Who are you and what do you do?
I am an oil painter with a passion for painting people and still lifes. I am equally drawn to the concept phase of creating a piece, as well as the technical side of oil painting. I find oil paints to be a fascinating medium to work with, so much so, that I hand-mull (make) most of my paints from dry pigment and oil and also tube them. I find this step important as it allows me to create paints with an extremely high pigment load. It also gives me the flexibility to create paint with certain characteristics that work for my personal style.
How did you start making art?
I started off drawing things (people, objects, etc.) from life in pencil and charcoal at an early age—10 or so. I was always trying to get what I was seeing in reality down on paper as close as I could to a representational resemblance. I was then interested in airbrush art so I picked that up for a while when I was in college. I attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and initially went in to do graphic design. That didn’t last very long so I bounced around trying out different things and ended up focusing on photography (developing my own film and negatives to work from). In my last year I took a painting class and fell in love with the medium. The oil paint did everything I was looking for a paint to do and I was hooked. It’s funny looking back now… my painting teacher failed me and it was because I was interested in a different style of painting than she was teaching. She told me in a very rude manner that I would need to go to Europe to learn how to paint in a certain style I was interested in, so I walked out of the class and never went back. I went straight to the library and started researching all I could on the different methods and materials of oil painting and haven’t stopped since.
What themes do you pursue in your art?
The themes depend on my vibe at the present time. There are moments when I just paint an object because there is something about it that lures my attention—it could be something as simple as the patina on an old bottle or teapot for example. There are other moments when I want to paint scenes of every day humanity in which I want to present an idea, or a thought about things that have happened or are happening in the present moment. These concepts tend to just sit off and brew in my mind for a while until its time for them to be painted.
What do you dislike about your work?
I’d love to be able to free up a bit more on my brush strokes, to make bolder marks. I find that very challenging. I’m heading into that direction—to stop being so tight with my paintings and allow more of my hand at work to be seen. I’ve been using thicker paint these days with lots more texture on the surface. I’ve been using this to my advantage to highlight specific important parts of the painting as impasto brush strokes catch and shimmer the light. This helps create focal points within the composition.
What do you like about your work?
The emotions and feelings it gives me throughout the creating stage. A painting has to give me a certain sense of ‘chills’, if you like, for me to know it’s working. I have to almost get goose bumps from it… when that happens then I know it’s heading in the right direction. The funny thing is, I spend more time staring at my painting than I actually work on it. A brush stroke here, a brush stroke there, then you have to stand back a few feet and observe and think of your next move; the next brushstroke. It’s totally a thought process, there has to be a reason why I laid down that last abstract piece of paint. Ironically that is what representational painting really is—merging a bunch of abstract brush strokes to create something that can be identifiable, or almost tangible.
Can you remember one of the first things you created? What makes it memorable?
I remember doing a portrait of my mother. I had to be about five or so and I remember painting it on an easel. The proportions were all over the place and looked nothing like her but I’m guessing at that age it looked exactly like her to me. Thinking about it, it was probably one of my most honest paintings—I wasn’t influenced by any artists at that time that I recall. It was pure, and a very happy painting. I think I painted her green, LOL! I used to love the Incredible Hulk also at that age so perhaps he was my influence… the whole green colour scheme. Hahaha!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best advice in regards to oil painting that struck a chord with me was to understand that oil paint is just paint and if something doesn’t seem to work it can always be painted over.
What, in your opinion, is the hardest step in creating a masterpiece?
I will come back to this question after I have created one… LOL! You might be waiting for a while!
Do you have a favourite artist? If yes, what draws you to that person’s work?
I am drawn to many different artists and to each one for certain individual traits that they have. Velasquez for his brushwork and use of light. John Singer Sargent for the way he could make it look effortless by painting a portrait in a minimal amount of brush strokes. Caravaggio was brilliant. He was a master of chiaroscuro and knew exactly how to direct the viewer’s eye throughout the composition by use of dramatic light. I’m also inspired by numerous contemporary artists—David Jon Kassan, Cesar Santos and Jeremy Mann, to name a few. If there is one artist that stands out for me it has to be Rembrandt. Images in books and photos on the Internet do not do justice to his paintings. You have to be standing in front of one of his paintings to fully appreciate the genius his paintings have. He was able to portray a deep sense of emotion in his work and the way he layered and contrasted thick impasto paint in the lights with thinner passages of paint throughout the shadows is just beautiful.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
To be painting individual portraits, family portraits, etc… I also want to create large scale scenes with people throughout, which makes you stop and think about what you’re viewing. Scenes with deep meanings that people can hopefully relate to. I feel I did this with my last large-sized painting ‘Three Queens’—my Charman prize painting.
What work of art do you wish you owned?
There’s tons. One that comes to mind instantly is Rembrandt’s ‘Man With a Magnifying Glass’. It is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and I’ve seen it in person quite a few times. I couldn’t exactly tell you why that painting stood out to me but it did. It is a very quiet piece, but the portrait pulls you in from across the room. Perhaps it is the expression of the sitter’s face. Most of the painting is in dark values except for the face which glows. There is also something about the vermillion (pretty sure its vermillion) colour of the shirt and sleeve that draws me in. That’s what a powerful painting does to t
he viewer, it draws you in from across the room, captures your attention to make you further investigate what the actual piece and concept is truly about.
Do you worry more about being liked or about being honest?
I don’t really worry about either. I used to worry about being liked but not anymore. I’m at an age now and comfortable and honest with myself that it comes to the point that some people will like you and some people might not. It’s hard to please everyone.
Is there anything that could ever convince you to stop creating?
No, otherwise I would of stopped by now.
If someone wanted to purchase your work or commission you how can they best contact you?
I can be reached by email at email@example.com. I can also be reached through Facebook at Chris Dawson or on my studio art page—Chris Dawson Fine Art Studio.
Where can people see your work?
You can go onto my Facebook art page—Chris Dawson Fine Art Studio. I am also having a solo show in March 2016 at Masterworks.