Art Review: KatArt

Rock Portraiture by Kathy Sullivan, 2016-present45793306_10209957547135253_4095542030187364352_o

Format: colored pencil/marker on Strathmore paper


Notable Quote: “Music for me has always been a saving grace. It’s gotten me through a lot from childhood on. So to combine music and drawing was just a natural development. It’s definitely personal.” ~ Kathy Sullivan

My quick 2 cents: Kathy Sullivan brings light and life to the portraits of those we love most, creating vibrant images that will touch your heart.  Buy it!

The full scoop: I discovered Kathy’s amazing artwork when she posted a drawing she did of my all-time favorite singer and bass player, Benjamin Orr of The Cars. His image was, of course, immediately recognizable to me, but it wasn’t like it was just ‘close enough’ for me to tell it was Ben. It was the way she brought to life the expression in his heavy-lidded eyes and the corner of his mouth, and how she perfected the texture of his hair, the detail in the microphone. She managed to harness the essence of Ben so completely that he jumped off the page. It was just that good, that real.

And that’s why Kathy’s art impacts people. By capturing that vibrant spark of life in a person who affects us so deeply, and then releasing it onto her canvas, she proves herself to be a kindred spirit with the ability to give us a treasured image more personal than a photograph; something softer, more tangible somehow. Something that goes straight to the heart.

A born-and-raised New Englander, Kathy’s desire to draw would emerge every few years as she made her way through adulthood, but she didn’t pursue it seriously until 2016. Her initial intentions were to just take commissions from people and draw whatever they wanted her to draw. But all that changed with the death of Chris Cornell on May 18, 2017. His passing impacted her deeply and she dealt with the loss by putting on his music and drawing him from one of her favorite photos.

That black and white pencil drawing would turn out to be pivotal for Kathy’s career. Drummer Justin Pacy used it on his promotional materials for the highly successful tribute show, All Night Thing. He also invited Kathy to bring her drawings to sell at the event, and her exposure and audience received a huge boost.

The act of drawing Chris was a healing exercise for Kathy, and the finished portrait opened up a platform for her to expand her audience, but ultimately – and even more telling – it gave Kathy an inspired sense of direction. She said in our recent interview for Standing Room Only, “I realized how many musicians we’ve lost that I wanted to pay tribute to.  I’ve done many but there are still so many left to do! I think people really like to have a drawing of their favorite musicians that have passed, like having a small piece of them to hang onto.”

Kathy’s extensive portfolio captures icons like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Janis Joplin, BB King, Prince, Lemmy of Motorhead, Gregg Allman, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, Randy Rhoades, Amy Winehouse… the list goes on and on. She gets many requests for living artists as well, including James Hetfield, Steven Tyler, Brett Michael, Stevie Nicks and Deborah Harry.

In addition to following her own interests and emotions in choosing her subjects, Kathy also takes on commissions from people who request drawings of their loved ones, heroes and pets.

If you, too, are moved by the depth and honesty of Kathy’s art, visit her website:, or find her on under her shop named Sullika. You can order prints of drawings she’s already done or request a unique piece just for you!

BONUS: Take a minute to watch this cool time-lapse video of Kathy creating her stunning portrait of Barry Gibb!

Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars

LetsGo.jpgWritten by Joe Milliken, 2018

Format: Book, 216 pages, 30+ photos

Published by Rowman & Littlefield


Notable Quote: “Believe me, Benny just had this incredible electricity about him. He would walk into a room and whether they knew him or not, people just felt there was something special about this guy…. I swear that in the mid-sixties, Benny was like the Elvis Presley of Cleveland.” — Wayne Weston, friend and former bandmate.

My quick 2 cents: Between the unique writing style, the candid memories of many important people, and the generous number of previously unpublished photos, Benjamin Orr’s inspiring story comes to life in these pages. Buy it!

