Ron Wood's sketches of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and John Belushi. The mural on the bottom of John Mayall's swimming pool. Joni Mitchell's paintings. This is the stuff of "Starart," a book that shows a different side of six well-known musicians.
Three and a half years ago, graphic artist/photographer Debby Chesher decided to compile a book of artwork by prominent musicians. The result is "Starart," a coffee-table rock-art collection featuring dozens of works by Mitchell, Wood, Mayall, Cat Stevens, Commander Cody and Klaus Voormann. The musicians' art is on display at the Vorpal Gallery in Laguna Beach through Friday.
"I worked with each one on their chapter," explains Chesher. "Each section begins with an interview, and alongside the reproductions are the artists' comments about the work. It's all done chronologically, so if you're familiar with their music you can observe parallel artistic developments, the correlation between the art and the music."
This insight into the relationship between musical creativity and other forms of artistic expression is the most interesting aspect of "Starart." Voormann, a bass player who designed the cover for the Beatles' "Revolver," suggests that "an artist can express the same feeling no matter whether the tool is a musical instrument or a brush. The handicap is deciding which tool to use." Or, as Mitchell puts it, "What I want to do is paint with music, paint with words, paint with a brush. To me it's all an extension of the same thing."
All of the artists featured in "Starart" attended art school and kept up their visual artwork after making it in music. Chesher contacted each artist's manager, explained the nature of her project and persisted until all of her chosen contributors agreed to do the book.
"It took 10 minutes with Joni and Ron to talk them into it," Chesher recalls. "But Klaus had every excuse imaginable. I got him by taking him to dinner with John Mayall. I just sat in quiet amazement while they reminisced about the old days in England. At the end of the evening he agreed to do the book."
Chesher has published the 240-page book independently as Starart Productions. The hardcover edition retails for $32.50, but there are also 300 leatherbound collectors' editions, signed by the artists, for $1,000 each. A series of prints is also available.