Punk Rock & Paintbrushes is a collective of artists founded in 2015 by Emily T. Nielsen, who has worked in music and art management most of her life. The creative aggregate made up of well-known musicians (not solely from the punk rock world), action sports athletes, and other notable artists has showcased at art expos and music festivals in various cities around the U.S. A cancer survivor herself, Nielsen was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2006 and went into remission the following year. Her illness and subsequent recovery were the impetus for her to start Punk Rock & Paintbrushes.
Over the years, Nielsen has made friends and established long-term working relationships with an array of talented artists, many of whom she became acquainted with through the Vans Warped Tour. “We know all these artists for what they’re known for,” says Nielsen, “but they have these hidden talents, and that’s the whole thing behind Punk Rock & Paintbrushes. It actually was formed through a cancer nonprofit that I had started that involved cancer survivors and those affected by cancer, working with musicians.”
After over a year of no gigs and sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group celebrated the official release of their art book Punk Rock & Paintbrushes: The Insides of Artists Written by Outsiders. It features 26 chapters, each displaying the art and personal stories of musicians Warren Fitzgerald (The Vandals) Jennie Cotterill (BadCop/Bad Cop), Jim Lindberg (Pennywise), Matt Hensley (Flogging Molly), Carla Harvey (Butcher Babies), Charlie Benante (Anthrax), Jason Cruz (Strung Out), professional skateboarders Christian Hosoi and Steve Caballero, dominatrix Soma Snakeoil, and many more. Many of the artists whose work is featured in the book participated in a book signing and art show on April 24th at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach, California.
“We realized that our shows were going to not be happening… one got canceled after the other. So, when everything got canceled it was very tragic, along with everything else that happened. I would touch base with the artists and we did a virtual show in May. But it’s just not what we are at all. We’re not virtual artists, we’re hands-on art… we want to be face to face with people. And Warren Fitzgerald, who is the co-creator of the book said, ‘Let’s do a coffee table book.’ And when he said that it was like lights turned on. That’s when I really felt that that was something I was passionate about.
“So, I reached out to all the artists I wanted in the book and everyone was like, ‘Absolutely. Hands down. Let’s make this happen.’ We worked our butts off. I mean, everyone worked so hard. We had all the artists, the photographers, the designers, the cover design, and everything. We were knee-deep in the whole process, no one knew about it. We finished in November and sent it off.”
“These are artists I’ve worked with often. This has been around for about six years, but the artists have been working with Punk Rock & Paint Brushes beforehand. None of them are random. They’re a part of our actual collective.”
“I wanted all of them to share what they wanted to share. That’s what the cool thing about the book is. It’s kind of scary to put that on paper. So that’s kind of what we wanted to do, is share obscure facts about their lives, but also really intimate part of their lives as well. It’s this collection of misfits in a way, but they’re successful misfits. The purpose behind the book is to inspire young kids like ‘you can do this,’ you can be an artist and have it as your full-time career and support your life with it.”
Through stunning imagery and compelling personal stories, these artists have shown what it takes to get through a pandemic and just about any adversity in life.