The Key West artist is branching out from his piano playing and composing interests with new medium
Bill Lorraine has to be in the running for Key West’s “Man for All Seasons,” if there is such a title to be handed out. Lorraine is an accomplished musician, composer, writer and sculptor. He has lived in the same Old Town home for the 37 years he’s been in Key West. Born in Miami, raised in North Carolina, Lorraine moved to the island in 1976.
Lorraine’s sculptures are currently displayed at The Studios of Key West in the Sculpture Garden.
“I use a stone called Miami oolite,” Lorraine said from the shady tropical garden in his backyard. “It’s a calcium carbonate formation from the South Florida coastal areas, including Key West.”
Miami oolite, he said, has been used for years in the foundations of Key West homes.
“I had a few in the back when I bought this home,” Lorraine said. “I thought they’d look good in the garden and they’re easy to carve.” He pointed at the tools resting by the oolite block.
The stones are no longer used in the foundations of homes, but when an older Key West home is renovated, many of the contractors bring the oolite to Lorraine.
“One of the stone’s biggest assets, to me, is its whiteness,” he said while using his hand to rub backyard-dust off one of his stones. “I love the way the surface texture of the stone causes the light to diffuse into a soft glow.”
Lorraine’s garden holds many of his sculptures and he uses the dark green foliage of its tropical plants as a background for his sculptures because it highlights the white of the stone.
His ideas for sculptures come from his travels. For years, Lorraine was a piano player for the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and got to see much of the world.
“I take photos of items that interest me and sometimes I sketch them,” he said. “Everything starts as an idea and I work on it.”
Music, from piano playing to composing symphonies, takes a lot of Lorraine’s time.
“I split my time between the two,” he said. “I think my music takes more time than my art.”
Music played a big part in his life when he first came to Key West. Along with the cruise ship assignments, he performed for 10 years at the Casa Marina. He also played at the former Martha’s Restaurant on S. Roosevelt Boulevard, and at the Pier House.
The piano playing isn’t the only music Lorraine is noted for. He is a composer and his tribute to author Ernest Hemingway, “The Hemingway Suite,” has been recorded and performed in North Carolina by the Charlotte Civic Orchestra, Dr. Geoffrey Whitehead, conductor.
“‘The Hemingway Suite’ will be performed in Cuba next year,” Lorraine said as we walked past the piano in his living room. “I wrote it as a tribute to Key West’s greatest artist. There are 15 movements, some short ones and a few as long as six minutes.”
Lorraine composed each movement around a Hemingway short story or novel.
“Where I am musically, right now, I’ve been preparing for my whole life,” he said. “I’ve listened to classical music for years and my life’s experiences have prepared me for what I am doing.”
“It all began,” he laughed as he sat back in the garden, “when I became a piano player or a cruise ship.”
“Back then I looked at the gig as a vacation,” Lorraine said. “I was paid to travel and do something I loved, play music. I still love to travel.”
With all his world travels, Lorraine still likes to come home.
“I’ve been everywhere,” he said. “There’s no place like Key West. It’s the best possible place for an artist to live. I can spend time away, enjoy it, but before long I’m biting on the bit to come back.”
In collaboration with his wife Ann Lorraine, the couple have published a book of Bill’s poems, “From the Balconies of Key West,” with Ann’s illustrations. Work on the book received a grant from the Anne McKee’s Artist’s in 2005.
He has also written and published “The Heat,” (2004), a book set in Key West; a collection of short stories, “Waiting for Something to Happen,” (2011); and he has another book in the works.
If Ann Lorraine’s name sounds familiar, she designed the window displays at Fast Buck Freddie’s for the years the department store was on Duval Street and was a prize-winning float designer during Fantasy Fest.
To find out more on Bill Lorraine, go to www.BillLorraine.com.