Almost three-and-a-half years ago, I interviewed Charlie Hardwick, who described his art as “unapologetically digital.”
“You look at my work, and it’s not trying to be a painting. It’s not trying to be a hand-drawing. It is clearly done by a guy that used a program and computer to make it,” Hardwick said in 2016. “I really try to embrace the new technology and things that come out now to produce.”
Unapologetic is a good word to describe Hardwick’s attitude about life, and that’s why I circled back to chat with him and see what he is up to now.
“Uncle Charlie” was the moniker Hardwick used to identify his iconic artwork, most notably his poster art for festivals and performances for music producers like Live Nation and House of Blues.
I noted in my first interview that Hardwick had been legally blind for 10 years knew he eventually would lose his eyesight completely. Over the past two years, that’s exactly what happened.
Hardwick transitioned from visual artist to visually impaired artist almost overnight. The former poster artist to the music industry is now himself a full-time singer, songwriter and guitar player going by the name “Blind Uncle Charlie.”
In a recent conversation I had with Hardwick, he reminded me he was a musician first, playing guitar in the Houston punk band Dresden 45 in the 1980s. He continued performing for a while after leaving the band but eventually put down his guitar to focus on his graphic design career.
Hardwick kept a finger on the pulse of the music scene through his music poster art, but it was through discussions on long drives and at art shows with friend Greg Henkel, a violinist, that brought Hardwick to pick up his guitar again.
Henkel guided Hardwick back into the music scene and even coined the name “Blind Uncle Charlie.” After performing together and even collaborating on music projects, Hardwick has struck it out on his own.
Hardwick said music has given him a new meaning to life. He is growing, his brain is firing up in new directions and the learning process has him fired up.
With today’s technology, he said he’s able to continue doing many familiar things. Apps like Seeing AI speak any text in front of his camera phone and the Moovit app is the best way to get around with public transportation. He said everyone should use that app.
It’s his home-school variety music lessons that have Hardwick really excited. From learning all the notes on the guitar neck, scales, song construction, music theory and music lingo that had me crossing my eyes, Hardwick is in heaven.
He said much of his instruction comes from online videos, which had me asking how he follows along? He said almost all video lessons outline every move verbally, ensuring he misses nothing. And he’s right. What seems painfully obvious while watching is perfect for Hardwick while listening.
Does he miss visual art?
“Art in many ways was driving me instead of me driving it,” Hardwick said. “Music has my brain growing again.”
I’ve had the privilege to ride along as an observer for much of Hardwick’s transition from visual to music artist. I have a collection of fabulous seasonal market posters Hardwick created for my First Saturday Arts Market dating back to the summer of 2015.
Today he performs regularly at my markets to a growing fan base. I would describe his music as a mix of Americana, rock and blues with a dash of punk and, lately, instrumentals. I know now those instrumentals are from his hours of practicing scales and all that other stuff I couldn’t understand.
Hardwick also can be found performing at more venues this fall. Look for him at Siphon Coffee, Shoeshine Charley’s Big Top Lounge and The Americana. Follow him on Facebook at Blind Uncle Charlie.
I am certain that Charlie Hardwick’s name will become every bit as familiar to music lovers as did his artwork, if not more. I had to ask if he was going to keep using the name Blind Uncle Charlie, thinking it might be demeaning.
“I’m keeping it. I earned it!” Hardwick said unapologetically.
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com.