Rick Allen may be known as the one-armed drummer of the British rock band Def Leppard, but he’s also an accomplished artist.
“I actually discovered art (in school) before I discovered music,” said Allen, who joined Def Leppard a year after it formed in 1978, when he was only 15. “I kind of came full circle when my youngest child (Josie Caite) was born. We started painting together. She thinks everybody paints and sings. She’s become quite an accomplished artist herself.
“It was quite fantastic watching her painting. … It reminded of me when I play music. My wife (Lauren Monroe) said, ‘You’ve got to get this stuff out (sell it). People love it.’ I was a little bit afraid of people’s reaction.”
Allen, who lives in Monterey, California, specializes in art that includes photography, mixed media and painting and uses patriotic themes such as the American flag or U.S. veterans’ medals. So it’s only appropriate he will appear at Wentworth Gallery’s Atlanta locations at Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody and Phipps Plaza in Buckhead Nov. 11, Veterans Day, for art shows where a percentage of the proceeds will go to programs aiding veterans.
Allen and Monroe co-founded The Raven Drum Foundation, a Malibu, California-based nonprofit whose mission is to serve, educate and empower veterans and people in crisis. The foundation commonly works to help individuals and communities in crisis through healing arts programs, drum circle events and collaborative partnerships.
Allen, who lost his arm following a Dec. 31, 1984 car wreck in England, discovered in 2006, on a trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, that he still has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the accident. Walter Reed is where many soldiers and veterans go for treatment for PTSD and other serious disorders or injuries.
“It’s very important (to honor veterans) because ever since (then), I realized they spoke the same language as me on how they deal with trauma,” Allen said. “On the face of it, it looks like I’m doing something for the vets, but in reality it’s a two-way street. It’s fortunate I’ve been able to work through my issues by spending time with our warriors. That’s huge for me. I’m not sure where I would be now if I had not admitted I needed help with the situation that affects a lot of us, not just warriors.
“It could be an abusive relationship, a car accident, an alcoholic background. One of the things I love about doing the art is it’s a beautiful experience not only for me to make the art but for those who love the art, without words. Sometimes words tend to get in the way. It’s a nice way to break the ice and it will lead to conversations about trauma.”
David Holden, vice president of sales at Wentworth’s Atlanta locations, said he’s had Allen’s art at both galleries for several years but this will be his first appearance at either one.
“I think it’s very exciting because beside from the fact that he’s a great musician, he’s a wonderful artist,” Holden said. “It’s interesting because a lot of different celebrities who act or are musicians, they like to use their creative juices, basically, for other things as well. By having (Allen) here, he’s a celebrity in his own right as a musician, but he’s also a tremendous humanitarian. He’s done a great work with veterans. … He’s got lots of great stories, and if you’ve had a life like his, it’s really interesting.”
Allen, who was in Atlanta in May for Def Leppard’s concert with Poison and Tesla at the Lakewood Amphitheatre, said his time is limited at concerts, meaning he normally has short conversations with fans. Making public appearances at art shows, however, gives him the opportunity to have longer talks with fans. Allen said the thing he is looking forward to most on this trip to Atlanta is “just getting know the people, the locals, on a different level.”
There will be opportunities for the public to meet Allen at both Wentworth locations (he will be at the Perimeter one from 1 to 3 p.m. and the Phipps one from 5 to 8 p.m.). But fans who go to either location and buy at least one of his art pieces between now and Nov. 10, when they are 20 percent off regular price, can attend a VIP session with Allen that will take place an hour before each public show. They would need to bring their receipt for entry. RSVPs are strongly suggested for those planning to attend the public or VIP events.
“I’m very excited to do this on Veterans Day because (Allen’s) work with veterans is amazing,” Holden said. “He took something that was a tragedy in his life (losing his arm) and turned it in to something very positive. It would be easy in this situation to be bitter. But he turned it into something wonderful for everyone.”
Allen, who said he’s blessed to not only still perform with Def Leppard but also be an artist, is thankful of the veterans he can call on at a moment’s notice.
“I consider myself a work in progress,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve got it figured out and I don’t know a human being who has, but I’ve always got someone I can call if I’m having a bad day or a bad week.”