Featured in celebrity art galleries across the nation, Canada-based artist Stacey Wells has built her own celebrity following one brush stroke at a time, combining her two favorite subjects on canvas: rock stars and fine wine. Despite residing thousands of miles away, Wells has been a consistent presence on The Sunset Strip for the past few years, making frequent pilgrimages to capture portraits of many of the local bands for her “Reflections of The Strip” series.
It was this passion for music, art and all things Sunset Strip that brought Wells to the attention of the Gibson GuitarTown project, which chose her to design the “Welcome To My Nightmare” Alice Cooper inspired guitar sculpture as part of the public art installation.
How old were you when you first realized that you had real artistic ability? Was there a particular teacher or person in your life that really motivated you to continue down an artistic path?
I enjoyed doodling and playing with clay when I was young, but I think I first realized my talent when I was 12 years old… I drew a picture of Rod Stewart off an album cover. It turned out pretty good, and that is when I fell in love with faces and doing portraits.
I was lucky to go to a high school that had an amazing fine art program. There were two teachers that really encouraged me, and went above and beyond the call of duty to help me out… Like when my sculpture was too big for the kiln at school, Mr. Place took it to his home kiln to fire. It felt great that Mr. Place believed in my work so much; he really encouraged me. I won a scholarship award for that sculpture!
Also, I loved being in Mr. Chow's graphic/commercial design art classes; he always made everything so fun! He had a big stereo that he blasted… I can never listen to The Police, especially "Message in a Bottle," without thinking about Mr. Chow. I am sure it is no coincidence that I now have a series of paintings I call "Message in a Bottle" – paintings of wine bottles with rock stars reflected in them.
His class was the perfect creative zone; relaxed and you could get lost in music, which is the whole inspiration behind my art… He was very encouraging and we learned really cool things, like lithography. Mr. Chow thought I was really great at my commercial art projects and encouraged me in that direction. He kept one of my lithograph prints so that when I became famous, he would become rich [laughter]. I am working on that Mr. Chow!
You take special orders for paintings. Tell us about some of the more interesting commissions.
Well, I had this guy from Delaware send me his wedding wine bottle… He wanted to surprise his wife for their anniversary, so I did a painting of their wedding wine bottle. I reflected his wife's favorite rock star, Bono in it and called it "Bono Bordeaux." Then I painted their last name and special wedding date on the label. They loved it so much they paid for the art and sent me a case of wine. One of the perks of the job!
More recently I had a man that wanted to surprise his wife for her birthday. She loved Paul McCartney, so I did my first Beatles bottle, along with Paul McCartney's reflection. I hid little hearts in the reflections and called it "All My Lovin." I have to say the men are very thoughtful with their art orders!
What would you describe as your greatest artistic achievement to date?
My greatest artistic achievement would have to be having my art hang in the most prestigious celebrity galleries in the country and seeing my name on the celebrity artist lists at the ROCK STAR Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, Gallery 319 in Woodland Hills and the Celebrities Gallery in Wailea, Hawaii. These galleries generally only represent celebrities, so it is cool that I am one of only three artists, and the only female, that they promote as celebrity artists.
If you could design the album cover for any Sunset Strip band, who would it be?
I would love to design the album cover for Semi Precious Weapons. I'm pretty sure I would have free license to create something really out there and exciting! The first year that I attended (the Sunset Strip Music Festival in 2010) I fell in love with them! Amazing performance, really unique. I love the song “Magnetic Baby,” I think the lyrics are brilliant! The singer Justin Tranter owns them, "I can't pay my rent but I'm F*ckin’ gorgeous.” I love that guy!
Tell us about your Gibson GuitarTown art guitar. What was your process? Have you ever worked in a sculptural medium?
It was a really fun project; I loved doing it. It was a little more challenging as I live in Canada so I painted my guitar at my house in Palm Springs… I had decided to paint Alice Cooper, as I really wanted my guitar to capture the unique vibe of The Sunset Strip…his looks, his music and his captivating performances all scream rock star! It was a huge pleasure and a great honor to paint Alice, a musician that I enjoy and admire immensely!…
After reviewing the shape (of the art guitar sculpture), I decided on a layout; and after a long prep of sanding, washing and priming, I did my drawing right on the guitar and started painting. It was really cool to paint on fiberglass – so smooth, the paint flowed easily. I loved it! I used professional acrylics and included some spray paints. I really wanted to add some silver, but I needed more control than the spray can offered, so I sprayed a puddle on plastic and painted it with a paint brush. I caused quite some interest in the neighborhood, as I had music blasting at all hours and the garage door open halfway so that I wouldn't get brain damage from the fiberglass resin.
I dedicated my guitar to my friend and fellow artist Jeff Cahill, who passed away earlier this year. Jeff worked as a booker at On The Rox, and was well loved by The Sunset Strip community. Not only was he a talented artist, but he was a huge supporter of musicians and artists, always offering encouragement, kindness and a big smile that lit up The Strip.
What's next for you? What other projects are you currently working on?
Next up NYC! I just gained space on gallery row in NYC. Look out New York City here I come!
I am starting my new series of Bond bottles, which will feature the beautiful girls from the James Bond films, including (The Roxy Theatre owner) Nic Adler's mom Britt Ekland. I had no idea that was his mom when I began the series… I want to create an image that they would be proud of. It was so cool to meet her recently, and I think meeting her will help me capture her personality in my art. She is such a lovely person and now I am even more excited to paint her!
I am also doing a series of cityscape bottles that will reflect famous landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty. It is exciting, as it will open up my art to new people that love traveling, and perhaps would like to own a special art work that will bring them back to that place daily for an instant vacation. That is what I like to achieve with my bottle art, I want to make people feel a moment and relive it without leaving their home. I have many great cities planned.
I am also doing a series called "My Fifteen Minutes" reflecting famous artworks such as Andy Warhol's “Marilyn,” Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” and Michelangelo’s statue of David. I want to save these wonderful things and capture time in a bottle to enjoy forever.
Other than that, I will be painting like crazy to keep up with the demand. I have a lot of galleries to fill!
Stacey Wells will be exhibiting at the Los Angeles Punk Museum (7191 Sunset Blvd.). Opening reception is Saturday, Sept. 21. For more info visit www.lapunkmuseum.com
To see more or artist Stacey Wells work check out www.artistwells.net. Photos courtesy of Stacey Wells.