Bringing a piece to life encompasses so many different skills. A thought provoking journey with colour and rituals that take place to help the artist bring their own unique vision to the canvas. There is so much more behind the scenes for us to explore as the viewer. When an artist lets us enter into their world, we can truly get a sense of how their works come to light. Chris Rivers journeyed from a lucrative music career to the life of a full time painter. His work explores the unknown and his loose brushstrokes and large scale abstract backgrounds leave you desiring more knowledge on his intimate process. Below, Chris shares with us how his incredible works come to light, his amazing studio space and some inspiration behind some of his works.
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Chris Rivers ~ The Creative process based on the formula of Trial and Error.
‘Back in my days as a rock drummer, one pf the most important things I learned was to play to your strengths, do what you do good…good! There’s always going to be someone technically better out that than you, but it doesn’t matter, the second you take a more carefree attitude, it frees you up. Anyway, this is the approach I try to apply to the way I think when I paint, it’s trial and error, evolution’. A typical day in the studio can be quite chaotic to be honest, I’m usually working on a bunch of paintings at the same time, so I’ll probably waste to much time deciding what piece to continue that work on for each day. It has its benefits though as I can paint which ever piece, I feel will suit my mood that day.
As I’m writing this, I think the best approach to me talking about my methods is almost in bullet point form!
Here’s how it goes:
Make a canvas; I’ll then paint that white canvas in a muddy dirty wash to get rid of the white canvas. I hate painting on white new canvas. After this, I’ll decide which ‘series’ of my work the piece will be from (this could change at any point during the creative process). The next and most important stage for me is deciding a colour palette. The question I’ll ask is what are the fewest amounts of paint tubes I can use to get all the colours I want in the specific painting. After that, it’s a case of throwing the painting at the canvas and just seeing what happens, there’s not much more else I can say about that. The more and more I paint, the less and less I’ve started to care, it sounds strange, but it keeps it fresh and I think stops you getting in comfort zones.
Break it down into sections, where are dark/light tones, where are the shapes, where is the light, where is the texture. Create a map in your head. This is just how I work, everybody is different, there’s not rules, that’s the amazing thing about painting.
Mistakes and things that don’t work are the best thing to happen, as it makes you figure out a way to get over that obstacle. There’s been countless days I’ll spend at my studio just sat on my sofa looking at a half-finished painting on the easel and trying to picture a finished thing in my head.
I love painting, but I like to live in my own bubble, I don’t really care about the art world too much, scenes, trends, anything like that. Even though a lot of my work has a little meaning or concept behind it, I like to keep things very simple. It’s 100% about painting what I enjoy to paint. If people relate to it and enjoy it as well, that’s brilliant. Painting is a primal thing, it’s a ‘need’ to do, its escapism, it’s the thing that came to my rescue when I came out of music and didn’t know where I would belong in the world or what I would do. It’s become an obsession. I’ve no idea what’s next, we’ll see tomorrow.
Close up of a section from a piece called ‘Colony’.
The sketching process used on certain pieces to help me complete a piece.
‘Afterglow ‘ from 2016. Cosmic influences are a big part of my work.
The children that feature on some of my work are a reference to my own
Outside my studio in Manchester, England.
Large work’s suit my work best, anything from 120cm upwards ideally.
‘The fog paintings’ As much as I like using colour, I also love painting using a
really dark palette. It’s one extreme of the other.
Work in progress shot of a piece called, ‘Falling like fireflies’. Used lots of glazing
techniques of this, the painting starting yellow then adding thin layers of blues to
create the transparent green.
I’ve started painting direct onto un-stretched canvas recently, usually for time
I’m lucky to have a great studio space, which allows me to work on multiple
paintings at the same time.
Close up of a piece called ‘Electric’, which is one of my fav pieces of this year.
A work in progress of a new piece, this is fusing together of my series of work
‘Land of the Giants’ with ‘Savages of Eden’.
The finished painting ‘The World is our Oyster’. This painting is based on the idea
of innocence going forward into an unknown world.
Tiny details against big vast backgrounds are a big part of my work.
Contrast between colours is important to my work, light and shade.
‘New World Devolution’, inspired by the concept of extinction.
Texture, I love using a variety of textures on my work.
‘Just Roses’ this is a piece that I painted over, leaving the old painting
I’ll often decide on a colour palette, then produce a number of paintings from that
same palette, these ones are an example of that.
Heavy paint, I’ll try and use as little as brush stokes as possible on a lot of my
brush work, it means being generous with the paint, laying it on thick.
My palette, made from an old glass table top, some of my old drum equipment is
also useful around the studio
New beginnings, every canvas starts with this earthy base colour.