Billy Connolly enjoys new leash of life as an artist

HE has had more careers than most people – welder, musician, comedian, actor and television presenter.

But now, at the age of 69, Billy Connolly has added another string to his bow by launching a new career as an artist.

An exhibition of drawings by the Glasgow-born comedian will be unveiled tonight at an event at the Halcyon Gallery in London’s Mayfair.

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The collection of six sketches, called Born On A Rainy Day – a reference to the weather in Montreal when he began his foray into visual art – has a surrealist feel.

The pen-and-ink line drawings include three men wearing suits, a two-headed figure wearing a dress and a man walking an oversized dog.

The faceless characters also feature a silhouette of a man lying in long grass, an angel and a man with an large head entitled Happy New Haircut. Other names for the drawings include Walkies for the dog-walking figure and Pink Tie and Hanky for the men dressed in suits.

Originals of the drawings are being offered for sale at £3,000 each, while signed prints of the entire collection will cost £3,500.

Around six individual prints will also be produced, priced at £625 for a framed version or £395 for a paper copy.

Connolly joins a growing list of celebrities who have launched sidelines as artists. David Bowie, Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood have all shown their work in galleries to varying levels of critical and commercial success.

Connolly said that he was inspired to take up drawing five years ago while visiting an art shop in Montreal. He bought a supply of materials and started sketching desert islands in his hotel room, noticing they were getting better with each attempt.

He said: “The fifth island, I noticed, was considerably better than the first one. The art bears no relation to comedy or music.

“My art is pure and unjudged, I am creating for myself, it is personal and private, whereas with a film, a comedy show or music you expect people to be critiquing, watching, assessing. Art is different, it liberates you.”

From Saturday the works will go on display at branches of Castle Galleries, which has also exhibited Dylan’s work, across the UK, including Glasgow.

Connolly is being represented by Birmingham-based fine art dealers Washington Green. The firm describes his art as “similar to that of the Surrealist Automatism movement, whereby the artist allows the hand to move randomly across the paper or canvas, without an intent to create anything specifically”.

Its description of the collection added: “Connolly’s images seem to evolve as they are being created and he allows the image the freedom to become whatever it was destined to become. The images are, no doubt, very real and recognisable, but also seem to float out of all context as if in a dream or a memory.

“Connolly’s art can also be likened to that of the cave paintings that originated in Aurignacian culture, possessing a charming simplicity, yet an extraordinary self-awareness and humanity.”

Castle Galleries said the collection was expected to “sell out fairly quickly”. A spokesman added there had already been a number of pre-orders.