In rambling about The Beatles’ White Album I mentioned something along the lines of the band at that point being three great artists and Ringo off in separate corners making art. Coincidentally, the other day on the intergooglewebtubes I watched a clip of KISS’s Paul Stanley talking about the three million bucks in paintings he sold the previous year. Put it all together and what’s that spell? A quick look at famous musicians turned painters.
Don Van Vliet a.k.a Captain Beefheart: Perhaps the most successful rock artist turned painter, Van Vliet’s work was taken quite seriously in art circles based solely on its own merits. His work was equal parts Chagall, Basquiat, Lynchian nightmare, and mental patient. Very challenging, interesting stuff.
Grace Slick: Jefferson Airplane’s sexy frontwoman is a painter now, seemingly with the bulk of her output focusing on the Sixties. Who can blame her? Although her work is by no means bad, to my eye it’s more illustrative than “art” in the sense of “emotionally evocative visual image.”
Ron Wood: And speaking of illustration, Ronnie Wood is the business with a pencil. He works in other media and topics — beautiful landscapes, for example — but Wood-As-Artist like Grace Slick is best known for his images of rock icons.
John Entwistle: We all know Entwistle’s iconic line drawings from the Who By Numbers album cover. His caricatures were quite entertaining, but honestly I don’t think he could have made a run of it without the name recognition.
Miles Davis: Miles was a badass. I’m in complete awe of his talent. Someday I hope to own his complete catalog, but what I won’t own is one of his extraordinary abstract paintings, at least not on my current salary.
John Mellencamp: Now this one really stuns me. There are some brilliant moments in the Mellencamp discography — songs that belong on your playlist. There’s also some seriously bland top forty tripe. But Mellencamp as a painter? Really rock solid stuff, reminds me of the Ashcan School a bit. I don’t know anything about his sales, but in my opinion his figurative work deserves to be taken seriously.
David Bowie: Oh, the mighty Bowie. Art school kid, chameleon, mime, actor, friend to painters for forty years. The man has ridiculous amounts of art world cred, and might be the only person on the planet for whom the word “fan” applies to me. And now my confession: I’ve only ever considered purchasing a Bowie painting or print for the signature. His work just doesn’t do much for me.
Paul Stanley: KISS prides itself on two things: (1) Making tons of money, no matter how cynically; (2) Being a band of the people. It was only a matter of time before one of the two remaining founding members came up with the brilliant idea of putting his signature on the same kinds of childish doodles that once decorated every kids’ Peechee folder.
Listen: Making art is difficult, putting it out there even more so. I admire anyone who picks up pencil, pen, Play-Doh or pipe cleaner and gives it a shot. Above are just a few of the musicians who have chosen not only the art of playing with air but also that of playing with color and line. I see a lot of crossover: Captain Beefheart’s music sounds a bit like a demented dream; Miles’s is a sonic wash of colors and textures; Mellencamp’s best songs focus on people; and KISS? Well, Paul made three million dollars so all is right in the KISSiverse.
Super Deluxe Rare Collector’s Hidden Bonus Track! Paul Stanley’s interview with Fox Business: