Paul McCartney only cautiously agreed to publish this book of paintings, fearing, quite rightly, he would be categorized as just a 'celebrity painter' - the Stallone and Curtis kind. "I know I'll be getting a few snide comments for doing this book - it seems that if you approach the art world by one route, that's OK, but if you've come via another route, then it invites prejudice. In fact [...], one 'critic' wrote that I 'shouldn't be allowed to do this.'"
The simple, almost child-like honesty with which McCartney comments on this crossing into a different field, manifests itself in his paintings: they carry schoolboy-naughty titles like 'The Queen After Her First Cigarette' and 'Bowie Spitting', often display bright, simple colors, and have the kind of surprised pleasantness - for example "Ancient Connections" - which is often associated with children.
That said, his work is actually pretty good. Its diversity (there are abstract paintings, figurative paintings, portraits, surrealist ones) is a plus, as is the execution, which reveals McCartney has a keen eye for colors and shapes (composition and detail, i.e. the more technical side of painting, are of lesser interest to McCartney, who said: 'I like the primitive approach, so if I learn to sail I don't take sailing lessons: I get into a boat and capsize a lot. It's actually very much my philosophy and it works equally well in painting and in music.')
For people who are unaware, it should be pointed out that McCartney was a key figure in sixties' London, not only in the music field but also in the underground movement, doing collages, experimental music (long before Lennon), and drawings for the International Times paper and Indica Gallery, as well as collecting Magrittes and befriending Willem De Kooning. Also, he was the brain behind such legendary covers as "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" (1967) and "Abbey Road" (1969).
Some of the paintings in this book remind of the ones featured in the "Standing Stone" CD booklet, which he'd done to illustrate the story of that 1997 classical piece. Big, three-dimensional (it's as if they're made out of shiny plastic) figures with soft, often sandy yellow, pastel colors. In paintings like "Unspoken Words", "Ancient Connections" and "Yellow Celt" (all featured in this book) McCartney effectively uses this style. They are the best ones in his catalogue.
In a way, his paintings - bright, simple, enjoyable, shapely - are the equivalent of his musical work. His approach is best summed up by himself: "In my mind I have a friend who is Luigi. Luigi owns a restaurant and he's got an alcove, and he always needs a painting for it. So whatever I'm doing, if I ever get that terrifying moment I say: 'It's for Luigi's alcove, Luigi will like this.' And he just lets me off - it frees my head for two seconds and then I'm over the hurdle and I can carry on. Luigi's alcove is one of my huge saviours."