Fame, with brush: Check out Tony Bennett's surprising side gig

Image: In his New York art studio, Tony Bennett finishes a painting while sitting among several of his completed works.
Neal Carter

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By Erin Quinlan

He may have 17 Grammys, a packed summer tour schedule and a new album on the way with Lady Gaga, but even Tony Bennett needs a break from the spotlight once in a while. That's when he picks up his paint set.

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Some fans of the star's music will be surprised to hear that Bennett, under his given name of Anthony Benedetto, has been churning out watercolors, oil paintings and sketches every day for years, whether he's on the road or working from his bright New York studio.

Bennett caught the fine-arts bug as a kid drawing with sidewalk chalk near his childhood home in Queens, New York, according to his artist bio, and has trained with various masters throughout his life.

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Photographer and TODAY producer Neal Carter went behind the scenes with Bennett to bring us a special glimpse of the singer’s self-described alter ego and colorful creative work.

Bennett greets visitors at a recent gallery exhibition of his work in New York City.

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Bennett's paintings, largely inspired by real-life encounters and experiences, filled the space.

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A gallery visitor takes in Bennett's "Sunday in Central Park."�  

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A portrait of late actor Mickey Rooney, a close friend, was among the singer's earlier works on view.

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Bennett enjoys experimenting with styles and media, as in this watercolor inspired by the Lincoln Memorial.

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Bennett recently branched out into sculpture with a bronzed clay bust of pal Harry Belafonte.

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The singer signs canvases with Benedetto, his family name.

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"I’d like to keep growing as an artist both musically and artistically,” Bennett told TODAY.

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Bennett said his family encouraged his dual passions early on, inspiring him to this day. 

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