Q1: Before you introduce yourself and the type of work you are in, can you possibly share what we missed out on from your progress in 2011, events, commissions, projects etc?
A: Well, 2011 has been a different sort of year for me. In years past I focused heavily on painting and showing work around Oregon and Washington where as this year I’ve done a few commissions but most of my time was devoted to writing my first novel, which I recently finished the first draft of. I still have to do rewrites and such but it has been a great experience so far. My name is Christopher Adam Gray and I am an oil painter working out of Portland Oregon. I specialize in working with the figure and using unusual organic textures in my paintings.
Q2: When did you realize your art was important, that your art was what you wanted to do, did anyone influence you, existing digital or traditional artists?
A: I grew up always knowing I was going to be an artist but I didn’t realize how important that really was until my fresh man year of college after drawing my first portrait. I had no idea my abilities went that deep! The idea of capturing a likeness so effectively had always seemed like some mysterious power reserved for elite artists but then it turned out that I possessed that power and it wasn’t so mysterious anymore. Since then I have been influenced by many great artists including Fred Wessel, Lloyd Glasson, and the late Stephen Brown; each of which I studied under at the Hartford Art School. These three men helped give me the tools I would need to develop my own unique style founded in classical drawing. Fred taught me the figure, Lloyd taught me composition, and Stephen taught me color, and those 3 elements combined form the foundation of my work. The works of Edgar Degas and Gustav Klimt each had a powerful influence on my painting style as well as classical works by Da’ Vinci and the other renaissance masters.
Q3: Can you explain what your main tools are in creating your art?, and also would you encourage others to update their equipment or master what they have before taking on something new – is the need to update equipment or software programs important in order to producing art?
A: I use many of the same tools as most traditional oil painters: brushes, panels, and solvents, but I tend to rely on rags more than brushes for moving the paint around the surface. I also use a spray bottle for applying solvents which has been a significant addition to my technique. I like to break the paint down on the surface with solvents and resins to create a variety of textures in my paintings that serve as the backbone of my technique. When it comes down to it, it’s not so much about the tools but how you use them that matters! Try new things whenever possible like spraying turp onto a wet painting, or using something besides a brush to apply the paint. I can’t say enough about how important experimentation is in developing as an artist. As far as oil painting goes; the basic tools have changed very little in the last 550 years but the various ways people use them have changed a great deal resulting in an explosion of new techniques (especially in the last 150 years). Taking time to deviate from what you are used to and trying new things is essential in developing and adding to your skills. So much of what led me to where I am now, happened by accident in some sort of experiment.
Q4: Everyone endures a long or short process of learning and adapting, as well as the ability of mixing up styles from existing tutorials. How was your experience of learning your own art? And what would you suggest to others who are trying to learn of their own ‘art’?
A: I was very fortunate in that I had some great teachers to guide me along that process. However I learned more about making art once I graduated from college because that is when I really had the chance to customize everything I had learned to fit the needs of my own particular art. The trick is to just keep working, and let yourself have fun with the art. If you’re not enjoying yourself then you’re not doing what you really want to do and you’ll never be able to give it your all. When you love what you’re doing and you put the work in, things will fall into place regardless of your style or medium.
Q5: How would you describe the important elements of creating ‘art’? is it important to create a guide or notes of what to do and what not to do when you begin the long process of creating an art piece?
A: Sure there’s always stuff you’ll want to do and stuff to avoid (like using paint straight out of the tube), but I usually find a good starting point and then just go from there. I have never once had a painting turn out the way I intended so I’ve adapted my process to account for that. I start with a tight line drawing and things go where they go after that. My process is more of an exploration of the possibilities of paint in figurative form than anything else.
Q6: It is very common to endure the ‘struggles’ and the ‘weight’ of art around you, what were the struggles that you encountered and how would you suggest to others on how to cope with it?
A: Ah yes the struggles; there are so many of them. I faced many serious trials in recent years especially with my health. Fortunately I have been able to overcome these problems through hard work and discipline. Added to being very sick, I dealt with many money problems as the economy collapsed and people stopped buying art. Let’s not forget that each painting is in its own right is a struggle, a war, an epic confrontation between the artist and the void. It has been a difficult time but I persevered, did the best paintings of my life and recently wrote a book. Obstacles are just there to make us stronger, and as long as you surround yourself with good people and don’t give up, you will overcome all that stands in your way!
Q7: Besides the current field of work you are in, do you have anything outside that you would like to share with us? Any other future plans that don’t involve creative art?
A: As I mentioned before I am very interested in writing. I wrote one novel which is called “Streams” which was a very fun story to write so I’m thinking it will make for a good read. I’m about to start work on a short story about an artist struggling to finish his masterpiece before the end of the world that I’ll try to get published in a magazine. After that it’ll much easier to get an agent and eventually a publishing deal for “Streams”. I see writing as a different artistic medium and am excited in the progress I’ve made in only a year. I love visual art but I see more of a future for myself as a writer in the coming years. One of my paintings costs me hundreds of dollars to make and sells for around a thousand which places them in the hands of the financial elite. When I get my novel published, it will cost less than $10 for someone to buy a copy which makes it far more likely that a greater number of people will enjoy my work. I don’t want to make art for the wealthy; I want to make art for regular people like myself to enjoy and literature is the best course for that ideal at present.
