Chris discovered his passion for painting during his time as a professional rock music drummer in the band Heaven’s Basement. ‘My time with the band took me on tour all around the world; I never really thought I would do anything else. During a four-month tour of the U.S in late 2013 however I started to sketch on one of my used drumheads after a show, using some sharpie pens and the seed of change was sown…’
His primary artistic inspiration comes from the artists of the 1900’s. ‘The impressionist are a big influence, probably more for their brush strokes than subjects. Italian and French Renaissance painters and the Rococo era in terms of colour palettes. There are a lot of artists I appreciate; some of my favourites include Goya, Odilon Redon, Giovanni Tiepolo, Singer Sargent, Caravaggio, Monet, Fragonard… I could go on and on. If I could personally own any artwork from history “Carnation Lily, Lily, Rose” by John Singer Sargent would be at the top of my list, alongside “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch.
Traveling the world with his band has provided a great archive for Chris to draw on. ‘I took some great images of industrial skylines and sunsets in various places around the world. I always loved traveling through the Black Forest in Bavaria too, you can really get a sense of the Brothers Grimm!’
Chris is a firm believer in the process of trial and error. Always learning, on a journey of personal self-discovery. He has no formal art education, however, he does hail from a very creative family. ‘My mum has always made her living from creating things and my dad was a drummer, which inspired me to also become a drummer.’ Consequently he had a very creative upbringing ‘it’s the only path I’ve either known, music or art. I feel like I’ve always lived in my own bubble. Being in this bubble mean’s I have naturally gravitated to fellow creatives and opted to take the creative pathway. I remember sitting on a tour bus in Canada during one of my former bands tours traveling to a show. At the time I wanted something as a positive and healthy distraction to the chaos and absolute insanity of being in a full time touring rock band. That’s when I started drawing on my broken drumheads and cymbals after shows and gradually became more and more obsessed. I knew things were getting serious for me when we had a day of in Chicago. The usual plan would be to go out drinking but I went and found the closest art store and spent my whole day in the hotel room painting!
In late 2016 I decided to step away from the music business completely and pursue my love of painting, which by this time I’d become totally obsessed with. I would describe my painting style now as impulsive, uninhibited and energetic, which reflects my general approach to life. I’m very proud of everything I’ve learned to this point as it’s come from within myself; by simply experimenting and finding my own natural path. Its been hard work but the improvement I’ve experienced over the past 3 or 4 years, since I began, is something I’m very happy with.
I think learning, experimenting and developing has been and always will be, a critical element of my art practice. It’s part of my DNA, but, as long as I feel I have achieved something with my day, I’m happy. It doesn’t matter how much work I do, I can spend all day on one tiny section, as long as I come away happy with the result that’s all good. Everything in the World now is so fast and has to be instant, for me painting is the natural antithesis to this. I try and allow each painting to find its own natural path, even through the stages when it’s difficult, sometimes those stages can inspire a drastic approach that can take the painting in a totally unexpected direction. You have to take risks I think; what’s the point of keeping things safe and staying in your comfort zone? A comfort zone is the worst place to be because you will only achieve the predictable and the expected. Sometimes you can end up in there without even realising, but when you do I think it’s important to smash down the walls and shake things up!
I work in an old cotton mill. It is a huge space, which enables me to work large scale and really push the boundaries of my thinking and practice. The only down side is its absolutely freezing cold all year round. To keep me distracted from the cold I play music most of the time. I tend to listen to a wide variety – classical, electro, heavy – Just no cheesy pop and never my own music. Anything that has an intense vibe about it works for me, but intense doesn’t mean loud or heavy, it’s all about the mood with music. Anything ethereal can be good.
I always start my day with a coffee. I then sit around and decide what I’m going to do with the day, usually followed by another coffee – for the purpose of warmth you understand! Once I start painting it’s usually in short bursts of high-energy followed by more time sitting around thinking. I probably paint for about a third of the time I’m actually in the studio.
Painting is now my life – I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love the freedom of being my own boss and its perfect for my family life. My time in the music industry taught me never to take things for granted. One minute I was in a band opening Festival shows in the U.S for Guns n Roses in front of 50,000 people, the next minute my music career was coming to an end and I was faced with a fear of not quite knowing where I would belong in the real world. Painting came to my rescue (literally!). I hope I can now just carry on painting and go with the flow.
Looking back I now appreciate a little bit of luck helps but hard work and dedication to your craft are the most critical predictors of success. My advice to any one aspiring to a career as an artist would simply be ‘Do what you do to the very best of your ability. Keep life as simple as possible and try to avoid as many of the distractions the modern world has to throw at you.’
For more visit www.chrisriversart.com and social media pages Instagram: “@chrisriversart” Facebook: Chris Rivers Art
Chris will also be exhibiting in Hong Kong towards the end of 2019 and at the Affordable Art Fairs in Melbourne, Australia and New York.
Written by Lesley Samms