You may have seen Phill Baker’s artwork outside of CBGB’s. Or online. Or in line at an event like the Heaven & Hell in-store at Sam Ash in NYC last summer, where I first met him. Known as The Rock ‘N’ Roll Painter, a title he says was bestowed upon him by Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, Baker has made a name for himself among rock’s elite. Working for reference from photos or other iconic images of his subjects, Baker has created some striking paintings of the most famous faces in rock ‘n’ roll — everyone from Lemmy to Robert Plant to Bono — and many of them have signed his creations. Phill has even tackled some Hollywood heroes.
Over the years Baker has painted a plethora of pictures thanks to his raw talent and fast hands. The mural that he made for the aforementioned Heaven & Hell in-store (see the link above) took him only three hours to do. He also does not work for profit but for the love of music — he says he does not sell any of the paintings that he has had signed by their subjects. But the artist is working on a book to be published in the near future.
The Rock ‘N’ Roll Painter currently has an exhibit (“Rock ‘N’ Roll Art Show’) being displayed at Art Bar in the West Village in Manhattan. It runs through the end of December. Check it out. And enjoy ADD’s one-on-one with the man himself.
How long have you been a painter?
I have been painting ever since the day I first saw Bozo the clown on TV. It’s all his fault! I drew and painted Bozo all the time. Then one day I tore off Bozo’s head — no, wait, I think I hung him — when I first seen Alice Cooper on Wolfman Jack’s Midnight Special. [laughs] True!
What are your larger pieces like and how many have you done?
Larger works — I have many sizes. I have a Debbie Harry in front of CBGB’s that is 6 feet high by 62′ across, a Dead Boys and a Beatles that are 6 feet x 6 feet, but the bigger ones are mostly 48′ x 34′ on average. Almost all of my bigger ones are all color. I only went black and white last year. I have over 400 color [ones] and about 270 of them are autographed by the musicians themselves. Have a look at a few that I have up [online]. I can’t put up 300 pics on a site. That’s where my art book comes in — www.myspace.com/rocknrollpainter.
Have you sold any of your works?
Sell my works? I never thought I was ever good enough to sell. I still don’t. I am still teaching myself. I never had art training. It was all out of the love for rock n’ roll and art. I wish I had schooling. I would be a better painter, and I’d have a teacher to thank. But I never sold a painting for I always painted for myself, hoping to get the painting autographed by the rock star. And if word got out I was selling an autographed painting, I think that they would stop signing my works. I am known by a lot of musicians. I made the circle. Well, that is what Chris Robinson told me one day, that he was wondering when he was going to meet me. Flipped me out. But I never sell a signed painting. That’s why my collection is sooo huge and worth millions today as a lot of them have now passed away. The paintings that are not signed, sure I sell. Or someone will ask me to paint whomever. I’m raising twins on my own, and we all have to eat. But I paint murals in clubs, in football players homes, and I may be doing a mural for Joe Piscopo’s place. Elvis, Sinatra, Brando, Monroe — he likes all that.
Who are some famous rockers that you have yet to paint?
Well, I can do the Rock n’ Roll Alphabet forward and backward. A is for Aerosmith and so on to Z equals Zeppelin, and then Z equals Zappa back to A for Allman Brothers. It will be in the book. But I am always interested in hearing what people have to say. As in who I should paint or who they would like for me to paint, people have told me to paint Tom Waits and William S. Burroughs. I did and have them both signed, so thanks for the suggestions. Keep them coming!
Is true that Steven Tyler gave you your nickname?
Yes, Steven Tyler did give me the name “Rock n’ Roll Painter”. At first it bothered me all the time, when he would shout at me, “Hey Rock n’ Roll Painter, whatcha got now?” Over and over. He knew my name was Phill, and he told me he knew that! But he kept on calling me Rock ‘N’ Roll Painter. One day I was at a Pretenders/B-52’s show — I think it was at Radio City — and he got out of a limo saying, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Painter, how the hell are you?” And I told my brother, who was with me, “He knows my name, what is with this guy?” My brother said to me, “Lil’ bro, if that’s what Steven wants to call you, then let him. After all, it ain’t that bad that he calls you that, and after all, you have now been named by Rock n’ Roll Royalty!” How true it is! So that’s what has stuck, and I kept the name and [now] introduce myself, “Hi, I’m the Rock n’ Roll Painter.”
Following are more images from the Art Bar show.