra of the band Dead Kennedys.

"He's been really good to us for years," Whitacre said.

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