The Illustrated Lyrics of Old Man Crow

This exhibition at Artsite Gallery celebrates four decades of music by iconic musician Rod Morgan (aka Old Man Crow) and 25 years of collaboration with his partner, illustrator and bookbinder Mo Orkiszewski.

For Rod Morgan and Mo Orkiszewski, the 4th of September will be the culmination of years of hard work, passion and artistic genius.

Rod and Mo in 2004 © Lina Eve Photography

Rod and Mo in 2004 © Lina Eve Photography

Rod (aka Old Man Crow) is a blues and roots singer-songwriter from Sydney’s Inner-West. His partner, Mo, is an illustrator and bookbinder. Together they make a formidable creative force, having spent the past 25 years in collaboration.

The Illustrated Lyrics of Old Man Crow is a unique work, bringing Rod’s heartfelt lyrics to life with a collection of 38 beautifully rendered illustrations by Mo. 

Inconsequentiality © Rod Morgan and Mo Orkiszewski

Inconsequentiality © Rod Morgan and Mo Orkiszewski

The original illustrations will be exhibited at Artsite Gallery alongside a limited edition hand-coloured book, including a four-CD set of the illustrated songs. Peter Cox, Curator of Pop Culture at the Powerhouse Museum, will open the exhibition.

In the true spirit of rock ´n´ roll, posters, cards, t-shirts and stage and costume accoutrements will also on exhibition and for sale. 

“We have been making art and playing music in Sydney’s inner west for 25 years,” says Mo. “Publishing The Illustrated Lyrics of Old Man Crow is a celebration of those years together, dancing with the changes and contributing to the colour and movement of the local Newtown and Inner West music and art scene.”

I Got the Blues © Rod Morgan and Mo Orkiszewski

I Got the Blues © Rod Morgan and Mo Orkiszewski

Mo says that the creative process was long, intense and rewarding. “No art is made without lots of dark rich blood flowing through it, and it quite often needs a few tears of frustration and even anger and a lot of sweat […] to get to the truth.”

Rod and Mo certainly embraced every aspect of their journey, recording all of the highs and lows in their blog.

Mo’s desk and Requiem in process © Rod Morgan and Mo Orkiszewski

Mo’s desk and Requiem in process © Rod Morgan and Mo Orkiszewski

Rod and Mo sourced inspiration from each other as well as from other artists, local shows, nature and poetry. For each person who inspired their work, Mo handcrafted a delicate bandaged heart which she then wove into a scarf for Old Man Crow to wear during his performances.

“Even the strongest hearts have a few little nicks and tears in need of repair,” says Mo.

The Stole of Bandaged Hearts as worn by Old Man Crow for a performance at the Sandringham Hotel © Rod Morgan and Mo Orkiszewski

The Stole of Bandaged Hearts as worn by Old Man Crow for a performance at the Sandringham Hotel © Rod Morgan and Mo Orkiszewski

The drawings are made on large sheets of Arches watercolour paper rendered in pen and ink, graphite and white gouache.

Sometimes Rod would draw a quick sketch for Mo to translate into a masterpiece. Here is Rod’s initial sketch for Turn the Page © beside the final illustration by Mo:

“Artists are the filters for the world,” says Mo. “We let the world in through our eyes and hearts and give back what falls out of our hands.”

The book launch and exhibition at Artsite Gallery will begin at 11am on the third of September. Click here for Artsite’s Facebook page and further information.

In the meantime, feel free to visit Rod and Mo’s Etsy shop or listen to Old Man Crow on YouTube.