Kiss guitarist Paul Stanley banked millions of dollars last year. Not from touring, but from his paintings. For the past year, Stanley has been touring his original artwork and will open a new exhibit this Saturday at a Washington, DC area gallery. "It's been terrifically successful," Stanley tells Rolling Stone. "And the great thing is I never expected it. I paint for myself. If no one else likes it at least I do. I have never approached things to please other people in both art and music."
No stranger to art, Stanley studied at New York's High School of Art and Music, the inspiration for the film Fame. "My best subject must have been lunch," he says. "I didn't get along with authority and it turned me off art." Failing art class, he dropped painting for music. Years later, while going through a painful divorce in 2000, Stanley found solace in painting and picked up his brushes again. Now, he clearly takes pleasure in knowing his art reaches different crowds — both Kiss fans and art collectors.
"I see people at the gallery who will never go to a Kiss show and people at a Kiss show that will never go to the gallery. And then there are some people in between." His pieces, mostly four-by-five foot acrylics done in bold colors with intense strokes, brought in $2 million last year. His originals fetch as much as $70,000, with limited-edition prints going to $1,000. Even Kiss co-founder Gene Simmons, known more for his shrewd business practices than for his eye for art, bought one of Stanley's works titled "Statue of Liberty." "The monetary aspect validates it that much more for him," Stanley says.
Meanwhile, Kiss has been gigging consistently for its legions of fans known as the Kiss Army. Fresh off a 30-show Kiss European tour, where the band sometimes played six shows a week, Stanley says the group is fit and finely tuned these days. "The band has never been better, never looked better," he says, adding that Kiss is planning a 35th anniversary tour this spring.