When Rick Allen returned from a South American tour with Def Leppard last month, he had two priorities — to see his family and to return to creating his artwork.
Fans of the “Hysteria” hitmakers know Allen as the tenacious drummer for Def Leppard, a guy who didn’t allow the loss of his left arm in a gruesome car accident in 1984 to thwart his future as a musician.
But since 2012, he’s publicly displayed his art — images that blend the Union Jack with the American flag, jewelry and painted drums among his creations — and expanded his platform in support of veterans.
On Saturday, Allen will make two appearances at area Wentworth Galleries — from 1-3 p.m. at Perimeter Mall and from 5-8 p.m. at Phipps Plaza.
A portion of the proceeds from every sale will be donated to the Warrior Resiliency Program, which is sponsored by Allen’s Raven Drum Foundation.
In a recent conversation with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Kaedy Kiely of The River (97.1 FM), Allen was audibly excited about his upcoming visit — “It doesn’t matter if you’re there to buy art or to say hello. It’s normally a really fun time and it’s a nice way to talk to people in a different way,” he said.
The California resident — he’s lived in the U.S. since 1991 — ducked out of his art studio (his garage, where he said he was painting double-decker buses) to chat, but noted with a laugh, “When I get off the phone with you guys, I’ll be heading back to the garage.”
How he got involved with helping veterans organizations:
“I think for personal reasons. I knew that I was different after the accident, good and bad. There was a fair bit of self-medication. Sometime in 2006, I went to visit Walter Reed (Army Medical Center in Maryland) for the first time, and I had never done any kind of therapy (after my accident). I threw myself back to work, which looking back probably wasn’t the best idea. But it was great just hanging out with our warriors and realizing that while my trauma wasn’t combat related, trauma is trauma … there’s a whole host of ways human beings can be traumatized.
“I realized during that visit that they were speaking the same language as me. When I got back to my hotel, I just broke down. I was so upset that I was seeing all of this suffering. I called my wife and said, we need to rethink our focus with Raven Drum Foundation (which Allen started in 2001) and we started to draw attention to the trauma that was happening to our men and women in the military. You would think I’m doing it for them, but not at all — it’s a two-way street. I really get a lot out of the veterans. They give me some really good tools to work through my PTSD. I never used to talk about it, but a friend told me you need to talk about it. To this day, I still work with the warriors.”
What he likes most about his art:
“I like getting in among the paint, the large pieces. I’m not trained at all. I like to think there is a childlike sort of quality, where people can feel a sense of joy when they look at some of these paintings. We can go back to when I was in England. A telephone box to me isn’t just a telephone box. (Growing up) when it was freezing or raining, it was a refuge. I kind of brought that life experience, just trying to share that with people and create a sense of unity and a sense of healing. It’s something I can do outside of the band, and it’s very personal.”
On his early love of art:
“When I was a kid … I guess I discovered art before I discovered music. Around 10, I discovered playing drums, but it wasn’t until I started painting with my youngest daughter (who is 6) that it reignited my passion. I go to that same mindless, in-the-moment place when I play music, and I recognized that I was able to do that at home and not necessarily be on tour with the band and literally be in the moment and feel a sense of peace.”
On his relationship with rhythm and drumming:
“If you experience kids before they get into that ‘oh, I can’t do it phase,’ they naturally paint. There’s no rules. They’re very confident about that. And then when it comes to rhythm and dance, they’re so natural and free with that. I was just fortunate that my father was a massive music fan, so he’d introduce me to music from Glenn Miller and pull out Elton John (records) and then I started getting into rock because of my older brother; he came home with ‘Made in Japan’ by Deep Purple. I never really planned on being in a rock band — it just sort of turned out that way.”
1-3 p.m. Saturday at Wentworth Gallery Perimeter Mall (4400 Ashford Dunwoody Road, Atlanta) and 5-8 p.m. at Wentworth Gallery Phipps Plaza (3500 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta). RSVPs are strongly suggested at www.wentworthgallery.com.