Best known to his legions of fans as the guy shredding guitar next to Billy Idol, Billy Morrison is poised to show the world another side to his creative expressivity — one where he trades in his guitars for brushes and spray cans. But the raw energy of darkness-inflected pop carries over from his music into his visual aesthetic in some seductive and compelling ways, combining with familiar and personal imagery to create symbols and narratives that scratch that leather-clad rock ‘n’ roll itch.

L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist? 

BILLY MORRISON: That creative gene has been pretty strong in me since I was a kid, but the thought of putting brush to canvas came much later in life, after I had explored other creative mediums like music and acting. The first time I knew that paint was in my future was when I tried my hand at painting a skull, and it came pouring out of me, just like the feeling I had when, as a kid, I learned the first Sex Pistols song on guitar.

What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?

My work is a combination of my observations of the world around me, and my sense of aesthetic … my love of color, shape, design and quite simply what looks good framed and hanging on a wall! Sometimes the piece has a message and sometimes its purely something that I love to look at. Art is subjective, which means sometimes you don’t have to look that deeply to find beauty and joy in a work.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?

I’m lucky enough to be able to say I would still be traveling the world, playing guitar for Billy Idol. That’s what I do now, and if the art went away, I would still play guitar, write, act and immerse myself in other creative mediums. Fortunately I am able to do it all, and I am hugely grateful for that.

Art by Billy Morrison

Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?

Well I barely went to any school, let alone art school!! I was a troubled kid and paid little attention to any form of education, and I certainly didn’t think I would still be here, on this earth, all these years later creating things. I come from a punk rock background and have always believed that it doesn’t matter how you say it, as long as you have something worth saying in the first place. So training and education is fine, but for me, it’s always been about just doing it and figuring it all out as you go.

Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?

I moved to Los Angeles from London when I cleaned up my life many years ago, and honestly came for the sunshine and palm trees! My thought was that I would rather work in a 7/11 in the sunshine than in the rain. I didn’t have any career or any prospects! But the city has been kind to me and I am honored to live here. Inspiration and opportunity really do exist on every corner but you have to know where to look and how to see it. Thirty years ago I was homeless on the streets of downtown so believe me when I say I have experienced all sides of L.A.

When was your first show?

I did my first show in the famous VILLAGE recording studios in West L.A. I felt that the marriage of art and music in my life was mirrored by using that location, and Jeff, the owner, is a friend and offered me the space. My fellow artist and illustrator, Joey Feldman, collaborated with me on the show and we had a successful night.

Art by Billy Morrison

When is/was your current/most recent/next show?

I have just spent 18 months creating a body of work on canvas that I will be showing in West Hollywood at Ken Paves, 818 North La Cienega Blvd., on November 8th (VIP Opening) and November 9th (Open Admission). The collection features works in oil, acrylic and spray, along with a couple of cool collaborations — one with my friend and partner Dave Navarro, and one with the star of The Clash film, RUDE BOY, Ray Gange.

What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?

I mean, obviously the list is endless!! Any of the OG pop art guys would have been amazing — Warhol, Basquiat, Haring etc. But the same goes with the living artists I respect — Fairey, Banksy, Retna… I think if pushed, I would say to do a show with Shepard would be something that would blow my mind. He has been nothing but supportive and kind to me, DJing my first art show, and talking to me many times about my art, my technique, etc. Amazing artist, great guy, powerful message.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?

I do, yes. Depending on what I’m painting it could be anything from The Velvet Underground or Bowie, through to Ministry, NIN, or The Wildhearts.

Website and social media handles, please!

WEBSITE: billymorrisonart.com

INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/billymorrisonofficial

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/billymorrison

TWITTER: twitter.com/billymorrison

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