Danette Dooley
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Musician Larry Foley keeps the creative juices flowing with paint and brush

The first room on the right as you enter Larry Foley's home looks more like an artist's studio than a living room.

A piano, a mandolin, seven guitars and several other stringed instruments are resting against walls or propped near furniture.

For Larry Foley, painting is a natural extension of playing and writing music; they come from a part of the brain that needs to get stretched from time to time. And it can cross over, too. Foley did the cover painting for the Punters' Christmas album, "Be

The first room on the right as you enter Larry Foley's home looks more like an artist's studio than a living room.

A piano, a mandolin, seven guitars and several other stringed instruments are resting against walls or propped near furniture.

Foley plays them all and plays them well.

What he doesn't do well is blow his own horn.

He's confident on stage, but Foley shrugs off his songwriting abilities as quickly as he does his endeavours as a visual artist.

However, he admits, both his original songs and paintings are based on inspiration.

He credits his friend Wayne Maloney from Bay Bulls for sparking his interest in painting.

"He's a really good painter and he's always encouraging everyone to try it. So, he's the onus of my latest bout with art," Foley says.

It's not unusual for Foley and a few friends to get together, pick a picture from a book, and create their own painting of that image.

"This is the very first one that I did," he says, picking up a framed picture of a winter scene with two old-fashioned wooden structures in the background. Although the picture he looked at to create his artwork was similar, Foley says he wasn't out to create an identical image.

"My painting is like my music. I just can't cover something as it is. There was a basic picture that was the premise, but I made it a winter scene."

The same holds true with all of Foley's artwork.

"This one was a boat by a wharf, but in my mind's eye I painted it as if it were in Placentia. That's how I personalize them," he says, picking up another framed piece.

While the majority of his artwork is gleaned from pictures, Foley has also worked from images captured in his mind.

"This one I did out of my head. It's my grandfather's stage in Tilting, Fogo Island."

Creativity is something that's in your head, Foley says, and something you can't rid yourself of even if you tried.

Refining those skills is important no matter what artistic genre you're expressing, he says.

"I've learned to play other instruments and that's a form of cross-training. ... You need to keep the brain stimulated. So whether you're picking up another instrument or you're going painting, you're still poking at that part of your brain that you need to pay attention to," he says.

Foley's lack of confidence in his artwork has meant he's disregarded some of his own work.

"This one I threw out but a friend of mine took it and put it in a frame. A frame helps a picture an awful lot," he says glancing towards a picture of a white trap-skiff, trimmed with green, tied to an orange-coloured buoy in deep blue water.

Foley points to another painting. Although only a portion of the subject's face is shown, the image is unmistakably that of well-known musician Dermot O'Reilly.

O'Reilly died suddenly almost two years ago.

Foley painted the image from a piece by Ron LeDrew. LeDrew's painting was used on a program to promote a concert raising money for a scholarship in O'Reilly's name.

"I was sitting in my office and the program was there. I thought, 'Well, maybe I'll try this.'"

Creating his own painting of O'Reilly made Foley feel closer to the friend he'd lost.

"Sometimes you're just expressing something in your head. Even though I painted mine by copying someone else's painting, when you lose a friend like that, doing your own painting is therapeutic."

Foley also created the artwork on the Punters' Christmas album "Beautiful Star."

Necessity is the mother of invention, he says, referring to the fact that he only had about a day to create and complete the painting which depicts a deep blue, star-filled sky, with one star shining brightly amid the others.

"I stole the idea completely from Willie Nelson's 'Stardust' record. I remembered it as a nightscape and I put a star in the middle. It almost looks like an Advent calendar," Foley says.

When asked about his original music, Foley says he's "a songwriter by default."

"I write them when they come to me. I've written some good tunes. I've written a lot of bad ones, too."

While he says he makes a living as a musician rather than as a songwriter, Foley has been working on a solo album for several years. He hopes to release it by year's end, and it will contain several of his original songs.

"I tend to write personal songs, these days more in the country vein - my inspiration being in the 8 Tracks for so long," he says.

In addition to playing with the 8 Track Favourites, Foley performs with the Punters.

"Pat and I always play together in one form or another. The Punters is he and I, essentially," Foley says of his gigs with fiddler Patrick Moran.

Foley has many other musical irons in the fire. He hosts KIXX Country's Sunday afternoon "Pot Luck Show." Friday and Saturday, he will be on stage with the 8 Track Favourites during the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra's "Tribute to Peggy Lee and Buddy Holly" concert at the Arts and Culture Centre.

He also performs on George Street and has regular gigs at O'Reilly's with Patrick Moran and Rob Cook.

Both Foley and Moran will join the Irish Descendants on a tour in Alberta for two weeks in late January/early February.

He'll be back at the Arts and Culture Centre during three different shows on March 9, 10 and 11: first with the 8 Track Favourites; next a tribute to Bob Dylan; then he will host an evening of Newfoundland and Irish music featuring some of the province's most gifted musicians.

While he has no problem talking about his life as a band frontman, when the questions continue about his artwork, Foley admits he's embarrassed to talk about his relationship with brush and colours.

"I just think I make some paintings every now and then. It's the same way with my songwriting. I just write songs, sometimes."

Organizations: Foley's, Pot Luck, Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra

Geographic location: Bay Bulls, Placentia, Tilting Fogo Island George Street Alberta Newfoundland

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