The full scoop:  Any retrospective on the late 1970s and 1980s HAS to include some focus on the new wave rock legends, The Cars. A debut album that stayed on the charts for 139 consecutive weeks, winners of the first MTV “Video of the Year” award in 1984, creators of what would become the haunting signature song for Live Aid (“Drive”) — they are more than deserving of their 2018 induction in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

While all five guys generally resisted the limelight, bassist Benjamin Orr was arguably the most sought-after — and most private — of the band members. Blessed with versatile vocal chords, unwavering musicianship, and an irresistible magnetism, fans of Benjamin ‘the rock star’ fell hard and with no hope of recovery. But once the show was over and the lights went down, Benjamin flipped a switch. He was a normal guy; he avoided photographers, shunned interviews, and led a low-key lifestyle in the quiet, upscale town of Weston, Massachusetts. Of course, all of this added an air of mystery to his reputation. When he succumbed to cancer in October, 2000, at the age of 53, it seemed the curtain had closed on his legacy forever.

First-time author (and long-time rock journalist) Joe Milliken has spent the last eleven years researching Ben’s life in an attempt to pull back that curtain with his biography Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars, due to be released on November 11, 2018. The book follows Benjamin through others’ eyes as he pursued his rock-and-roll dreams from his happy days as a teen star in Cleveland to the open-minded bars of Boston, to the comforting arms of Atlanta — not ruthlessly, but with a humility and steely determination that left those around him in awe.

As a devoted fan of Benjamin Orr, I’ve been researching and writing about him on my personal blog for about three years. When I discovered that this book was in the works, I felt protective of Ben’s privacy and I’ll admit… I was nervous. What if the author revealed information that was too personal? What if he told things that were not fair to tell, with Ben gone and not able to defend himself? Would the author’s sources be credible? And what if… what if I just… didn’t like the book?

My fears were unfounded on all fronts.

The first thing that impressed me was the writing style. The author uses a distinctive technique where he introduces a player in Ben’s life and then lets that person fill in the narrative with his or her quote. I thought it might be jarring to have the flow stop and another voice come in but it’s really so perfect. It’s truly like a camera cuts to the significant person and you hear them talking about Ben, like a documentary rather than a novel.

Having Benjamin’s loved ones tell about him in their own words is brilliant. I felt my heart and mind busily rearranging my personal ‘mosaic’ of Ben, having it grow in clarity and color, adding texture, as I read their stories. It is such a perfect format to document the life of a man who never enjoyed talking much about himself. The result is this masculine and tender, very respectful, very REAL painting of who Benjamin was.

And of course, by ‘rearranging my mosaic’ I mean that I learned a lot of new things about Ben, especially about his early years and what he was like behind-the-scenes. I also connected some dots, confirmed some things I had suspected from my research, and enjoyed some surprising stories.

While I won’t tell you exactly who is in the book, I was impressed with the long roster of interviewees, including Ben’s former bandmates, record executives, iconic photographers, media personnel, key women in his life, and friends who had known him intimately.

Another element that I love about this book is that there is no ‘tell all’ mentality anywhere to be found. The author skillfully balances the heady experiences of a world-famous rock star with the reality of a deeply private, kind-hearted and loyal man. For example, I can see in places where he’s walked that fine line of honoring Ben and respecting his relationships while maintaining the honesty of his attraction to and of other women. Or the struggles Ben faced with the dissolution of The Cars and finding his way back to the stage. Milliken is gentle with the truth, letting the other voices tell their story and leaving it up to the reader to ‘read between the lines’ if they are so inclined.

When asked how he made decisions about what to leave in and what to take out, Milliken said, “Every time I came to a place where I had to walk the line of Ben’s privacy, I had his son in my head. I would ask myself, ‘What would young Ben think of this?'” It seems to have been the perfect measuring stick.

Equally as thrilling as the informative text is the abundance of photos! There are more than 30 black-and-white photographs woven through the chapters, the majority of them new to the public. Such a treat! The book also includes a timeline of bands, a selected index, and a list of everyone the author interviewed over the years.

If there is any drawback to the book, it is that all of my questions were not answered. But how could they be? My curiosity goes way beyond obsession (what IS the story with that one bracelet, anyway???). It’s an impossible task, short of putting Ben’s life under a microscope, which I believe he would have hated.

Others may feel like this book is not ‘sensationalistic’ enough. But the fans… the ones who truly love Benjamin… they will be so moved at the way the author has protected his memory and his legacy. His son, the women in his life, his dear friends, his former bandmates… any and all of the people in those categories… I believe they will finish the book and hug it to their chests and be SO happy at what’s been done for Ben.

Just like me.