It is rare that someone who is talented in one artistic field is able to build a reputation in an unrelated area of art. So imagine an artiste who is both an accomplished confessional singer songwriter and painter. Got that? Okay, now since everything in this universe has an opposite I would like to imagine the mirror image of such an unlikely creature. Someone who is both a lousy singer songwriter and a painter of dazzling ineptitude.

Ladies and gentlemen – I believe that mental picture you have formed is none other than Joni Mitchell. Now this site is not called I hate art – but you can rest assured that not only do I know something about art but I know what I dislike. Some of the daubings of Joni?s album covers are so poor that two year old children have been banned from kindergarten merely for produce the pale shadows of these crayonesque splats. This may of course be due to inappropriate subjects – Joni does have a tendency to paint herself after all – nevertheless the act as an almost adequate warning to its contents.

Take Blue- an album which forgoes the painting for once for a photo on blue in blue which a lumpy, almost diseased cover texture. On the title song Mitchell suggests that ?Blue – songs are tattoo?s? – and in her case this is a pretty good example. Listening is a self inflicted torture which stands up to no great artistic scrutiny and scars one for life. Surely she has worked out why the last time she saw Richard was quite some time ago – he has been avoiding her ever since.

Mitchell had a hard life, being the eldest sister in the now well documented criminal family, and her youth is more than adequately summed up in Raised On Robbery – a song which creates verisimilitude by both being about crime, and a crime in itself. She rose to infamy by nicking Woodstock off of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – and turning a tedious cod folk dirge into and even longer ethereal cod folk dirge. The cover of Ladies Of The Canyon was as half finished as most of the songs on it, which when looking back was more than a virtue.

Her later work showed a maturation in the classic seventies way ? ie knock about with synths and steal some ethnic rhythms. The Hissing Of Summer Lawns is often quoted as being one of the best summer records ever made, and it is certainly a disc which will make me leave the stereo and go out into a field far, far away. I don?t see what is so attractive about a snake in the grass anyway. These days she spends three years painting another awful picture of herself and then recording some nonsense. The critics will call it a dramatic return to form just so they don?t have to listen to it.

That said ? if you look at the bigger picture ? hopefully not painted by Joni ? some of her transgressions become excusable. After all her father was carted away in a Big Yellow Taxi, though one you may assume he hailed himself to get away from her. This might explain the art, instead of some serious venture to be recognised (Hah!) in more than one field, it is actually art therapy. After all her analyst did tell her that she was right out of her mind (on Twisted) ? possibly after she claimed to be a free man in Paris ? its possible she got a sex change but?. He obviously forgot to notify the relevant authorities that she was nuts.