Is it in their DNA? Possibly a “creative genius” gene that science has yet to discover? Or is it an otherwordly gift – one that is physically untraceable? Perhaps it’s just an excellent work ethic. How best do we explain these iconic songwriter/musicians who seem to have enough talent left over to create masterful work in an entirely different medium? Apparently there is something tying the audio and visual arts together – a place in the universe where sight and sound inspirations collide.
In celebration of this mystery, Rock Cellar Magazine presents our 2nd photo essay in a series: 8 MORE musicians who also happen to be darn good visual artists.
American singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg had an enduring musical career spanning four decades, leaving us with memorable songs that encapsulated an era. But before Fogelberg was recording music and playing in bands, he saw himself as a painter and photographer.
In 1969 after high school graduation, Dan enrolled at the University of Illinois at Champaign as a theater major but quickly changed it to painting. Two years later he moved to California, looking for a record deal.
Throughout his successful career as a musician, Fogelberg continued to practice his art, including the design of most of his record album covers. He has left us work to admire in the dimensions of sculpture, photography, paintings, and sketches.
Kurt Cobain’s talent as an artist was evident at an early age. His bedroom took on the appearance of an art studio, where he would accurately draw his favorite characters from films and cartoons such as Aquaman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Disney characters like Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Pluto. This enthusiasm was encouraged by his grandmother Iris Cobain, who was a professional artist herself.
Cobain often drew during school classes, including objects associated with human anatomy. When given a caricature assignment for an art course, Cobain drew a posing Michael Jackson. When his art teacher told him the caricature would be inappropriate to be displayed in a school hallway, Cobain drew an unflattering sketch of then-President Ronald Reagan.
The man known for his symbolic lyrics and his contribution to some of rock’s greatest songs is also a master in the visual arts. Through painting, Bernie Taupin has expanded his artistic horizons. Where timing and cadence once served him, now texture and his brush bring vision to new expressions on canvas.
Bernie Taupin is represented by several galleries and his art is currently touring the U.S.
Ringo Starr began his career as an artist in the late nineties, long after the The Beatles chapter. Growing out of the boredom experienced on tour, “I got out the computer and found a program a painting program and that’s how it all started.”
At first, he experimented with designs using the mouse to make his artistic creations, eventually buying an electronic drawing pad, taking his skill a step further.
His creations are simply titled, often naming them quite literally, such as Hat Man and Night Boy. “On the computer, you have to give what you’re creating a name. So whatever I keystroke in is what I use as the title.”
When he inserted the word “Zak” (the name of his first-born son) onto the brim of a man’s hat in one work, he found he couldn’t figure out how to delete it. So there it stayed.
Farrokh Bulsara, later to be known as Freddie Mercury, was born in Zanzibar to Parsee Indian parents. When Mercury was eighteen, the family fled to the UK due to political upheavals stemming from the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution.
Once in Britain, the promising artistic student decided to pursue an education in art, and in 1969 received his diploma in Graphic Design from Ealing Art College in West London.
Mercury eventually designed Queen’s logo – the Queen crest – in 1973 shortly before the release of the band’s first album. The logo combines the zodiac signs of all four members: two lions for Leo, a crab for Cancer, and two fairies for Virgo. The lions embrace a stylized letter Q, the crab rests atop the letter with flames rising directly above it, and the fairies are each sheltering below a lion. There is also a crown inside the Q and the whole logo is over-shadowed by an enormous phoenix. The whole symbol bears a passing resemblance to the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom.
As is often times the case with the very talented, Jimi Hendrix creativity was not limited to only his guitar. Along with his music he has left us with a small but wonderful body of beautiful paintings and drawings somewhat replicating the style of his music.
Jimi produced lyrical landscapes that the mind could run free in, and abstract works that rise off the paper like psychedelic notes pulled from the air.
“I just draw what’s interesting to me, and then I paint it… I can take a bowl of fruit and turn it into a life and death drama. I’m not trying to make a social comment or fulfill somebody’s vision and I can find subject matter anywhere. I guess in some way that comes out of the folk world that I came up in.”
In the spring of 1974, Bob Dylan finally plunged head first into the visual arts with an intense two-month study under an elderly art teacher named Norman Raeben, who lived in Paris among the modernist crowd. But more than painting, Raeben taught his Pupil to see the world with different eyes — or as Dylan explained: how to put “my mind and my head and my eye together in a way that allowed me to do consciously what I unconsciously felt.”
He once told friend and Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, “I had a teacher that was a conscious artist and he drilled it into me to be a conscious artist. So I became a conscious artist.”
Unshackled from the limitations of linear thought, Dylan began writing songs the way a painter approaches the canvas, resulting in Tangled up in Blue along with the rest of his breakthrough album, Blood on the Tracks.
Colorful, abstract and unconscious, Ric Ocasek’s artwork is an extension of himself – a collection of “self-portraits.”
Ocasek, renowned lead singer and songwriter of The Cars, has been experimenting in the visual arts using several media formats since the 1980s including drawings with pen, colored pencils and markers, digital photo collages and mixed media paintings.
Like Ocasek’s music, his artwork encompasses elements of rhythm, harmony and dynamics. During only his second ever art show his paintings, photographs, prints, and abstract drawings sold for a pretty penny.