Updated: Nov 16, 2022
You have a successful career: as an actor, a politician, a lawyer, a doctor. You're a family man with successful kids and are in the spotlight, adored by millions. One would say you're at the peak of your game, and yet something is missing: a way to express what's truly hiding deep within, a method for processing current events and staying present, a path for keeping engaged and true to who you are and what you believe in this world. Visual art has had a stigma of overindulgence in our society, especially within the career-driven and pragmatic male population. As an artist and author, always looking to understand how art effects our psyche, I wanted to put a focus on 5 very well known male 'influencers'. I yearned to analyze why they decided to turn to painting in their 50's and 60's, what is it about this unique process that keeps them engaged and wanting more.
Pierce Brosnan is portrayed here in his Kawaii, Hawaii studio. Though he studied art as a teen and wanted to become a graphic artist, Brosnan's acting career overpowered his passion for painting. Pierce returned to it in 1987 when his first wife, Cassandra Harris, was losing her fight with cancer. "It really came to light out of a very hard time in my life," he says. "I turned to the world of painting and that gave me a great sense of comfort. Since then it’s matured. I go to the studio each day even if it’s just to clean the brushes or move the paints around."
A way to process grief, overwhelm, pain - this medium which reaches deep within, without the need for words, is a powerful ally, especially during trying times, like our most recent fight with the pandemic and its long lasting repercussions.
2. George W. Bush picked up a brush in 2012 and has gone on to create portraits of flora and fauna on his Texas ranch, family depictions and most recently an exhibit of '43 Immigrant Portraits by the 43rd president'. When Bush reflected on what led him to painting, he said, "You know, in retrospect, it was longing for learning. The presidency is a great learning experience. And then all of a sudden you're not president. And by chance I read Winston Churchill's essay, 'Painting as a Pastime.' And it got me thinking about painting. And in essence, I said, 'If that old boy can paint, I can paint.' And so I started." Bush's latest book of immigrant portraits is a way for him to reinvent himself and speak up on an issue which he had reconsidered after his presidency, the importance of seeing each immigrant story as a powerful journey to freedom. Here art is a way to envelop a message, to speak to millions, to express a charged point of view.
3. Sylvester Stallone when talking about his artistic endeavors, including a museum show at the Russian State Museum and dozens of exhibits across the world over his 30 year painterly career says: “If you feel a passion for something, you can move mountains.” Stallone, whose very prominent movie persona always stands before his endeavors as a painter, teaches us that all can be achieved if there's enthusiasm and grit.
4. Bob Dylan has been painting since the 1960's, mostly images of places he visited on tour, as poetic and vulnerable as his music. His landscapes are like songs praising old America, traveling the back roads and staying out of the limelight. "I believe that the key to the future is in the remnants of the past. That you have to master the idioms of your own time before you can have any identity in the present tense. Your past begins the day you were born and to disregard it is cheating yourself of who you really are." Dylan wants to keep things simple and focus on old ways of life. There might be huge skyscrapers next to gaudy Chinatown buildings in San Francisco, but he chooses to see just the old, in order to define the new. The singer says that he paints “mostly from real life. It has to start with that. Real people, real street scenes, behind the curtain scenes, live models, paintings, photographs, staged setups, architecture, grids, graphic design. Whatever it takes to make it work.” I love this approach of depicting what is, expressing one's unique vision of the world, and focusing on the everyday poetry of life. That truly makes a case for mindfulness and presence through the painting process.
5. Anthony Hopkins dabbled in painting but it wasn't till his wedding day in 2003 to his wife Stella when she asked him to paint 75 paintings as gifts to their guests, that he took himself seriously. People really liked them and 'Tony' just kept on going. “I do it purely instinctively,” Hopkins says of his painting process. “I don’t have any formula. There's no logic or meaning, I just paint as I go and see where it takes me. It's like playing with mud - kids like playing with mud. I just have fun with it. It's very childish, primitive - because I am a child... I love that I'm a multi-tasker, because time is running out and I want to feel that sense of divine." I love this sense of awe and experimentation, releasing the end result and embracing the child within. Hopkins also composes music, performs on the piano, and of course continues with his acting career. I've always had a hard time de-constructing my multiple creative pursuits, being ok with being multi-talented and creative, not pinning myself to one description, or one vocation in life. There's a beautiful book on which I'm about to embark, suggested by @Brene Brown, Marci Alboher's 'One Person/Multiple Careers'. I can't wait to read more stories about true, unapologetic self discovery. In the meantime, these role models give me confidence to claim my multiple callings, and to hope that some day more and more people will turn to art to express who they truly are.