Bob Dylan art: good. Ronnie Wood art: not so good. Review of rock musicians who paint

A recent review of rock musicians who paint gives Bob Dylan the thumbs up. Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood isn’t so lucky.

Bob Dylan pastel portraits

Bob Dylan: Face Value, 2013 exhibition, National Portrait Gallery, London. © Gerald Smith 2013

According to Jonathan Jones’s article in The Guardian newspaper (posted on 8 September 2014), Bob Dylan art has “a basic toughness and competence to it – some of his intelligence shines through… (his art) enriches his achievement as a myth maker.”

But “There is no point at all to Ronnie Wood’s art…”, according to Jones.

ROCK | ART | EDITIONS favourite Joni Mitchell has “a style as an artist… paintings that are worth a second look. Perhaps a third… is making art that really matters to her.” Paul Simonon (The Clash) also gets Jones’s seal of approval.

Not so Marilyn Manson (the painting reviewed is “…stupid and incompetent”) or Paul Stanley of Kiss (his sample painting is “dreck… rubbish”).

There’s no mention in the Guardian article of Miles Davis or Leonard Cohen, both highly regarded here, or even Don Van Vliet (aka Capt Beefheart), seen by many as the most accomplished rock muso painter.

Art critic Jonathan Jones certainly knows far more about art than me, so I find his views well worth considering – and I recommend you to read his article. Whether you share Jones’s views is, of course, entirely up to you.

How to judge rock art
I don’t believe there are any objective criteria for assessing a painting – or any other creative work, for that matter.

Being a successful musician doesn’t mean you’ll become the next Rembrandt if you pick up a paintbrush. But it probably means that your chances are slightly higher than the Average (less creative) Joe.

And a few top rockers are demonstrably multi-talented. You want to discuss Bob Dylan’s creativity across different media? How long have you got? Bob Dylan art? I love (much of) it.

Everyone judges a painting (or a piece of music) differently. I suspect that our initial response is emotional and that we then impose intellectual criteria as a secondary process, to validate emotional preferences.

When I start to think about a painting (… music… film… novel…) I usually ask:
* does the work evoke an emotional response?
* does it say anything worthwhile? of interest to me?
* is the execution good enough to let the above shine through?

Artists covered on ROCK | ART | EDITIONS
Judged by these criteria, most rock musicians covered in ROCK | ART | EDITIONS succeed as visual artists. So, I’ll continue to favour painters like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simonon. Ronnie Wood – and even Marilyn Manson and Paul Stanley – will also be included.

I suspect you won’t be shy in letting me know if you think this is a misjudgment!

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