Lately, there have been many inquiries received through Facebook and Instagram about the history of Seven North Art and how it began. A large number of the questions were about, "Who started the business and when?" and "Where does all the art come from?"
Since I am that person; and the only one who has been here since the beginning, I have been ‘’ordered’’ by my very young staff who handle social media to tackle this task. They suggested I write a personal article about my life and how my interest in art began and, I should tell the whole story. This was a very scary order; I have never written about myself; I can write about art, artists, and music, but this was freaky! The first thought that came to mind was that I would be bearing my soul, basically telling my life story and that might bore people off the site !” My second thought was that was like going on a stage solo at an open mic with no other performers to back you up. Yet; it could be kinda fun, so hopefully, I'll deliver to you a few nice songs or some fairly good comedy?
Seven North Art originally started as Photo Studio Art Gallery named North Beach Studios. It was located in a small commercial retail unit on the north end of Clearwater, Beach Florida. There was a dark-room in the back and up front was my Photo studio with strobe lights and changeable backdrops. The front room had high ceilings where I displayed a few of my photographs with some old event music and museum posters I had collected from traveling. However, to tell the whole story it will have to start long before this.
Above is a recent picture of North Beach Studio and Gallery but it looks exactly the same. Below is how far I had to walk to the beach;one block!
You could say my art career started when I was 7 or 8 years old. I wanted to be a painter and my Mom agreed to pay for painting lessons. After two lessons, I finished my first watercolor and as the teacher went around the art studio evaluating each child's work, she took one look at mine and told me I should stop wasting my parent's money. I actually remember this; it was absolutely devastating because she was an adult so it must be true! However, I was not giving up I asked Dad if I could use his Brownie still camera and 16mm movie camera and started photographing all kinds of things to satisfy my energy for imagery. I would attach the black & white photos in paper albums using those little black corners to hold them in. I also loved music and now “knowing” I could not be a painter; I ask Mom for guitar lessons. This question thrilled her because she played the piano. The family would sit around her Piano and sing with her as she performed her favorite songs; she turned us on to all kinds of music; old Kentucky Hillbilly songs and many popular songs to Satchmo (Louie Armstrong) and Gershwin. When mom wasn't around I would line up my little brothers and pretend to play the piano and at 2, 3 and 5 years old they thought I was amazing!
1955 Brownie still camera
I took three guitar lessons and quit because the teacher was mean and I hated the songs he picked out for my music lesson. However, I continued with the guitar on my own and started a trio with two buddies Tim & Richard. It was 1962 we were in Junior High school and we had a Baritone Ukulele, a small Ukulele, and a Guitar. We played old Folk and popular music many that my mother had taught me. One day I heard “Greenback’a Dollar” by the highly popular group ‘’The Kingston Trio’’ and I loved it. In those days you had to learn songs the old fashion way. We would get the 45 rpm vinyl record (the little ones with the big hole) or 33 rpm vinyl albums (big ones with the little hole) and play them over and over and over. The designs and artwork on these early 60's vinyl record covers fascinated me and I began collecting them. I would pin them on my bedroom walls or put them under the glass on my dresser tops. Soon after this, we heard Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Elvis; suddenly everything changed!
In ninth grade math class one day Tim leaned across the aisle whispering ‘’Do you want to start a rock and roll band’’? I yelled out yes! No more playing folk music, we started a real band; a Rock and Roll Band! This was Rock and Blues so we needed a cool name at 14 what could be cooler than ''The Kicks". It was in 1963 and the music scene was exploding and it was just getting cranked up in Florida. We caught the ride by playing parties, school dances and teen clubs at first but, within a year we got signed with a top booking agent. In 10th grade ‘’The Kicks’’ were opening for national acts with hit records on the National charts. Performers like the Mamas and Papas, The Turtles, The Zombies, and Gene Pitney. We were probably making as much money as our high school teachers entertaining and playing Rock & Roll, Soul, Motown and of course the Blues.
My Dad's let us use his 1961 Ford station as the band's southern tour bus; traveling the state almost every week performing in Clearwater, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Lakeland, Orlando, Ft. Myers and Ft Lauderdale; we even had our own manager, my brother Michael. Some weekends we played three gigs, staying overnight getting back Sunday to make it back for high school Monday morning. (Dad’s requirement for the Tour Bus)
I collected all the ads of all the bands, event posters, handbills, billboards and the pictures which I called my band concert collection. Again it all went somewhere in my bedroom; under the dresser glass, on the walls or when I ran out of space, in the closet.
Artist Backstage Pass from 2011 - Brought back the bands from the 60's.I was the only one from The Kicks still around.
In the last year of high school 1967, the band's agent paid to cut a demo (Reel to Reel tape back then) of two original songs the A-side title was‘’They're All Wrong’’....never heard of it?
While we were waiting to hear about a Record Label deal our lead singer got drafted and then I got my draft notice; hence the end of my "Rock Star" stardom and fame and fortune!
It is darkly funny that I was playing the notes and singing the words but had no real concept of what was going outside of my little world in Clearwater-St.Petersburg Florida. There is no doubt from a historical standpoint that the Music, Art, Movies, Theater, Books, Poetry and Comedy was the energy underneath the rapid and massive changes that took place in the 1960s and ’70s. I had never really thought about World Culture but now it took on real meaning to me at an extreme pace. I was blasted into the screaming current events of the world and my life. Six months after high school the rock star traveled halfway around the globe for his biggest performance ever; on the grand world stage called, Vietnam.
Over the years when people have asked me what did it feel like just out of high school and going to war. I tell them I didn’t know much of anything at 18 I felt like I was on a conveyor belt and then I start singing the words that come to mind of songs about war because I have no other way to answer.
