The life & work of an artist
Thanks for taking the time to check out my web site. Most of you will know me as the artist that painted the record covers for Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator in the 70’s. Choosing artist as your job description is rather like giving yourself permission to spend your life creating and approaching life as it comes to you - as an artist.
I was born at the end of World War 2 in Dartford, Kent at that time a severely bombed out suburb of S.E. London. By the time I started school at five I knew how to draw and paint. My work was always chosen by the teacher to be put up on the wall at school, the other kids thought I was a show off and my mother would always tell me to, "Clear up that mess - dinner’s ready." I ignored the world and sat in my corner endlessly amusing myself seeing how much fun I could have drawing anything that I could imagine. It also helped me to escape from the rigors of school "learning", of which I did only as much as I needed to to get by.
I suffered the consequences of this and was frequently caned and penalized for my lack attention. The only bright lights in the dreary school week were the geography and art classes. I went through a disastrous yet very informative "art school" phase at Oxford, which was just a continuation of the schools I had already been through, except this time they were trying to turn me into a museum curator.
My real education came in London in the sixties, a time of great change, vitality and immense creativity. I designed my first record cover in 1967 for Fats Domino and became a kind of in-house designer for Liberty Records in London. Shortly after that I was in the right place at the right time and became the original Art Director for the magazine Time Out in London, an entertainment guide to everything going on in swinging London. Naturally every band - both the up and coming hopefuls and the already successful - came through our doors to place an ad or seeking a review of their latest LP. My design skills were often called on and then I met Genesis through their producer.
We hit it off instantly and - thanks to the visionary approach of the record company -Charisma - we were left alone to create the records and the covers of three records together with no interference. The results were Trespass, Nursery Cryme & Foxtrot, some of the most successful collaborations I have ever had working with musicians, they created the music and I made original paintings that reflected exactly the contents of the records. Other bands on Charisma that I worked with included Van der Graaf Generator, Peter Hammill on his solo projects, Lindisfarne & Trevor Bilmus. I quickly became known as the painter and designer who worked with rock bands, a nice niche to be put into I thought. Collaborations with Renaissance, IF, High Tide, Mott the Hoople, Matthews Southern Comfort, Colin Scott & Steamhammer followed.
Then I emigrated to the United States and finally settled in Los Angeles. I continued to create paintings for record covers and immediately worked with Tom Fogarty and Le Orme who came to L.A. to make Smogmagica. Most of the record cover work I have done has been for progressive rock bands although I have made record covers for bands from R&B & New Age to Funk. I recently worked with Earth, Wind & Fire for a brief project.
The record cover work is, however, only a part of what I do. If you explore the web site further, you will find a lot more levels to Paul Whitehead, the artist. For example did you know that I am in the Guiness Book of Records for the largest mural in the world? That I conceived and organized the Eyes & Ears Billboard Art Show, the first "Drive Though Art Gallery" in - where else - Los Angeles. I have designed many corporate logos and for three years I was the creative services director at The Universal Studios Theme Park in L.A. This got me interested in writing screenplays and I completed half a dozen scripts on many subjects including stealing the Mona Lisa, the martyrdom of Savonarola and the Christmas Truce in the first year of The First World War. I also make my own particular brand of music. My interest in science fiction, performance art and classical and progressive music has led to the composition, recording and performance of The Borg Symphony.
I have even, as an artist, given myself the liberty to explore "my feminine side". I know that it sounds so cliché these days but I took a leaf out of artist Marcel Duchamp’s book and created a playful and very creative female doppelganger who I call Trisha van Cleef. She is also an artist and she calls her work Stretching. Trisha's work is completely abstract and she gets to wear much more interesting clothes than Paul.
I hope you enjoy the site and don’t forget - you are only an e-mail away. I love to hear your thoughts about whatever excites you, share crazy ideas with people on the other side of the world or across town, I like to be given BIG creative challenges and of course, I love to paint!
Remember if you can imagine it, I can paint it.
Paul Whitehead, Los Angeles 2011.