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The Story Behind the Story

Updated: Jul 13, 2021

“The Storytelling Artist – The Road to Controversial Art”

by Ian Mackenzie

A Book Influenced by Rod Stewart

Intro by Mike Walton

Last week we can across a book of art by Ian Mackenzie that was partly influenced by Rod and even had chapters named after some of Rod’s songs.

We contacted Ian to find out more and discovered Ian had a really interesting story to tell that ends with him getting his artwork on Rod’s wall in his Essex mansion.

The book itself has become a No 1 BEST SELLER on AMAZON, even keeping Tracey Emin, CBE at number 2!. Here Ian gives SMILER an exclusive glimpse into his book and his passion for Rod’s music.

The music meandered from my father’s radio, crackling as the signal waned and the voice drowned with every sheet of rain that hit the window of the back room in our small terraced house, in a little town somewhere in South Wales. Water appeared on the inside of the sill that would usually cause me alarm. However, it was the music that occupied my thoughts right now. The voice, the melody, it was different. I had heard it before as a deep-seated consciousness reminded me. This was a very distinct and really exciting sound.

Little did I know then that what I was listening to would be such an influence in my life. That the very words, the meaning, the grit and the soul, would guide and impact me like nothing else. The passion, the desire, the will to exist just to hear this voice, resonated deeper than any emotion before. The lyrics were so bountiful and expressive, and the voice undeniably unique. Mind you, I had no idea what the song actually meant. But there again, interpreting it is personal as I soon discovered, just like the interpretation of a painting.

My first experience of the voice of Rod Stewart had occurred, and as he started to appear occasionally on our black and white tv, I knew he was different. An image to aspire to, a sound to fill every part of my life, a melody for every moment, and subsequently, several song titles for chapters in my book.

With countless gigs attended over decades of following my passion for the music of Rod Stewart, a collection of every album released, and a particularly different journey than most to becoming an oil painting portrait artist, I found myself being encouraged to describe this life path and how I came to paint luxury and controversial artwork.

In doing so, “The Storytelling Artist – The Road to Controversial Art” was written, and the influence of this man and his music is described in the following paragraphs, with song titles and lyrics used to illustrate certain times and particular emotions in my semi-autobiographical book, taking the reader on an emotional and humorous journey to the creation of my contemporary art.

Skipping directly to Part Three: ‘Scarred and Scared’ covers a section of my life growing up with the difficulties of teenage years, being different, dressing in clothes that placed you out of the mainstream, and of course being the only youth in your town with a fantastic Rod Stewart haircut.

When it came to a particular life changing incident, there was only ever going to be one title to aptly describe that evening. “Tonight’s the Night” found its way to the top of the page for Chapter 8, as I wrote the account that defined my drive, my commitment and forged my resilience to this very day. However, unlike Rods lyrical description of his seduction of a beautiful female, the title to this chapter encumbers the horrific attack on me in a nightclub as a 16-year-old that left me scarred and scared for so long after. Loving the music was one thing, dressing and looking like Rod was another in my town, and I paid the price that night.

Chapter 9 which follows, is the soul-searching time spent hidden away, seeking solitude in my art and music, trying to find a way to become who I wanted to be, and not what society seemed to be forcing me towards with this physical attack and my subsequent insecurity and loss of confidence.

“Reason to Believe” refers to a step towards redemption and believing in myself to take just one pace. This resulted in me becoming one of the highest graded martial arts practitioners in an organization, a feat to this day I cannot believe. Furthermore, it forged a route into a successful police career, as I aimed to ensure that other individuals and groups did not become victims as I did.

Part Five of my book is aptly named Every Picture Tells a Story, as now being an artist with a catalogue of photorealism art as a reference, I have an abundance of stories to tell about each piece. From straight forward portraits to luxury and controversial artwork, each has a meaning behind it, a reason why I created it and, in some cases, an intriguing account of how the artwork came to be. And there is none more descriptive than in Chapter 22 “Rod, Penny, and the Artist from Wales”.

The lazy Sunday afternoon in front of the tv, a nudge from my wife, and the start of artwork that ended up at the Stewarts estate, is an occurrence that will live with me forever. Capturing their pet dog Bubbles on canvas in a photorealism oil painting style took time. But like most portraits, with the intricate detail I like to create, it became a labour of love, and this chapter describes in full the adventure it took me on, culminating in Rods gig in 2019 at Milton Keynes.

With other references within the book describing certain moments, such as the line “Aim high, reach for the sky, how you gonna know unless you try” from Farewell, it was only fitting that one final chapter title just had to be included in my story.

“Never Give Up on a Dream” became the title for Chapter 32. And unlike the use of song titles to tell my story which is different to the penned lyrics, these heartfelt emotional lines are true to me, my troubles, and my journey of finding encouragement and turning negativity into positive results.

“No force on earth could stop you run, when your heart bursts like the sun….” could not sum up better the way I have been able to now approach life. When you capture so much excitement from a positive act or a kindness from another, and it makes you want to fill your lungs with fresh air and run like never before, or an emotion that fills your heart, so aptly described by these lyrics, there is nothing greater in life.

“Push yourself until the end, but don’t you ever give up on your dream” continually resonated with me as I wrote this last chapter and challenged the reader to become better than they currently are, seeking that dream they always wanted, and to fulfil it regardless of their past.

If in reading this, or even my book, I am able to motivate one person to change and see the positive aspects of their life, the opportunities and the help that is in the world around them, then just like the undeniably fantastic music of Rod that fills my veins, my heart and my very soul, my aim is achieved. Life is worth just so much more, and for me, the music we share is well and truly part of my life.


“The Storytelling Artist – The Road to Controversial Art” by Ian Mackenzie

This book is available from Amazon in Print and Kindle formats.

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