Guitarist Wood wields a mean pencil, too
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A surprising number of major musicians have had a flair for drawing as well. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, John Entwistle and many more have found that music wasn't enough to contain their creativity.

The most respected of those, though, is the Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood, whose portraits have graced everything from his own solo albums to Eric Clapton's Crossroads boxed set. A
  Stray Cat Blues by Ronnie Wood
showing of Wood's artwork, including a reception with him at Master Gallery tonight, is traveling along the Stones tour with him.

"I think they're connected," Wood says of the ability to create music and to create drawings. "It's a solo effort when you're drawing, a group effort with music. But they're both outlets, and I'm lucky to have both sides of the expression.

"Bob Dylan - he liked the images I've done of him. He's a very good artist, Bob; he's very Matisse."

Wood uses musical terms and artistic terms interchangeably whether he's talking about music or drawing.

"The limited-edition prints I do - a lot of those are done in layers. I call them overdubs. It's a bit like being in the studio; it's very similar, laying all the different layers of paint, to building a musical song."

Like Lennon, Wood was an art student before going into music.

"I tried to go as a commercial artist but then thought, no, the musical route is a lot easier."

It wasn't until the early '80s - long after his artwork had adorned album covers, including his own Gimme Some Neck - that he decided to pursue it more strongly. Besides the urge to create, money was an inspiration; though Wood had been a member of the Stones since 1975, it wasn't until recent years that the other members cut him in as a lucrative full partner. He was on salary before that.

"During the early '80s, there was kind of a slump where I was living in New York. I thought, I can paint, the band isn't working, there wasn't much on the horizon, I've got to pay my rent, blah blah blah - let me try this. So I intensified my output. I thought, I'll just paint away in my own way, experimenting with different styles, which I still am to this day," he says.

He started with portraits, many of famous friends such as Keith Richards and Eric Clapton.

"That was getting my foot in the door to be accepted in the art world," he says. "Instead of a barrage of all different kinds of styles, I'd be known as a portrait artist first. If that works, I can stretch my sights further afield landscapes, buildings, horses, whatever. I still enjoy portraiture and movement of people, but I also enjoy getting out there in the open air and painting in fields. That's my ideal thing if I get much of a chance. But I don't get a chance until I'm back in Ireland."

While fans have seen mostly portraits, Wood has branched into wildlife drawing, picked up from his jaunts to Kenya to help protect endangered species, a passion he's had for two decades. (He actually owns several endangered white rhinos in a preserve there, the only way to keep them from poachers. "They'll kill the last one if they had the chance," he says.)

A quick work can take 20 minutes; a huge oil can take months. Wood completes up to 100 canvases a year when he's not touring. They include everything from pencil sketches to full oil canvases to dry etchings done with a 6-inch nail. Genesis Press has done a limited British edition of Wood's work called Every Picture Tells a Story: Wood on Canvas. Wood is working on getting that released as a coffee table book in the United States.

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