It is rare these days to meet a professional in the art world who doesn’t have a side hustle. But did you know a lot of actors have side hustles in the art world too? Not only are they talented in acting, but this list of lucky celebrities seem to have all been blessed with a never-ending supply of creative talents too. And, while the stars we’ve listed here are mainly known for their contributions to the screen, their work in the world of visual art is just as praiseworthy. As with all artists, the talent and skill of celebrity painters varies from person to person. Just scroll on for proof and judge their gifts for yourself!
Lena Dunham has multiple side hustles. Not only is she an actor, but she is also a director, producer, writer and now an artist. As the daughter of contemporary artists Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons, Lena Dunham has fine art running through her veins. Lena, started painting as a form of therapy after multiple operations to combat endometriosis and fibromyalgia. Since her breakthrough into the art world Dunham has debuted a body of watercolors in a group exhibition, “Xplodir,” at New Orleans’s Red Truck Gallery.
You can read more about her connection to the art world here.
Perhaps best known for her roles in the movies Kill Bill and Charlie’s Angels, actress Lucy Liu is also a very talented abstract artist. Liu’s interest in art began at the age of fifteen, when she started experimenting with collage and photography at Stuyvesant High School in New York City. She has painted for years, under the pseudonym Yu Ling. Her work has been featured in numerous gallery exhibitions and international art fairs, and is included in multiple private and corporate collections. See more of Liu’s art at her website, www.liuart.com.
Not only is Johnny Depp a talented actor and musician, he is a gifted painter as well. He usually creates portraits of people who inspired him throughout his life, from Marlon Brando to Jack Kerouac, and even his ex-wife, Vanessa Paradis, for whom he has created album covers for Divinidylle and Bliss. Depp’s works are often unsettling with a dose of mystery and unease, much like his favorite artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s works do.
Beautiful actress Marilyn Monroe has been the subject of many artworks — most famously by Andy Warhol . The artist also had a go at painting herself, and was deeply invested in collecting art too. Her tastes were varied—at the beginning of her career, she taped inexpensive reproductions of Albrecht Dürer, Fra Angelico, and Leonardo Da Vinci to the walls of her Hollywood apartment. As she grew in both fame and fortune, she began to purchase originals instead. This delicate watercolor of a rose pictured above was inscribed by Monroe to President John F. Kennedy.
Known for his comedy, as well as more serious roles such as in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, actor Jim Carrey is also an accomplished artist. He shocked fans when he released a documentary “I Needed Color.” The 6 minute documentary allowed viewers into what Carrey’s life is like, and the monumental amount of time and energy that he spends honing his artistic craft, and his drive to do so. For six years beforehand, he had been quietly devoting himself to a studio practice, painting and sculpting as a way of mending personal heartbreak after his split from actress Jenny McCarthy in 2010 after five years of dating. His paintings, sculpture and cartoons have been exhibited in galleries around the world.
James Franco has been making art for decades. In addition to acting, he does performance art as well as painting. The Disaster Artist star’s work has been shown in some of the world’s most prestigious institutions, from Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles to the Tate Modern in London. The actor’s work also appears in the film he stars in, Why Him. The multi-talented actor—who has no real ink—personally designed much of the body art that adorns his character. “I drew some of them,” he told the US breakfast TV program Today.
Alongside Lena Duham you probably know Jemima Kirke as Jessa on HBO’s Girls, but before she began acting, she got a BFA in painting from the famous Rhode Island School of Design. In fact, she only got into acting because her friends (mainly the above Lena Duham) needed people to work for free. It’s clear her fellow actors have served as a fountain of inspiration for her paintings, as evidenced by this portrait of her Girls co-star Allison Williams on her wedding day.
In recent years, Macaulay Culkin has retreated from the spotlight, devoting himself to art and music. Culkin teamed up with buddies Toby Goodshank and Adam Green to form 3MB Collective. He is so serious about his art practice that he converted his Manhattan apartment into an art studio. The actor said in a video he shot with Green and Goodshank, who are both in the indie band Moldy Peaches, that the inspiration for his art comes from; “A lot of iconography from our youths and stuff like that: ‘The Masters of the Universe,’ or Korn, or whatever. … The sillier and the funner, the better.”
Text by Peigi Mackillop