One hit song about the war always came to mind named “I-Feel-Like-I’m Fixin’-To-Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish. The chorus went like this. "And it’s one, two, three what are we fighting for; don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, next stop is Vietnam and it’s five six seven open up the pearly gates ain’t no time to wonder why whoopee we’re all gonna die” The art, music, and books like Catch-22 started my young brain firing on many new circuits.
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When I got “In Country” (Vietnam) I wanted to do photography and I managed to get a 35mm SLR (Single Lens Reflex). I tried to get a Nikon to no avail, but I managed to snatch a Yashica out of Japan. At 18 years of age in the middle this serious reality call war; I remembered that to me art was about communicating feelings. I wanted to photograph what was bombarding my feelings because they were “all shook up” (in the words of Jerry Lee Lewis). Now, I think this drive in me to photograph was a need to learn and understand, and maybe, help others as well. I had no idea why we were fighting a war there and I needed to understand the truth.
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After I returned stateside “Uncle Sam” sent me to Europe for seven months on a Navy ship and, I traveled to six different countries with my camera in tow. I had a lot of leave time saved up and had always wanted to go to Europe so my commanding officer allowed me to use up every minute of leave in extra traveling. I visited all the Museums and Castles I could get to in six months and indulged myself in the art, culture and the people of Europe.
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I was discharged 1970 and upon returning home my brother John and Kevin had a Dark Room set up in our parents home. They taught me all about the process of developing film and hand printing my photographs. Soon we were projecting the enlarger head on to the wall to produce large wall size art photo prints. Lucky for me one day an old friend drop by and offered me a job traveling and selling art poster! It was great timing, I had only been back from the service for two months and really needed to clear my head and it was an art job! He was working for a company that had hundreds of "Black Light" posters with incredible designs with all kinds of amazing psychedelic subjects.! Plus they offered Rock and Roll Concert Posters and other types Event and Movie Posters. I was able to gain some real knowledge about what I loved; Art, Music Theather and after a few months on the road calling on Galleries, Picture framing art shops and Head Shop, I returned home and started college using the G.I. Bill to study what interested me the most; Art, Music, and Humanities!
I started charging for my photographic services soon after and by using my brothers Photography Lab was able to earn regular income on the side. This led to some advertising work in Tampa where I meant the publisher of a regional magazine called Southern Style. They offered me a job handling all of the photo shoots and producing the final prints for their monthly publication. That latter part was hard but I learned how to work on a deadline. The traveling with all the writers around the Southeastern U.S. to political events, music concerts, art gallery openings and shooting it all was a blast! This included being there with the writers on all the interviews with local and national celebrities all kinds.
This was the seventies this new freelance Photography business was booming. One day I got an offer from an old friend Doug to be an extra crew on a 54-foot sailboat delivery to South America. I grabbed my camera's lens and lots of films and off I went. I got so many great photographs along the way at sea on islands and in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains near Cartagena Colombia.
After delivering the yacht for a wealthy textile merchant he invited us to visit the studio and home of one of the most famous artists in Colombia to see a just completed commission painting for his wife. His studio was in the pre-Columbian (7000 BC-1500 AD) sector of this city. This great old city and the Architecture was a work of art in itself. The Painting was about 18 feet long by 8 feet high and all of us stood with our mouths open from saying, wow and I said “I wish I had my camera”, the artist quickly replied, "ah; but you have memories don’t you”. I have never looked at a painting or listened to a piece of music that I loved without spending time on the details since that moment. This includes all of it; Art, Music, Movies, Theater Books and Poetry; after all, these are six primary parts of how civilizations develop, again art is the energy underneath social and cultural change. If it’s worth putting in my art memory banks, it’s gotta worth the time. To this day I can sketch out that painting in great detail. After two hours of standing in front of that massive wet oil painting listening to the artist who spoke like a mad passionate art philosopher, the yacht owner had to leave. He was a major art collector in Columbia and this was the second painting he had commissioned by the artist. The influence of that two hours was immeasurable and provided me a new perspective of how art would affect my life and my future.
I continued to deliver boats which constantly gave fresh opportunities to learn, photograph and collect art; at least whatever I could afford at the time. Trips to Central America, South America all over the islands of the Caribbean, up and down the eastern seaboard with all their great rivers, cities and bays. One trip I hired on for was from Florida through the Panama Canal and up the Pacific into Puget Sound north of Seattle. After tucking the boats safely in their port-of-call and getting paid I would take time off to find out about the local area and get involved with the culture visiting Museum's, Art Galleries and finding working artist at their studios. I started collecting mostly Old Event and Museum Poster, Rock Concert Poster, and Art show posters. I would look around for Estate Sales and old funky stores and find whatever turned me on artistically. This became a continuing education in art, one I could have never received in College. It shaped my taste for art and the collections that you see on Seven North Art today are a reflection of those early years in many ways.
After 10 straight years of travels, I decided to settle down and start that a photography studio with a small gallery I told you about at the beginning of the story. It was 1981 and a few months after I opened some lead singer from some band in England named Duran Duran wondered in. He loved the David Lance Goines posters I had for sale. He went on and on about the design qualities and then he said I'm with Duran Duran; and, all I could say was, what's that? I think he was a little insulted so I apologized and said I was a guitar player myself and would buy one of his records and have a listen.
He then bought two of the silkscreen Goines poster and ask if I could ship them to England; I hesitated for a quick moment and said, of course. That was the beginning of my career as an art dealer.
Click image for all Goines posters
Now that we made it back to the beginning and the end of Part One. I hope you were not bored if you were, I would love to hear from you and, if you were not I would really love to hear from you!
All the best and Thank you, James Cournoyer.
Part two will be published .... soon!