As an artist, Kyle S. Lane has often been rejected: a prestigious art institution didn’t find him talented enough, galleries professed that black-and-white images wouldn’t sell, and novice art enthusiasts believed he hadn’t yet paid his dues as an artist. In fact, one remarked that she could purchase a Mercedes with the price he was asking for an original portrait. That was in 1996. Today she would be shopping for a customized Bentley.
The 37-year-old Brooklyn native, who once sold T-shirts and posters of classical jazz artists for a few hundred dollars, is now selling hand-pulled lithographs of musical instruments for $8,000 to $30,000. His original studies are in the seven-figure range, with collectors that include his mentor, Max Roach, Tony Bennett, Julius Erving, and art connoisseur Francesco Ottaviano. Lane is also a member of the exclusive New York Friar’s club, which has hosted the unveiling of his new works since 1997.
Lane’s technique is stipple, a succession of dots that form an image. It is one used by the Wall Street Journal to illustrate articles. “I am the first, however, to take this commercial art form and create a fine-art market,” Kyle says. “They [the Journal] use one point. I’m using 11. The combination of the point sizes, plus varying rhythm, allow you to create color and texture.”
Ottaviano, who has also purchased rare Picassos, predicts that Lane’s “Orchestra” will be one of the most sought-after collections of the 21st century.
Lane, who thoroughly researches each instrument before he inks, listens to as many as 50 musical CDs while he works. He also consults top musicians like trumpet player Clark Terry, trombonist Slide Hampton, and Stanley Drucker, the principal clarinetist for the New York Philharmonic. Projects can take as long as two years to complete.
Jazzy Routes: Lane can’t remember not being surrounded by music. “It was in our home and in our car. Dad would tell me stories about the musicians and their jam sessions.” His father, a jazz lover, immersed him in the music and its history. Later, his high school bandleader was awestruck by his ability to improvise on the saxophone. Lane also inherited his father’s passion for art. He took his first formal lesson as a freshman at Morehouse College. “I was introduced to stipple and I fell in love with it,” he says.
The Marketing Journey: In 1993, Roach encouraged Lane to quit his job as a substitute public school teacher and focus full time on his art. He decided to concentrate on the instruments as an homage to jazz and classical music. “I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before, that would give me a broad appeal but wouldn’t compromise my love for music.” He is currently working on the clarinet. Three more pieces, including conductor’s hands, will complete the 12-piece collection.
Lane also reduced the number of lithographs per edition from 50 to between 15 and 17. “With the clarinet I will only sell six the first year — and they’ve already been sold. That will shift