As one of Bob Dylan’s most sought-after graphics, Train Tracks was originally released in 2008 to great critical acclaim. Taken from The Drawn Blank Series, it represents his travels from gig to gig across America and has been reworked throughout Dylan’s artistic career.
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Synonymous with Bob Dylan’s legendary 1975 album Blood On The Tracks, the Train Tracks graphic has become one of his most highly-requested and collectable artworks. First released in 2008 as part of The Drawn Blank Series, it has been reworked in different colour ways and formats throughout his artistic career.
The now-iconic expanse of railway line and anonymous landscape - punctuated by nondescript houses and mountains - symbolises Dylan’s travels from gig to gig across America. Viewers can experience what Dylan might have seen (or imagined) as he toured from one state to the next, as if they were sitting alongside him on the train.
Based on sketches made by Dylan between 1989 and 1992, the artwork features his signature freehand lines and instinctive brushstrokes. While the original sketches were monochromatic, Dylan says that adding colour and texture was an important part of the creative process. He adds: “...every picture spoke a different language to me as the various colours were applied.”
The emotive style of the paintings is also noted by the British art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon, who says: “His Train Tracks images seem particularly charged with romantic feeling. The paintings of railway tracks are like pictures of the feelings embodied in the itinerant folk song-writing traditions of America…to which Dylan has always felt close.”
Dylan’s own songwriting has consistently featured a train motif, including songs like Slow Train; It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry, and his adaptation of Freight Train Blues. For the latter, he sang: “Freight train was it taught me how to cry / The holler of the driver was my lullaby.”
So enduring is the Train Tracks image that it has been reworked over and over since its initial release. Along with different colourways, the graphic was released in a silkscreen format for its 10-year anniversary in 2018 in a bolder and more stylised iteration. It also led to Side Tracks, a collection of hand-embellished works based on the Train Tracks graphic, each one bearing an individual date, city, and country based on concerts performed by Dylan between 1961 and 2013.