Q8: A few artists go by a quote or a motto to keep reminding themselves to work hard and think positive if they are to encounter ‘a bad day’. So are there any words you want to share out to others that may inspire them to work hard and continue working. An inspirational quote to motivate others?
A: “Through hardships to the stars” is particular favorite of mine from Carl Sagan. There is also an excerpt from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt that goes like this:
“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”
On top of that I am a firm believer in the power of positive thought and have used highly focused daydreams and meditation to further my goals. It all starts with just being grateful for what you have and then working off of that. I could write all day on this subject so I’ll be brief. If you have any sort of imagination then you can use it as a tool to create positive change in your life by just visualizing it and steering your thoughts away from negativity. Negative thinking is like an anchor around your neck, keeping you from rising to your proper place in life. Focus on what you want out of life, not the things you don’t want and you’ll find yourself much happier and more successful.
Q9: Any predictions of what the future holds for art?
A: Art will continue to expand much as the universe does. As long as there are creative people; there will continue to be new and exciting art. People are in need of more and more stimulation in order to stay interested in something now-a-days and I believe this will lead to a need for more interactive art. The down side is that we could see art delegated to being just another app on your smartphone, but we could also see some brilliant interactive mind melting experiences generated by new technologies. This will likely lead to traditional mediums becoming more of a rarity as time wears on and a continued decline in classical techniques. I think there will always be artists like Fred Wessel and Louis Delagato out there (each is one of my favorite active artists) that will be pushing the boundaries of their respective mediums; it’s just that most of them will be utilizing a type of digital media instead of paint.
Q10: I’m sure you have sites you would like to share with us of your work, so please do share them with us here for fans and followers to keep an update of your progress.
A: My website is www.chrisgrayart.com. Most of my work can be viewed there. You can also see some of my work on my facebook profile at: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000911436447.
Q11: Last year I asked a question regarding ‘art theft’ this year will be no different. Do you have anything you would like to share out regarding ‘art theft’ and maybe also shed some light on what artists should do when exposing their art work on the vast world of the internet.
A: Personally I don’t mind someone using my images for private purposes, but I am strictly opposed to anybody making money off of my images without my consent and will defend my copyrights to the furthest extent of the law. It is insanely hard to make a living as an artist so any organization or person that illegally profits off an artist’s work is indirectly contributing to the gradual decline in the development of new culture in our society. Before placing your work online I recommend taking some time to review the current copyright laws and know your rights!
Q12: I didn’t get the chance to include this question for 2011, so here it is for you. Everyone has their own opinions regarding the meaning of art, or the definition of art. Any chance we can hear what you think art is from you?
A: Ah yes the definition of art; back in college all us philosophical artistic types used to debate this all the time. I enjoyed messing with the debate by quoting Bill Watterson’s Calvin: “Art is merely a private language for sophisticates to congratulate themselves on how much better they are than the rest of the world”. I always loved that one and though it has a ring of truth to it, the cynical nature of it isn’t quite fitting as a definition for art as a whole. All kidding around aside, I have spent a fair amount of time trying to form an accurate definition that isn’t some hokey philosophical cop-out like the ever popular “Art is everything or nothing”. Art in my humble opinion is the entirely subjective result of a creative endeavor. I think that covers all the bases pretty well but if anybody has anything to add or object to my definition of art, hit me up on facebook; I’d love to hear some different opinions!
Q13: And finally for the last question to round off our interview, ‘a picture says a thousand words’ or ‘tell a story’ out of your current portfolio, do you have one that you favor the most and why? Is there a subliminal message within your work?
A: I’ve always wanted to do a bonafide masterpiece and although I admit that I have always fallen short of that prestigious mark, the paintings I favor are the ones I feel are closest to that. Each painting has flaws that bug the living hell out of me, and the ones with the fewest are my favorites. One day I hope to do at least one painting that has no such flaws so that I can ascend to the rank of master, but until that happens my best paintings are “Sorrow’s Eve”, “Sadie”, and “Covetous”.
There’s not much for messages in my paintings for the time being. There’s a great deal of emotion in them so they’re not devoid of meaning or anything. I try not to dictate what people get from my work because the subjective nature of reality is such that people will make each piece their own anyways so who am I to try and take that from them. People will see what they see; I can only hope they’re glad that they saw them when they walk away. That’s the best result I could hope for except for maybe a sale or two!
Q14: Ok so this is optional, just out of curiosity what annoys you the most in your field of work? Do you get a lot of requests on art collabs, interviews, features etc etc?
A: Interviews and features are an honor for me to be part of and are in no way an annoyance. I guess the most annoying thing to me is just how damn hard it is to live as an artist. Balancing work, art, shows and having a life isn’t easy by any stretch. But that is why it is a noble thing we do. Cheers to everyone with the strength and courage to walk the path less travelled.