Victoria artist Paul Archer, borrowing a friend’s guitar, mimics his recent rendering of late rock guitar icon Eddie Van Halen behind his Fort Street gallery. Archer, whose airbrushed paintings of rock greats are striking for their realism, painted the likeness following the guitarist’s death last month from cancer. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Victoria artist Paul Archer, borrowing a friend’s guitar, mimics his recent rendering of late rock guitar icon Eddie Van Halen behind his Fort Street gallery. Archer, whose airbrushed paintings of rock greats are striking for their realism, painted the likeness following the guitarist’s death last month from cancer. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Victoria artist’s king-sized tribute to Eddie Van Halen draws on personal connection

Paul Archer had an up close and personal day with the legendary guitarist in 1980

Ask Victoria-based airbrush artist and rock and roll art specialist Paul Archer about late rock virtuoso Eddie Van Halen and the typically upbeat 60-year-old strikes a sombre tone.

A longtime fan of the iconic guitarist, Archer says news of Van Halen’s Oct. 6 death, after a lengthy bout with cancer, hit him hard. He was wrapping up a massive mural project in Grand Forks, B.C. and vowed to be the first street artist to muralize the musical legend.

“When we lose somebody really important on the planet, whether it’s a celebrity or an athlete or somebody or something that everybody was inspired by – even Takaya the wolf – I like to do a tribute or a memorial,” Archer says.

READ ALSO: Victoria artist commemorates Discovery Island wolf Takaya with mural

A few weekends back he worked feverishly to produce a lifelike rendering of the rock icon in action, wielding his trademark red-with-white-stripes guitar and wearing matching overalls. A cinderblock wall behind Archer’s Fort Street gallery is the canvas for the two-storey high airbrushed painting.

The mural has attracted international attention on social media, and many people familiar with Archer’s local paintings of rock icons have stopped by to check it out.

One local musician who was inspired by Van Halen’s revolutionary playing style in the late 1970s and mourns his passing, was excited to be photographed with the giant image of his guitar hero. Tomo Vranjes has been in bands in Victoria roughly 40 years and says he still injects Van Halen’s intricate fingerings into his guitar solos.

“I was going a little bit of the punk way [originally] and then I heard [Van Halen] and I said, ‘I want to play like that guy,’” Vranjes recalls. “I think Van Halen brought rock and roll back.”

Archer says Van Halen was “like a Mozart, like a Beethoven of our era and a lot of people don’t even know that.”

But the artist was not just an admirer, he has very personal treasured memories of the man.

In 1980 Archer was a stagehand at the old Memorial Arena, when the band Van Halen was on tour in Victoria. He was building a light assembly on stage before the show when something caught his eye.

“All of a sudden these bright shoes and bright pants walked right up to where I was working – I was smoking at the time – and Eddie Van Halen says, ‘you got another smoke?’”

Archer obliged and the two got chatting. Van Halen had heard Victoria was “like little England,” and wanted fish and chips. Archer recommended a shop downtown and was ready to provide directions, but was stunned when Van Halen said, ‘no, no, you’re coming.’

READ ALSO: Touching scene with veteran inspires Victoria artist to paint Remembrance Day series

The two chatted for over an hour at the eatery about all manner of things, Archer says.

Later on at the arena, Archer nodded to Van Halen, who was tuning his guitars. The rocker invited his lunchmate in, chatted more and gave him a handful of personalized guitar picks – Archer says they’re worth quite a bit today. The crewman assumed a guitar tech would take the instruments onstage, but Van Halen asked him, ‘do you wanna do it?’

”I said ‘absolutely!’ So I got to haul both of his guitars and carry them up on stage,” Archer says with a grin. He crossed paths with Van Halen and the band twice more working their shows in Vancouver.

On the weekend of the mural painting Archer battled rain and cold, using tarps and heaters to keep the elements from affecting his precious project. It was a labour of love, he says, and was completed to a soundtrack of Van Halen music.

“When I’m painting someone that has passed … I can almost feel them, with the music in the background and you’re working, it’s almost like they’re there. And that’s what it felt like when I was doing the Eddie one.”

Find the mural off Broughton Street behind Archer’s gallery at 847 Fort St.


 

Do you have a story tip? Email:don.descoteau@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.  
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

don.ddescoteau@blackpress.ca

MusicVisual Arts

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Gordon Head Recreation Centre stands in as the Quimper Regional Hospital on Feb. 23 for filming Maid, a 10-part Netflix series. (Greg Sutton/District of Saanich)
Netflix transforms Saanich recreation centre into hospital for filming

Facility was closed to public Feb. 23 for filming of Maid

This image released by SYFY shows Meredith Garretson, left, and Alan Tudyk in the new series "Resident Alien." (James Dittinger/SYFY via AP)
B.C.-shot ‘Resident Alien’ invader gets lift-off with viewers

New Syfy series catching on, proving TV doesn’t have to come from premium cable

Nico Rhodes, Lucas Smart, James McRae and Kosma Busheikin (from left) recorded their set for the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival’s online video series at the Harbour City Theatre in December. (Photo courtesy François Savard)
Music starts next week at online Nanaimo International Jazz Festival

Ten free, virtual performances to occur over three weeks in March

The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
 The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
Victoria calls for artists to fill Commercial Alley gallery

Competition open to artists in the Capital Regional District

Cowichan Valley author Teresa Schapansky’s books for young readers have become a phenomenon on Amazon. (Submitted)
Cowichan author tops Amazon charts

Award-winning author Teresa Schapansky learned of a need for low-level readers in the classroom

Nadia Rieger restocks some of the art supplies at the Crows Nest Artist Collective. Their move to stocking more art supplies over the course of the pandemic was a response to increased demand, which she thinks shows people have been turning to creating art to cope with mental health struggles due to lockdowns and restrictions on other activities. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Vancouver Islanders using art to conquer COVID blues

It seems people have been turning to their creative sides to stay mentally and emotionally healthy

Chris Bullock, Parksville artist, stands next to his ‘Mermother’ series, on display at the McMillan Arts Centre until Feb. 29. Bullock himself will be at the MAC from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. every Saturday until the end of the month. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville artist Chris Bullock’s unique illustrations on display

‘I’m heavily influenced by old comic book styles from the 1950s’

VIU music instructors Hans Verhoeven, Ben Henriques and Ken Lister (from left) are presenting a weekly jazz performance series with pianist James Darling (not pictured). (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
VIU music instructors presenting online jazz concert series

Musicians getting ‘back in shape’ performing American Songbook standards

Nanaimo’s Todd Cameron won the $1,000 Fan Favourite prize in Vancouver radio station CFOX 99.3 FM’s one-minute movie contest for his version of ‘The Big Lebowski.’ (Photo courtesy Todd Cameron)
Nanaimo man’s 60-second stop-motion ‘Big Lebowski’ remake wins fans’ choice award

Todd Cameron takes home $1,000 prize in Vancouver radio station contest

Kathryn Calder, City of Victoria’s artist in residence, is facilitating a performance and songwriting workshop for youth. (YouTube)
Online music workshops available for Greater Victoria young artists

Artist in Residence Kathryn Calder to host songwriting, performance series

Most Read