Before he went on to sell 27.5 million albums, Mellencamp was determined to make it as a painter. The legendary rocker walks Billboard through his first NY exhibition.

Is that lipstick?"

Breezing through a new ­exhibition of his moody oil paintings at ACA Galleries in New York, John Mellencamp stops short after ­spotting a crimson daub near the face of Bug, an impressionistic, four-foot portrait of a woman who works for him.

"Somebody kissed this f---ing painting," he says, leaning in close to the canvas, more amused than annoyed. "See this? I didn't paint that. I just noticed it."

With a quick laugh, the rocker turns and walks away. Doesn't he want someone from the gallery to remove the rogue lip print?

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