Billy Connolly

Glaswegian Icarus by Billy Connolly
Glaswegian Icarus

Wading Bird by Billy Connolly
Wading Bird

Fly Away Peter by Billy Connolly
Fly Away Peter

Sandy & Andy McKay by Billy Connolly
Sandy & Andy McKay

Born in 1942 in Glasgow, Scotland, Billy Connolly CBE is universally identifiable by his trademark maniacal hair, elaborate (and sometimes, purple) goatee beard and use of profanities when performing his stand-up routines on the stage, amongst other things. Other things which include, cavorting around London’s Piccadilly Circus naked (but for his aforementioned purple chin fuzz) on behalf of the Comic Relief charity and riding a massive three-wheeled Harley-Davidson trike around the world. The latter being with a film crew in tow and on the proviso that he documented his voyage of discovery for his successive TV series’ based on his travels. It’s fair to say that there’s not much that the ‘Big Yin’ hasn’t turned his hand to over the years, during a career which has embraced being a musician (as a folk-pop singer), TV presenter, Hollywood actor, author and of course, his default career setting, of comedian. And a hugely successful one at that. But recently he’s acquired another string to his vocational bow, as an artist, which he’s also rather good at it appears.

We’ll gloss over Connolly’s better known career, as let’s be honest, most people are aware that he is Scotland’s most famous son, after Robert Burns, Sean Connery, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jimmy Krankie, and that he served his time in the Glasgow shipyards as an apprentice boilermaker on the River Clyde, before becoming a folk-pop singer, morphing into a more comedic persona and making it as a fully-fledged, Parkinson-interviewed stand-up comedian who’s now something of a British institution. Now we’ve dispensed with that, we can concentrate on the art bit instead, which as it happened, didn’t take shape until very recently and quite by accident, truth be told.

Whilst out and about (probably making one of his TV travelogues) on a grey, cold and wet day in Montreal in Canada back in 2007, Connolly stumbled upon an art shop, perhaps solely as a means of shelter. Either way, he was immediately transfixed with his alien surrounds (the art shop, not Montreal) and proceeded to spend several hours (and several more Canadian dollars) in the retail establishment, where this over-riding urge to create gripped him. On returning to his hotel room, Connolly had a plethora of art supplies at his beck and call and an unfamiliar creative demon to exorcise.

Connolly’s initial inspiration was drawn from desert islands, which he committed to his sketching surface one after another, with each individual island taking on its own character and personality. The Scot himself adds; “The fifth island, I noticed, was considerably better than the first one.” Realising that practice makes perfect, Connolly forged ahead, excited and fascinated by such relative progression within such a short passing of time. From that moment onwards, Connolly visually interpreted characters from his imagination, which he seemed to excel at – in his own imitable style – and since 2010 dedicated far more time towards. So much so, that Connolly’s ‘Born on a Rainy Day’ series was the hitherto culmination of his pictorially creative journey thus far. The name being a direct reference to that cloudy, damp Montreal day which served as the catalyst for his artistic adventure.

It’s not always easy to describe Connolly’s artistic persuasion, and quite what messages he’s trying to convey through them, as the artist himself struggles to afford them a narrative as such. Suffice to say that it’s something akin to an enigma. A sense of purpose and identity which consumes Connolly as he commences the creative process. The only guarantee is that his art bears absolutely no relation to comedy or music, and that in the artist’s own words; “My art is pure and un-judged, I am creating for myself, it is personal and private; whereas with a film, comedy show or music you expect people to be critiquing, watching, assessing. Art is different, it liberates you”. If you have to approximate Connolly’s artistic foundations and directions, the nearest movement that it could be aligned to is the Surrealist Automatism genre, which is best characterized by the almost random and spontaneous hand movements across a canvas, which doesn’t work to a pre-conceived visual agenda, nor does it follow a particular pattern or theme, and as a result of which anything can be artistically borne out of its approach and application of technique.

There is definitely a sense of the image fundamentally evolving whilst it’s been created, whereby Connolly allows the composition the freedom to gradually become whatever it was destined to become. With the word, ‘surreal’ literally translating as ‘above reality’ this description sits perfectly with Connolly’s work to date. It would however be a disservice to suggest that Connolly’s images are non-descript, as for the most part the core subject matter is real and recognizable to the casual observer. Be it a dog or an angel for instance. Yet this reality is removed from any contextual surround and captured in a dream-like pictorial sequence to lend it this pseudo-ethereal ambience.

Others intonate that Connolly’s art shares much of its roots with cave paintings, and specifically the sort which originated in Aurignacian culture. There’s no doubt that the contemporary artist’s visual reveals radiate and project a simple, stripped back charm and appeal, whilst also being completely anonymous and seemingly bereft of emotion or expression, yet simultaneously proffering levels of self-awareness and a touching humanity which fosters an emotional connection with those who look upon his retrospective body of work. It can be both argued and justified that there is little if anything remotely contrived or intended about Connolly’s art, which stands or falls by its own pure form, and emerges from deep within the artist and a place which is devoid of audience or showmanship. Neither reaction or approval is demanded, with each drawing leading the individual viewer on their own individual journey, and to ultimately supply their own narrative to.

View All Art Works By Billy Connolly

Glaswegian Icarus by Billy Connolly
Glaswegian Icarus
Wading Bird by Billy Connolly
Wading Bird
Fly Away Peter by Billy Connolly
Fly Away Peter
Sandy & Andy McKay by Billy Connolly
Sandy & Andy McKay
The Man In The Long Grass by Billy Connolly
The Man In The Long Grass
Blue Angel by Billy Connolly
Blue Angel
Pink Tie & Hanky by Billy Connolly
Pink Tie & Hanky
Walkies by Billy Connolly
Walkies
Happy New Haircut by Billy Connolly
Happy New Haircut
Born On A Rainy Day - Suite of Six Editions by Billy Connolly
Born On A Rainy Day - Suite of Six Editions