For mere mortals, getting screen time in a major motion picture, stage time at a stadium concert, or a hot mic at the United Nations would be the crowning achievement of an otherwise humdrum lifetime. But not for these celebrities and public figures. Public personas aside, they’ve got a collective creative secret: They’re all great visual artists.
1. Brad Pitt, Oscar-Winning Actor
Brad Pitt has saved the children in Africa, rebuilt neighborhoods in New Orleans, locked down Angelina Jolie, and — oh yeah — starred in a whole bunch of critically acclaimed movies. One of Brad’s lesser-known achievements: He’s an excellent painter whose work has been featured in a variety of private showings, and no doubt serves as a conversation piece at many a Pitt-Jolie charity gala.
2. George W. Bush, Former President
There’s only one former President whose dog paintings broke the Internet on successive occasions, and it’s not John F. Kennedy. (Too soon?) That’s right: George W. Bush, that lap-child of privilege and architect of two budget-busting wars, also has a keen eye for detail. Say what you will about Bush’s penchant for one particular terrier breed or his curious fixation on omnidirectional lighting — he’s a heck of a lot better with oil on canvas than any other Oval Office occupant in recent memory.
3. Paul McCartney, Legendary Musician
By the 1990s, Paul McCartney’s decades-long musical career had begun to slow down — not that the multimillionaire seemed to care. We didn’t know it at the time, but apparently he’d discovered another worthy pursuit: painting. McCartney’s style is reminiscent of the Impressionists, and he’s not half bad.
4. James Franco, Oscar-Nominated (and -Hosting) Actor
James Franco is apparently on a mission to prove that, having dominated the world of teen heartthrobdom for years, he’s capable of playing with the intellectual big boys. He’s another member of the celebrity painters’ club — his work resembles McCartney’s.
5. Tony Bennett, The World’s Greatest Lounge Singer
Tony Bennett’s voice is a national treasure. His watercolor brush isn’t so well known —but perhaps it should be. Bennett’s urban and pastoral landscapes are truly gallery-worthy. In fact, he routinely shows them under the clever pseudonym (actually his birth name) Anthony Benedetto).
6. Billy Dee Williams, Famous Actor
Billy Dee Williams will forever be known as “Lando Calrissian,” the roguish foil to Han Solo’s roguish hero in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. But he’s also a nationally acclaimed artist whose work has been displayed at (get this) the Smithsonian Institution.
7. Michael Greene, Former National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences President
There are some Grammy-winning and -nominated musicians on this list, but what about the folks who keep the lights on at the Grammys? Yep, musician-businesspeople have creative impulses, too. Case in point: Michael Greene, the former president of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences — the Grammys’ parent organization. A talented sculptor and family man, he recently put on an exhibition at the University of West Georgia with his two sons (also sculptors).
8. Johnny Depp, Oscar-Nominated Actor (and Noted Pirate)
Captain Jack Sparrow isn’t the only artistic flight of fancy to emerge from Johnny Depp’s beautiful, twisted mind (and face). He’s also famous in Hollywood circles for painting detailed, avant-garde portraits of fellow celebrities, including Bob Dylan and Keith Richards.
9. David Bowie, Magnificent Human Being
David Bowie is many things to many people, not all of them repeatable in polite conversation. One thing many folks don’t know about Mr. Space Oddity is that he’s an above-average sculptor, an excellent painter, and (get this!) a published art critic. His work is...scary.
Who’s your favorite secret celebrity/public figure artist?