When the Gibson Amphitheater was bulldozed for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2014, South Bay native and artist Willard Snow salvaged four 10-foot tall Gibson guitars. He transformed them into works of art, featuring black and white images of rock stars. They became part of the Sunset Strip Music Festival in 2014.
Snow, who grew up in Rancho Palos Verdes, started painting portraits of rock stars including Bob Marley, Marc Bolan of T. Rex fame, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, around six years ago. Snow's journey as an artist drew the interest of filmmaker Mark Knudson.
At first, Knudson, who lives in the South Bay, started with photography and a short video promoting Snow's art. After more filming, Knudson decided to make a documentary about the struggle to be an artist. Knudson has launched an Indiegogo.com campaign to not only help finish the documentary, “Legends and Idols,” but to also help Snow with art supplies.
“It's a story of perseverance really and what artists go through just trying to be artists,” Knudson said. “That's what Willard wants to do, to make art and somehow pay his bills doing it. That's really what the story is about, is the struggle. He's very talented and people like his art and sometimes it sells and does well, it just seems like it's difficult until you really become well known in the art world.”
A large focus on the documentary are the tall guitars which are still on display near Sunset Boulevard. Musician Michael Bradford asked Snow to hang his black and white paintings at the Gibson showroom in Beverly Hills when he was hosting his CD release party. That led to a Gibson entertainment rep suggesting that Snow transform some of those saved guitars with his art for the Gibson GuitarTown Sunset Strip, an arts project that featured more than 20 guitars in a 1.6 mile stretch of the strip and its iconic music venues.
The guitars were supposed to be on the Sunset Strip for six months and auctioned, but the financial woes of the iconic guitar company have put them in limbo. Currently, two were removed that were on the Beverly Hills and West Hollywood border and moved to the Gibson showroom. The other two are located at the Andaz Hotel in West Hollywood.
“The day they approved me doing the four, they said come and get them,” Snow said. “I got in my car and I drove down there and I think we got all of them in one day. He (Knudson) started it in a naive and sort of wonderful way because it's a huge project once he got into it. He's put thousands of dollars in it and I haven’t had any money to throw at it. I sort of looked at it as a separate thing that he was doing about me and I would cooperate as much as I could.”
Snow eventually moved to Yucca Valley for its more affordable lifestyle as well as its music and arts scene. “It's like the 'Hollywood of the dessert'” Snow said. To supplement his income, Snow has started finishing guitars for Bunny Nose Guitars.
Knudson has continued shooting Snow's journey in spite of the fact he moved to the dessert.
“The story continues,” Knudson said. “It's opening doors. I'm working as an editor now and doing a short film about dancers in San Pedro.”
Featured in the documentary are Pink drummer Mark Schulman, who Snow painted a snare drum for, and Australian artist Johnny Romeo. The issue of finishing the documentary is a “lack of money,” Knudson said.
“We have a lot of ideas and then it's like 'we need supplies,'” Knudson said.
Deadline to contribute to the campaign is early August.
For more information, visit indiegogo.com.