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

Trevor Davis, base manager of the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation in Sidney, stands in front of the Hecate Sentinal, an oil skimming vessel based at Sidney’s Van Isle Marina. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Oil spill response base taking shape on Saanich Peninsula

Enhanced base with elements in North Saanich and Sidney to be fully operational in fall 2022

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

The O’Meara family – (left to right) Mari, Max, Adam and Rei – spent Saturday afternoon picking out the perfect tree. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Santa’s Forest tree sale in Saanich implements one-way perusing, curbside pick up

Christmas tree, wreath sales in Braefoot Park through Dec. 24

(Black Press Media file)
Webinars help Greater Victoria residents affected by dementia prepare for the holidays

COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions can add additional challenges for people living with dementia

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read