By John McCrank
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Rolling Stones are heading back to the studio this month to toss around ideas and try new material, Ronnie Wood said, taking the guitarist away for a time from his first love, painting.
At the opening of his new art show, 'Faces, Time and Places,' in New York City on Monday, Wood was far more focused on his art work than the Stones' plans to celebrate the band's 50 years in music. But he did allow that he and his bandmates were "kicking at the heels" to record again.
"We're going to get together to have a rehearsal and see what happens," Wood told Reuters about the plan to record.
Outside the Stones, Wood, who turns 65 in June, is busier than ever. His visual art career is thriving, he is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a second time this week in Cleveland, he has a radio show in Britain and fruitful solo projects.
Despite being in one of the biggest rock bands in history and having played early in his career with Rod Stewart and Faces, Wood said that if he had his way, he would like to be known more as an artist than as a musician.
"I'm a painter who plays guitar," he said at the Broom Street Gallery in Soho, where around 50 of his paintings, sketches, and prints are showing until the end of June.
Most are colorful portraits of bandmates Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts, along with other celebrities such as Jerry Hall, formerly married to Jagger, and Muhammad Ali.
The pieces vary from early 1960s sketches to paintings of pop culture icons Wood has known and worked with at different stages of his career.
A dark portrait of a pale-looking Al Pacino wearing a slight smirk contrasts with a painting of Richards set against a gold-leaf backdrop, guitar in hand, mid-strum, eyes closed, face glowing despite the deep wrinkles that line it as if a map of the hard-partying, rock 'n' roll life he's lived.
As well known as he is for playing guitar, Wood also has earned accolades for his art work from critics such as Brian Sewell and artists Damien Hirst and Lucian Freud. Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber commissioned work from him and former U.S. President Bill Clinton owns a couple of his canvases as well.
Wood said he began creating art seriously at age seven. He later studied at Ealing Art College in London and struggled to earn a living as an artist before making a name for himself playing bass and guitar in bands like the Jeff Beck Group, Faces, and the Stones.
"I thought I'll make it as a musician first and then show people that I can paint. So that's what I did. In the 80's, I really started to pay my way with my painting," he said.
But his fame remained rooted in rock 'n' roll where he holds a place in the music's history. On Saturday, Wood and other members of Faces, including Stewart and Kenny Jones, head to Cleveland, Ohio, where they will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for hits that include "Stay With Me."
The Rolling Stones, which Wood joined in 1975 after Mick Taylor left the band, were inducted in 1989.
And later this month, Wood, who just recorded a song with Taylor and Jones for the season finale of TV show "CSI Miami," plays a solo gig in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Then its off to jam with the Stones.
"We will be doing new material, but we haven't had a chance to chat with each other yet about what it is. Mick and Keith will get together on that," he said.
The Stones have said they plan to release a documentary in September chronicling their 50-year history and may tour again in 2013, but Wood offered no details.
The last studio album by the group was in 2005. They released two live albums, 'Hampton Coliseum (Live 1981)' and 'L.A. Friday (Live 1975),' so far this year.
(Reporting By John McCrank; additional reporting by Elly Park)