Friday, May 30, 2008

Paul Stanley - A Different Tune

Picking up a paintbrush wasn’t unprecedented for Paul Stanley. Throughout his career with the rock band KISS, applying face paint was a precursor to an over-the-top performance. But eight years ago, a painful divorce let him to extend his reach. Stanley had kept a sketchbook for years, and a friend who saw his drawings urged him to try his hand at painting as a form of catharsis.

Stanley bought canvases “without a clue of what to do” and began painting. The only ground rules he set for himself were that he “wasn’t going to get bogged down with trying to depict things too realistically at the expense of emotion or immediacy.”

Los Angeles resident Stanley, who describes his early works as a “stream of consciousness using color and texture instead of words,” says an unsigned painting he created and hung in his house repeatedly resonated with visitors. “People would ask me who did it and where it was from,” he says. Their interest was enough to convince him that his paintings might have a broader purpose beyond private catharsis. He was quickly proved right.

Stanley began showing his work in galleries and, contrary to what you might imagine, it wasn’t just the KISS Army snapping up his paintings. Four portraits of the band Stanley created as a tip of the hat to fans have been some of his least popular works. “There are definitely collectors who will never go to a KISS concert,” Stanley says.

His work is rich with bright explosions of color and texture, often touching on themes such as fears. Sometimes he prepares the canvas by texturing it with modeling paste, then layering acrylics of different viscosities over top, using his fingers, brushes, home painting tools or anything else that can apply paint to it. “Someone said I was fearless with color,” Stanley says. “I said, ‘What is there to fear’”

Art allows him to explore, he says. With music, “there are certain restrictions-it’s the nature of the beast-whereas in painting the limit is the edge of the canvas. Whatever goes on within it is up to you. There are no rules.”

The soft-spoken artist insists that, despite his growing commercial success (sales totaled $2 million last year); he is still painting for himself. ‘My art isn’t the only work in progress; I’m changing and developing in front of everyone,” Stanley says. “My growth is happening as my success is blossoming. I’m never scared; it’s only exciting. I always define myself by the challenges I take on and how I rise and fall with them.”

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