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23rd October, 2020

International Artists Day - Art, The Beatles and an interview with Paul Curtis

The Beatles are synonymous with both music and art, from their groundbreaking albums and animated cartoons, to their iconic fashion and experimental techniques, the band have always been pioneers for creativity and bending the rules around artistry.

Both as a group and as individuals, The Beatles have tried their hand at artistry across a range of forms.

Images of a Woman, also known as The Tokyo Painting, is an abstract painting by The Beatles and is believed to be the only painting produced collaboratively and signed by the group. The Fab Four later gave the painting to Tetsusaburo Shimoyama, an entertainment industry executive and chairman of the Beatles fan club in Tokyo.

John Lennon studied art at the Liverpool Art Institute and has even in past interviews, described art as his 'first love'. 

With his primary medium being line drawing, either in pen, pencil, or ink, John created a series of works before, during and after his musically productive years. In 1969 John returned to drawing when he created the Bag One Portfolio as a wedding gift for Yoko Ono, which was a chronicle of their wedding ceremony, honeymoon, and plea for world peace via the Bed in.

Paul McCartney did not begin painting until 1982, telling Rolling Stone he had always been reluctant to put brush to canvas because he didn’t feel qualified. He was inspired by his friend, painter Willem de Kooning who persuaded him to start. Since then his work has been displayed in galleries around the world, from Germany to Liverpool.

George Harrison's most famous work of art may well be his Fender Stratocaster, which he decorated with fluorescent Day-Glo paint and dubbed Rocky. 

In an interview, George said: “During 1967, everybody started painting everything, and I decided to paint it. I got some Day-Glo paint, which was quite a new invention in them days, and just sat up late one night and did it.” He then pointed out that some of his ex-wife Pattie Boyd’s nail polish was used to paint the headstock!

Ringo Starr was painting for many years before he decided to start creating art on his computer in the late 90s, whilst touring. 

A fan of 'modern media' Ringo's style has continued to evolve and he creates new artworks each and every year. Similar to those of Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, Ringo’s 'pop art' is bright, colourful and thought-provoking.

All of Ringo's proceeds from his art sales go to the Lotus Foundation, which aims to fund, support, participate in and promote charitable projects aimed at advancing social welfare in diverse areas.

You can see some of the t-shirts featuring Ringo's designs on display in our award-winning exhibition.

Stuart Sutcliffe, the original bass guitarist of The Beatles left the band to pursue his career as a painter, having previously attended the Liverpool College of Art before remaining in Germany with a scholarship at the Hamburg College of Art, under Eduardo Paolozzi, who called Stuart one of his best students. 

Stuart died in Hamburg in 1962, aged just 21.

As today (25nd October) is International Artists Day, we look at the influence the art of The Beatles had on people in and around the city of Liveprool.

To mark the occasion we caught up with Liverpool based artist Paul Curtis, to find out what he thinks makes art so important to his hometown.

Paul is a Liverpool-based artist specialising in street art and large murals. In the 3 years he has been active as an artist, he has created more than 150 public pieces, largely in Liverpool and Wirral, including the #AbbeyRoad50 wall mural on Grafton Street, in collaboration with The Beatles Story.

Hi Paul. Firstly, how important do you think art is for the city of Liverpool?

Liverpool has always been a creative city, largely thanks to its port status. The mix of influences coming into the city makes it unique in England. In terms of population, Liverpool punches far above its weight in terms of its own cultural influence. Obviously that is due to its creative output. The city is lucky to be blessed with the Tate , the Walker and numerous theatres, but there is a massive amount of art and creativity within the fabric of the city.

What is your favourite or most inspirational place in Liverpool?

I love Castle Street. It's not really a hidden gem as we all know about it, but I often think a lot of people don't stop and appreciate just how stunning the street and it's architecture is. I also love Sefton Park. I'm a runner, so I'm there all the time and love watching it change each season.

Can you talk us through all the Beatles themed artwork you’ve created in the city?

There must be seven or eight now.  Obviously The Beatles will always be hugely important to the world and people want Liverpool to acknowledge them, especially tourists. I once visited Freddie Mercury's birthplace in Tanzania and there was hardly anything there about him and it was hugely disappointing. A lot of my smaller Beatles murals are naturally near to Mathew Street, but I guess my most well known one is the Abbey Road backdrop on Grafton Street. It was an inspired idea. The idea was The Beatles Story's, not mine, I can't take the credit!

That's very kind Paul! What’s your favourite piece you’ve created.

Everyone asks me this and it's a difficult question. Normally my favourite is the one I have just completed but that's an easy answer to give. I really like the Audrey Hepburn one I did in Southport. This wasn't the most complex one but it's sort of what I like to paint. Obviously "For All Liverpool's Liver Birds" was my most important piece as it transformed my life and prevented me being jobless.

What’s your favourite thing about being an artist

The reward is that many people take joy, inspiration and happiness from what you create. Creating for the sake of creating is always a good thing, but I am always totally surprised when I meet people and they get really enthusiastic about my work. 

Find out more about Paul and his artwork on his website.

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