For Johnny Depp, there has always been art. Before acting, and before music, art has always been an important outlet for his creativity. While his acting skills are obviously the foundation of his fame, the recent reception to his music with Hollywood Vampires and the late Jeff Beck has encouraged him, and emboldened him to share his art.
Johnny’s debut collection of limited edition artwork saw him focus on Friends & Heroes; people he has known well, and who have inspired him as a person. Featuring Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, Elizabeth Taylor and Al Pacino, each image is an intimate reflection of their character in Johnny's eyes; a portrayal of how they have revealed themselves to him.
In early 2023, the actor and musician released his second collection, Friends & Heroes II, featuring actors Heath Ledger and River Phoenix, musician Bob Marley and writer Hunter S Thompson, all of whom were either friends of Johnny, or an inspiration to him, thus adding a real emotional weight to the pieces.
Working from photographic references, each image was stripped back to a simpler and iconic portrayal of the subject, which Johnny then developed and energised with his characteristic freehand flourishes. Johnny's art exists at the intersection of Pop Art and Street Art. Recognisable images of people in popular culture are recast in vibrant, bright colours and overlaid with the energy and wit of Street Art. The result is a series of iconic images of media figures that have moved beyond the impersonal graphic simplicity of Pop Art. It's Pop Art with feeling.
His latest release, 'Five' was Johnny's first self-portrait and was a time-limited edition, available for only 13 days between the 20th July and 1st August 2023. The edition is now closed and the sale for this product has ended. The self-portrait captures the emotional exhaustion Johnny was feeling when he initially conceived ‘Five’ in the studio of his close friend Ralph Steadman in 2021, as he was about to enter the fifth year of a very difficult period of his life. He added the “five” tally-mark in recognition of this moment in time.
He immersed himself in creating the work as a means of creative healing. In 2023 Johnny revisited ‘Five’, where he reflected on the original composition and made additional embellishments. Having previously kept this physical artwork private, Johnny felt he was now ready to share it with the world. The original reference for the art is a still from a shoot for Dior’s ‘Sauvage’, directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino. Johnny chose this particular image in honour of Dior and the loyalty they’ve always shown him. To Johnny, the image symbolizes the importance of truth and the steadfast support of those who remain close to you during challenging times.
"If the piece resonates with even just one person, this art has purpose." - Johnny Depp.
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Image credit: Elliot Nyman
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As an actor, Johnny Depp is known for his depth of research and commitment to characterisation. He is an innate student of human behaviour; studying, translating, and harnessing qualities he sees in others to weave into the tapestry of the persona he is creating. This has resulted in laser-sharp powers of observation, and the ability to identify and utilise the subtlest nuance.
He has wielded this skill in his visual art, using it to create a true authenticity and depth in the portraits of those who have become the most important figures in his life; those who have altered the course of his life, providing influence and inspiration. A closer look at his portraiture reveals the qualities that Depp felt his subjects revealed most keenly to him, or are his strongest points of recall when revisiting times shared and memories made
With his sketchbook as a permanent fixture in his hand, rarely is there a time when Depp isn’t sketching or visually conceptualising the world around him. His mind rejects the ordinary, challenges the accepted and oscillates between the pictorial and the lyrical, giving rise to his own multi-layered expressionistic style.
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It’s here! Johnny Depp’s Friends & Heroes II collection is officially available. Capturing popular icons Bob Marley, Heath Ledger, River Phoenix and Hunter S Thompson, the collection is a unique insight into the world of Hollywood from one of its biggest stars.
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