25 Mar 2009
THE ART OF JOHN ENTWISTLE
“John Entwistle was born a long time ago. He spent his early childhood dodging dinosaurs and searching for a cave with just the right amount of echo.”
And so begins the autobiography written just three days before John Entwistle passed away. Nicknamed the “Quiet One” John had a quick wit and a good heart. He was a talented musician, voted “Bass Player of the Millennium” and a talented visual artist. It is well known that as a young boy John played piano and French horn, but what many do not know is that he was always drawing. His Uncle worked for a paper factory and would bring John rolls of paper to drawn on. And that is were his imagination took off. Cartoons of crazy characters emerged on the vast rolls of paper as John would daydream and draw. And then the music took over.
“After meeting Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey at school, they formed the ibryo of The Who, which at the time they named “The Detours”. After a few “detours”, they found a new drummer in Keith Moon and a new manager who promised thi that they would soon appear at Carnegie Hall. They never did – but often ordered sandwiches from the Carnegie Delicatessen next door. After a string of Top Ten singles in England, they decided to conquer America. This meant either defecting to Russia or touring the US. They chose the latter. After seven long profitless American tours, they were $500,000 in debt with a truckload of trashed equipment.”
Fast forward to 1995. John and The Who had made their mark as one of the most exciting and creative rock and roll bands to emerge from the UK. They had successful solo careers and were enjoying life. That is about the time John decided, with a bit of encouragement from long time friend and manager Cy Langston, to dip his big toe into the world of art.
John had created the cover art for The Who’s 1975 album “The Who by Numbers”. Inspired by his young son Christopher’s connect-the-dots coloring book John drew caricatures of Pete, Roger, Keith and himself. Strategically placing numbers and dots to form their bodies, John made sure that there was a bit of humor hidden in the art. (Can you find the number 1?) John and Cy chose this artwork for the first limited edition serigraph. Walnut Street Gallery, a U.S. gallery, was hired to publish and distribute John’s art and a new chapter began.
“John’s “other career” as an Artist was also taking off. Starting with the release of a Limited Edition serigraph of his, “Who by Numbers” cover, closely followed by updated color editions of The Who – namely “Spirit of ‘76” and “Generations”. Originals of his other cartoons of famous “Rock Stars” went on sale to the Art loving public and he still had plenty of “victims” to draw yet!”
In 1996 The Who began to tour once again. They embarked on a European tour featuring the Rock Opera Quadrophenia. And then they took the U.S. by storm with the same show. During that tour John’s art was featured in a one man art show in New York City. The success of the opening night was unbelievable. In fact John was stunned people came out and actually liked his work. And they bought!
Excited by the success of the show, John began to draw and draw some more. A series of limited edition prints were created featuring The Who in various stages, always a bit of John’s humor inserted into the art. And the infamous spider “Boris” began to appear in all of John’s drawings. “In 2002, The Who, still as a five piece performed a series of English concerts leading up to another “Children’s Cancer Trust” benefit at The Royal Albert Hall.”
Between 1996 and 2002 John attended dozens of art openings in his honor. Always gracious, he took the time to chat with each collector, personalizing their art with a quote and a sketch of “Boris”. In the spring of 2002 John finished what would be his last drawing. “Eyes Wide Shut” represented a new style for John. Featuring Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, John’s style had evolved from simple line drawings and caricatures to a more lifelike representation of his subjects. He was more confident and relaxed with his art and ready to share that with his collectors.
“Now…! I’m still the Bass Guitarist. If you’re reading this Bio at a show – don’t forget to wave – I’m the one on the left. If you’re reading this at an Art Show – Help support a starving Artist BUY SOMETHING! “
Arriving in Las Vegas June 26, 2002, John was excited about the upcoming concert and art tour. On June 27th there was a reception planned for John at an art gallery, the next evening the band was kicking off their summer concert tour in the U.S. Sadly John passed away in his sleep early on the 27th. He left behind a wonderful legacy that included his magnificent talent as a musician, visual artist and friend. John’s remaining original works of art and prints can be found at Walnut Street Gallery.
The quotes in this article were from John’s autobiography that he revised & finished 24th June 2002
John Alec Entwistle
9th October 1944 – 27th June 2002 Walnut Street Gallery
253 Linden Street, Fort Collins, Colorado 80524
Hyperlink to John’s page: