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Songwriter's art goes 'Beyond Words'

Bernie Taupin has moved from penning some of pop music's most beloved lyrics to creating images in paint. He will have a show at Coast Gallery.

January 30, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Bernie Taupin, Elton John's songwriter for nearly 45 years.
Bernie Taupin, Elton John's songwriter for nearly…

When Sir Elton John glanced at Bernie Taupin's computer screen a few weeks ago, he noticed a vivid red and white painting with light shades of blue popping out from the background.

"'Is that one of yours?' he asked me," Taupin recounted. "When I replied, 'Yes,' he said, 'I've got to have that.'"

The painting in question is "Winter Rain," a 36-by-36 creation that had, until recently, been part of Taupin's retrospective "Beyond Words."

Coming to Coast Gallery in Laguna Beach from Feb. 7 to 10, this exhibition reflects Taupin's 20-year commitment to the visual arts.

"I'd have loved to start painting a lot earlier on, but I lived a very transient lifestyle and was constantly on the move," said Taupin, 62, who penned the lyrics for "Tiny Dancer," "Crocodile Rock" and other John classics. "It was a progression of sorts — tiny steps toward a place where I could concentrate on this other side of my life."

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Growing up, Taupin developed an early appreciation for the arts, thanks in no small part to his mother, who was discussing literature and poetry and showing him J.M.W. Turner portraits before he could walk.

It wasn't until the '70s, however, when Taupin came to the United States and spent time visiting New York City museums, that he fell in love with the abstract Impressionism of the '40s and '50s. He was also deeply influenced by icons such as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Dominated by chaos and movement, the pages of Taupin's sketchbook are constantly being filled.

"At that time, I discovered a connection between art and what I did, literally," he said. "For me, it was a continuation of creating stories, just visually as opposed to sonically."

A resident of the San Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County, Taupin spends 80% to 85% of his time working in a studio that was constructed from a converted racquetball court. Its generous size lends itself to the artist's creative process and affinity for large canvases, sometimes spanning five or six feet.

While past exhibitions have been hugely gratifying and well received by audiences, a priority at upcoming shows is to switch out older pieces for newer ones that reflect Taupin's evolution in style.

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