The way Austin-based singer-songwriter Bob Schneider describes it, he had always intended to be a visual artist.
He got inspired while an art student at the University of Texas-El Paso.
And that multi-album music career of his? It’s just something that sidetracked him along the way.
Music still might be his main gig (he’s working on a new album and prepping for a tour), but art-making has never completely left Schneider’s orbit.
Schneider’s collages take the stage in an exhibit he shares at Flatbed Press & Gallery with the work of fellow musician/visual artist, Terry Allen. The exhibit, “Outside the Lines,” opens with a reception Friday.
And the two will also pair up for a Jan. 24 concert at the Texas Union ballroom, a 25th anniversary celebration for Flatbed, the nationally recognized fine art print workshop.
Both the exhibit and concert are part of Print Austin 2015, the annual monthlong, citywide celebration of fine art printmaking.
Soon after Schneider landed in Austin in the late 1980s in pursuit of a music career, he found his way to the then-newly established Flatbed, where he began helping out in exchange for time with the master printmakers and printing process.
While at UTEP, Schneider had become intrigued by the labor-intensive printmaking process.
“You make multiples of one drawing, but they’re all done individually by hand,” he said recently. “I like how tactile prints are. I like the amount of work that goes into (printmaking).”
An irrepressible sketcher as a child, Schneider filled up notebook after notebook with drawings.
“Drawing was an escape,” he said. “Art was my sanctuary when I was a kid.”
Classic comic book art and fantasy art proved his biggest early aesthetic influences. “When I’d buy comic books as kid, I was always more interested in who the artist was, not the actual story.”
But having grown up in Germany, the son of an American opera singer, Schneider admits that it’s likely some early museum exposure to the centuries-old schools of European printmaking art seeped in as well.
And even now, despite a hectic travel schedule, he’ll always squeeze in exhibit-going time.
“When I’m on tour, anywhere I’m at, I always go to museums and galleries,” he said.
About 15 years ago, he began making etchings at Flatbed, creating highly detailed, wildly imaginative, almost surreal images in simple black and white. Schneider put that body of work aside for a while. But then a few years ago, while painting watercolors with his then-4-year-old son, the two started toying with collage technique, adding images to the watercolors or drawing on top of the painted image.
Schneider continued, sourcing images from old books he bought in secondhand shops or off bookstore sale racks. His criteria? “I wanted any image that had a nonimportant feel to it,” he said.
Brimming with more free-associated imagery than his etchings, Schneider’s collages often take the form of a classic portrait bust, its features defined in a kinetic hodge-podge of small pictures.
Like with his previous art work, Schneider offers enigmatic and sometimes complex titles for each piece, but leaves off explaining any thematic back story for any of them. (“I’ve Been Holding Onto This Long Enough” is the title of one collage, “3155” another.)
“The more space you leave in a piece of art or a poem or song, the more people will create a story of their own about it,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, the more space you give people to fill in on their own, the better.”
“Bob Schneider and Terry Allen: Outside the Lines.” Gallery hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Through Feb. 10. Flatbed Press & Gallery, 2832 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. flatbedpress.com
Bob Schneider & Terry Allen: Flatbed 25th Anniversary Concert. 7 p.m. Jan. 24. UT Ballroom, Texas Union, 2247 Guadalupe St. $25 ($35 table seats) 512-475-6515, cactuscafe.org.