As the drummer in Wales’ premier rock ‘n’ roll renegades 60ft Dolls, Carl Bevan was no stranger to rock excess.
But while music fired his hedonistic formative years, he’s now returned to his first love – art.
Originally from Glynneath, the Cardiff resident has portrayed the city in a number of paintings that have been immortalised in a 2021 calendar featuring some of his favourite places in the Welsh capital.
A man with a definite sense of humour, he gives his works brilliant titles, like ‘If I Was Roald Dahl’s dog, this is where I would do my finest dog business’ (Llandaff Fields), or ‘Gareth Bale I will never forgive you for Dempsey’s’ (Womanby Street).
Carl, who works part-time in IT for the Royal College of Nursing, spends the rest of his time painting.
However, his adventure in the world of art isn’t so much a new beginning but a reconnection with something he loved when he was growing up.
“When I was a kid I either wanted to be a taxidermist, a drummer or an artist,” says Carl. “I spent a lot of my teenage years listening to jazz and prog rock in my bedroom, painting watercolours of wildlife and drawing cartoons in the style of my heroes Leo Baxendale – especially the Willy The Kid books and Mad magazine.
“After I mysteriously passed some A-levels I attempted to be sensible and opted to become an art teacher as I didn’t have the confidence for proper art school and the phrase ‘struggling artist’ put me off a bit as well.”
But after a few years of teacher training, it became quickly apparent that he was completely unemployable as a teacher and was told as much on a school work placement.
“I was hopeless, and I realised quite quickly I hated kids,” he laughs.
“The headmaster at the school where I was on placement called me into his office and asked me why I was doing the course.
“I replied: ‘I want to be a teacher’ and he said: ‘You’ll never be a teacher, you are completely unemployable as a teacher. You need to have a think about this son’.”
Luckily for Carl rock ’n’ roll intervened in the form of the hell-raising Newport band renowned for their furious indie-punk anthems, who burned bright but briefly in the mid-90s Britpop boom.
“Fortunately for me right around that time my band 60ft Dolls started to generate a buzz in the weekly music papers and very soon were signed to major labels, touring the world, having top 40 records and playing Glastonbury,” he says.
“So I promptly dropped the paintbrushes and picked up drumsticks to create mayhem, noise and chaos for the next eight years instead. It was much more fun than trying to be a teacher if I am honest and it was an amazing, exciting chapter of my life of which I will always be very proud.”
After 60ft Dolls imploded in a boozy heap in 1999 he got himself a proper job and promptly became extremely miserable without music, so started studio production and eventually formed another band, The Lash.
“I was already knocking on a bit at this point, mind you, at 39 years old. The Lash was immense fun and a great creative outlet as I was writing songs and producing as well as being the old guy at the back on the drum kit,” he recalls.
“The day came where I eventually had to fire myself for being too ancient and round as I was only just getting away with it in the photos in the first place.”
And it was on that fateful occasion that art re-entered the former musician’s life in the unconventional form of – dog portraits.
“I always told myself that I would go back to art at some point when I was older and started tentatively doodling some cartoons and remembered how much I loved it all those years ago,” explains Carl.
“I was pleasantly surprised as to what I could achieve with a fully-grown adult brain. The last time I did any serious art Princess Diana was still alive, Nirvana had just broken through, and John Major was PM.”
However, despite the success of his dog paintings – pooches colourfully reimagined in a series of elaborate costumes – which he created electronically, he quickly tired of the form.
“It started to do my head in a bit,” he says. “They were all commissioned and they used to take so long. It wasn’t fun toward the end.”
It was two years ago that his art life took another sizeable twist – thanks to his workplace.
“Funnily enough at the time the RCN had an art competition,” he recalls. “People were asking me if I was going to enter. I was told it had to be a physical piece of art, not a digital submission. Initially, I wasn’t interested, but then the prize money was £1000, and the first round was judged by Will Gompertz of the BBC.
“I was still having doubts 48 hour before the deadline, but I kept thinking it’s a grand, it’s worth a go, so I went to Hobbycraft and bought some paints.
“I painted Painting Number 1 and I won first prize. After that I thought I would continue to paint every day, so I challenged myself to paint 20 paintings and not show anybody and not judge myself if they were crap.
“Paintings 2,3,and 4 went in the bin. Number 7 I sold in an auction in the States for $550 and I haven’t stopped selling paintings since. I’m on number 59. It’s a lot of work and it’s been an intense two years, but I was like that with music, I’m driven to the point of insanity.”
Spreading the word on social media, sales of Carl’s painting have been bolstered by Facebook and Instagram.
“It’s all grown slowly and steadily and it’s just built from there,” he says. “A couple of months ago I got a proper website together with a print shop on the site. That’s going really well.”
The Cardiff resident is especially keen to talk about his 2021 calendar, a collaboration with I Loves The ‘Diff featuring some of his favourite places in the city – including Womanby Street, The City Arms pub, The Hayes and Cardiff’s arcades.
“I wanted to do a calendar and I saw that Chris from ilovesthediff retweeted one of my paintings,” says Carl. “He also wanted a print for his mother’s birthday. I love his products, I think they’re great. They are all simple, clever ideas. I had 12 paintings of Cardiff, so I pitched the idea of a calendar to him.
“We met over a coffee. I gave him my best pitch and he was into it. So we’ve been working together on it. He’s written lots of great content about each one. It’s been a really rewarding collaboration.”