Chris Guest is 36-year-old painter living in London, he creates large-scale oil paintings featuring tattooed people. We chatted to Chris to find out more about his style of work, the people he has painted and the workshops he runs…
Do you have a background in art? I studied illustration at Bournemouth University, and at Brunel College in Bristol.
How did you learn to paint? Other than studying illustration at uni, I’m an avid reader of art technique books, plus I do a lot of life drawing (although this isn’t painting, it does help you see things properly). With painting, you just have to practice like mad, that’s the only way to get any good – nobody picks up a paint brush for the first time and paints the Mona Lisa – you have to put the time in to develop your skills. When I first picked up oils, my paintings were awful! I also think it’s very important to constantly learn from your mistakes, I always try to think of ways that I could’ve made my work better.
What medium do you use? Mostly oil, although I do draw with pencil and charcoal a lot as well. Oil feels so nice to work with and is so forgiving, once you know how to use it properly. I love the history of oil, and the fact that it hasn’t really changed much in hundreds of years (pigment mixed with safflower oil). Despite all these acrylic paints you can buy, they still can’t make anything better and they’re nowhere near as nice to use. I like the idea of producing some watercolours in the not so distant future too.
Can you tell us about the exhibitions you are involved in? I will be exhibiting some pieces at this year’s London Tattoo Convention, so please check it out if you’re coming! Seeing art framed and well lit in real life is so much better than on a computer screen, as you really get to see all the brush strokes, and the scale of the work, and get an idea of what the artist was trying to convey. As well as originals, I shall also have prints available.
How would you describe your style? The way I paint is quite classic in style and technique, similar to 18th century painting, but a modern subject matter, painting tattooed people. Obviously my work is quite realist, but you only need to get within a metre of it to see its quite brushy up close!
Who have you painted? Several tattooed models, probably the most well known being Cervena Fox. I’ve worked with Cervena on numerous occasions now, and feel we’ve built up a good working relationship. When we talk about what I’m looking to achieve for my next body of work, I always find Cervena gets my ideas, and really helps them come to life. When you’ve built a good working relationship and your models know you, you’re both a lot more relaxed, and it feels more like friends hanging out, rather than a work thing.
Do you paint from photographs or real life? Both actually – there’s nothing better than painting from life, and I always find the results are more pleasing, plus its more fun. Although sometimes you don’t have the luxury of having someone sit for a four hour session, or if you’re looking to paint someone outside in a street, for example, you have to work from photos.
How long do the paintings take? Sometimes paintings just seem to work, and they feel finished and complete after a few hours. Other pieces sit in my studio for months and then get revisited, so it’s really hard to put a time scale on it. Also, due to the nature of oil paint, you have to leave a layer to dry for a few weeks before you can paint over it, so if you’re impatient, its probably better to try something else!
Do you do commissions? Of course – best thing to do is drop me an email at email@example.com to discuss your ideas!
Where can people buy your art? I have prints and art cards available on my website store. If it’s originals you’re after, best thing is to email me for availability, prices etc. I’ll have originals for sale at the London Tattoo Convention. I also put my work in several group shows in galleries every year, a lot of them happen to be in the US though!
Can you tell us about the workshops you do? I currently teach a ‘painting a head from reference’ workshop, in several tattoo studios, mainly in London, and a few around the UK. It’s a great way to learn some basic techniques, as I go through colour, materials, values, stuff like that, to help you achieve good results with your painting. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never picked up a paint brush in your life, or you’re the next Rembrandt, it’s more about taking part, having fun and producing your own painting. If you’d like to attend or perhaps host your own workshop, best thing to do is drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.