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Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood is showing his artistic side

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Painting it Black

By KEN WHITE

When Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood announced in the early 1980s that he was returning to his early love of art, the reaction from Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards and Bill Wyman was less than enthusiastic.

  Forty Licks by Ronnie Wood

"They said, `Just play the guitar. What the hell are you doing?' " Wood recalled in a recent phone interview from a beach house in Malibu. "But they've come around. I think they were worried the art would detract from the guitar playing."

Wood, one of the most famous guitarists in rock for his work with the Jeff Beck Group and the Faces as well as the Stones, will display his work starting Saturday at the Jack Gallery in Mandalay Bay

Among the works on display are paintings, drawings, monoprints, limited-edition screenprints and mixed media prints. His latest limited edition, hand-signed screenprint, "Mick with Harmonica," also will be shown.

Unlike some celebrity artists, Wood's talent has been recognized by the art world at large. His work was exhibited in 1996 at the Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and his art has been in galleries throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia.

Wood says he's been into art since he was 4, thanks to older brothers Art and Ted, both musicians and artists.

"I never put a brush or pen down, I was always sketching," Wood says. "In the early 1980s, I decided to make more use of the talent I was born with. I thought, `Why waste it?' "
 
For Wood, art and music have always gone together. "I like the two of them going hand in hand," he says. "Both are nicely spaced."

Wood's first experience onstage came at age 9 when he played the washboard with his older brothers' skiffle band at the Marlborough Cinema.

The future artist and guitarist went to Ealing Art College and at that time joined the Thunderbirds, which later would be called the Birds, not to be confused with the American band the Byrds.

The Birds split up, but Wood went on to team up with Beck and Rod Stewart in the Jeff Beck Group. When that band broke up, he and Stewart played together in the Faces.

But by the early 1970s, Wood had begun filling in on guitar with the Rolling Stones, and he joined the rock legends in 1975.
  Ronnie Wood in the Studio
 
And he's still at it, three decades later.

All the while Wood maintained an interest in painting and sketching, in between the music and partying.

 
Naturally, much of Wood's work includes portraits of the Stones, but he's also done a series on blues musicians and early gospel singers. His subjects include Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Annie Lennox and Madonna, as well as animals and ballet dancers. He's also begun working on abstracts and some landscapes.

He's found the time to work on his art, sometimes at odd hours.

"Inspiration takes me in the middle of the night," Wood says. "I'm finding more hours in the day now."

That's because he cut the partying down and went into rehab. "I was getting far too stoned," he says.

Despite the band's reputation for overmedicating, Woods says he's enjoying sobriety as a family man with four children.

"You realize you're not getting any younger," Wood says.

  Mick on Harmonica by Ronnie Wood
 

 

 
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