04.01.08 PAUL'S NEW STROKES
As I enter Paul Stanley's palatial estate, he opens tiny gates from room to room that were installed that very morning to keep his 17-month-old son Collin from getting into undue trouble. As we journey through the house and out to his guest house / art studio in the backyard, the walls are noticeably void of any KISS memorabilia. Paul smiles, "I know what I've done; I don't need a wall of gold records to remind me." And this seems true. Paul has settled into a very tranquil and happy existence with his wife and new son. But it would seem that painting has also brought Paul peace of mind of late. "Anytime you find a means of expression it's going to make you more aware of who you are and put you more at peace, it's kind of like releasing the pressure on a water pipe."
As Paul shows off several easels of paintings in progress, he offers up a part of his ritual. "I come in here and crank up some music and make a mess. Most of the time I listen to the soul station on XM. I can sing those songs backwards and forwards: Delfonics, Joe Tex, Al Green…The Four Tops."
It is here that Paul begins his tale of brush strokes and madness conquered. "It wasn't until about eight years ago that I really started painting. I was going through a divorce and anybody who's ever been through a bad break up knows you need some sort of outlet besides hitting your head against the wall and screaming. A friend of mine said I should paint, so I went out and bought some canvases and paints. I was clueless as to what I was going to do, I was just kind of shell-shocked and I went on this exploration. But I do what I do by instinct. It makes it that much more exciting. It's like getting in a car and hitting the road without a map. There's no sketches beforehand and there's no sketches under the paint. It's just me going for it. Same thing with music. I'll start blindly writing a song, not knowing what I'm writing and whatever words come out kinda dictate, then it becomes kinda fill in the blanks. Someone might argue with me, but in art there's no boundaries; music is great but it has rules and laws you have to follow. In painting, the boundary is the edge of the canvas. So I just started painting, and I put a piece up in the house, which was Green Planet, which is still unsigned. When I put it up, I was afraid that if people saw my signature, they wouldn't take it seriously. So, to this day, it's not signed. But people used to come over and ask me who did it, who was the artist and where they could get something like that. I started seeing how many people were connecting with what I was doing and it was nice to know that other people liked it, but that was a bonus. I'm not interested in pleasing other people unless I'm pleasing myself. That's a bad place to come from, when you're trying to second guess what other people are going to like. I'd rather please myself and if nobody else likes it, then I've won anyway. So I kept doing it for myself, but ultimately I did a show in New Jersey and went on to do 14 shows last year and the success has been pretty staggering. People seem to want to take this art home."
I ask Paul if he was afraid of art critics out to slaughter a rock god. Paul nods and laughs, motioning to his large estate. "This is the house that bad reviews built. I don't live or die by critics. If you get critical acclaim, that's great, but ultimately what you want is popular acclaim, the masses speak loudly. One person can stand up and tell you what you should like and why you should like it, but it must be very disheartening to him because it's irrelevant. All that matters is what people like. If the two coincide, that's great. More people should go to galleries and art museums but they feel that their opinion is invalid because they've been told that. Your opinion's valid because it's your opinion, if you like something, you don't need to explain to anybody why you like it."
I wonder if Paul feels like his success has had anything to do with his stature as a rock legend. "Sure, my career and my success get my foot in the door, but you can slam the door real hard on my foot if you want to. Ultimately what I'm doing has to stand on its own. Do KISS fans come? Yeah. Some of them have never been in an art gallery. But there's also a large number of collectors and people who come that'll never be at a KISS concert. But the two shall meet, and it's great. But I don't think that anybody is going to buy a painting for a sizable amount of money because they like listening to 'Love Gun.' If they do, they'd probably be better off spending the money on something else. I did a set of four portraits of the guys in KISS as a kind of a tip of a hat to the fans and I thought 'Everybody's going to love these.' But they're not very popular, and that's actually made me really happy. You know, people aren't buying KISS faces on canvas, they're buying something they connect with."
And if you're hungering to obtain a piece of Paul's art for your very own, prints will soon be available online. "It's great because a lot of people can't afford an original. But you're not getting some cheap-ass paper print, it's actually a print that's been embellished with physical brush strokes, so when somebody buys a print, they're getting something that's on par with the original, which is great."
Soon, tentatively in the fall, Paul will be showcasing his paintings at an L.A. art gallery. Will he be there for the opening? "Absolutely, I think that whenever possible, you want to meet the artist. I think it's important, if possible, to kind of understand what the artist's reality is of a piece. However, ultimately, you've got to find your own meaning in it. But to have that one on one time I think is optimal. I didn't become famous to cut myself off from the people that made me famous, I like people."