Recently featured in the ITV documentary Billy Connolly: It's Been a Pleasure, the comedian's Born On A Rainy Day collection includes hand-signed limited edition prints and three beautiful stainless steel sculptures. Billy's highly-collectible series of minimalistic drawings is as humorous as his own comedy, with elements of his own life unexpectedly appearing throughout. His new Christmas collection features a set of two heartwarming scenes, including a family with a Christmas tree and the Three Wise Men bearing gifts.
After working as a welder in Glaswegian shipyards in the 1960s, Billy became a folk singer and comedian. He has also appeared in over 50 films, including The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies (2014), Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), The Last Samurai (2003), Mrs. Brown (1997) and Indecent Proposal (1993).
It was on a rainy day in 2007 that Billy first put pen to paper. Taking refuge from the grey drizzle of Montreal, Canada, he entered an art shop with a twinkling curiosity and left with an armful of supplies and the urge to create. Back in his hotel room, his felt-tips and sketchbook formed a portal for his imagination, and over the next five years his drawings evolved into his debut fine art collection, Born On A Rainy Day, which launched in 2012.
Explaining his flexible approach, Billy says: “It’s lovely, the way people think you do it. People think I paint or draw things on purpose. I don’t, I just draw. And then as it goes on, it becomes obvious what it’s going to be (to me). And then I can think about it along those lines: a horse, a man or a balloon. That’s when I name it – at the end."
Billy's art has been likened to the cave paintings of the Aurignacian period (40,000-25,000 BC), which are characterised by their linear, one-dimensional approach. Charmingly simplistic, his faceless figures possess an extraordinary self-awareness and humanity. Devoid of emotion or expression, their anonymity opens them up to individual interpretation, creating a unique bond with the viewer. In 2020, he released his first sculpture, followed by two more in 2021.
An admirer of artists like René Magritte and David Hockney, Billy has made an impact on the art world beyond his own creations. In 2017, the newly knighted Sir Billy Connolly was immortalised in three 50ft murals in his hometown of Glasgow to celebrate his 75th birthday, with his infamous ‘banana boots’ later displayed at the People’s Palace.
In December 2020, following his retirement from stand-up comedy, he starred in the ITV documentary Billy Connolly: It's Been a Pleasure, in which he detailed what his art means to him. After winning the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Edinburgh TV Festival, in September 2021, Billy was immortalised in LEGO® bricks for a series of limited edition minifigures. The five ‘Wee Big Yins’ – comprising the Musician Yin, the Funny Yin, the Biker Yin, the Actor Yin and the Artist Yin – represent Billy’s different career stages, with all proceeds going towards Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity. Billy described it as a highlight of his career, adding: “To be a Lego man is amazing.”
In October 2021, he released his first autobiography, Windswept & Interesting. The Waterstones Exclusive Edition features his new 'Teddy Boy' inspired graphic, which depicts a stylish musician with maracas. His Christmas collection was released in November 2021 and is available now.
Now living in Florida, Billy creates art in his home studio. In recent years, he has embraced colour, adding: “There’s more colour in the collection than before. I was looking at the drawings and sometimes they were crying out for colour and I didn’t know why. It was a kind of question. So I put it off for ages and then started to dribble a little colour in. And once you’ve put it in, you’re kind of stuck with it – you have to put other colours in. It ended up different from the way it started out – it had a totally different attitude to it.
“Colour is weird. A little goes a long way, and if you go too far, it looks like a children’s drawing – not that there’s anything wrong with children’s drawings, they’re delightful – but it takes away the melancholy. I like the melancholy in the drawings. I don’t know sometimes what the melancholy is drawing on, or what it’s about. The colour tends to cheer it up and then make it a big exposure. So I don’t know quite what it’s about, but I’m enjoying doing it.”
Billy has also explored sculptures, with three designs now under his belt. Created from Billy's original drawings, they were cast in metal to reflect his past as a welder in the Glaswegian shipyards, and each sculpture features a cast of Billy's signature to signify his approval throughout the design process. The original sculptures were created in clay, with Billy's detailed lines and patterns recreated by a specialist atelier team before being cast in stainless steel. The effects of light and shade, also known as chiaroscuro, are highlighted by the ridges and the reflection of light.
For behind-the-scenes videos of Billy and a sneak peek at his home, head over to our YouTube channel here.
We're thrilled to reveal the latest graphic from Billy Connolly, Windswept & Interesting. As featured in his upcoming autobiography, the humorous figures are inspired by his memories of Teddy Boys.
Showcasing the very best of our artworks, along with behind-the-scenes updates and interviews, the new issue of our Fine Art Collector magazine is a must-read!
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