This week I was fortunate enough to interview brilliant artist Christopher B. Mooney. Welcome Christopher, thank you for agreeing to this interview ~we can’t wait to learn more about you and your wonderful work.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Through my work as a painter of Oregon’s transportation architecture, I have established a niche in the art community as an artist contributing to the visual documentation of urban landmarks. In 2010, I started doing portraiture and figurative works because I found that the subject of portraiture is one of the most challenging and expands my artistic experience.
I enjoy engaging with the person. I like to work from the live subject; I find it exhilarating and emotionally fulfilling both for myself and the model. I like to bring out the inner reflections of the person, their beauty, inner joy and self-confidence. I have the model pose in ways that bring out his or her inner way of being, their essences.
Artists have been creating portraiture for centuries and I have been noticing that it is coming back into popularity. I want to create portraiture using the old masters’ style and contemporary settings. Gathering and recreating visual information is my way of conveying to the viewer the sense of my subjects’ expression of themselves. There is no photo that can capture the personality, the flesh tones, colors or lighting like a painting from a live person.
What got you interested in art and what role has art taken in your life?
I was born and raised in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York and was surrounded by an artistic family of writers, musicians, architects, and the vast New York City art scene. As a result of that influence in my life, I received a B.F.A. degree from Parson’s School of Design. I was taken to see some of the art museums and galleries in New York. John Singer Sargent, Edward Hopper, Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Maxfield Parrish, Charles Dana Gibson, Andrew Wyeth and many others influenced my interest in the illustration field. These artists were also fine artist as well. Interestingly, today I am more of a fine artist with the skills and methods these illustrators were using. It was their techniques and methods, and their sense of imagery that inspired me to create.
Describe the first moment when you realized that creating art was something you wanted/needed to do.
I was slow to realize that. Coming from a family of artists who influenced me, I didn’t realize until much later that discipline was the key. My parents knew that the human race is capable of being greater than we think we are, and pushed me with as much exposure as they could. I was born with a hard of hearing disability and I am thankful for the discipline to learn everything possible from tutors, speech therapists, and special education. It was much later when I recognized the elements of success, and a successful piece of work was a job well done; methodical work, execution, intent, and experiencing personal joy in doing what you love.
What is your preferred medium and why?
I use oils on canvas. I feel that this medium is very easy to use and the colors are very honest. Once you understand color and their compliments, an artist can develop his or her own style using the chosen colors to convey with intent the imagery. I feel in order to master it, I had to begin to teach myself how to see things and realize that it is a lifetime endeavor.
Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?
I generally look for contrasts. It can be highlights and shadows in my compositions, morning light or evening light when I go out for a walk or ride a train. I always look for nuances in people’s faces or when I step off the sidewalks in a cityscape, I look for a different viewpoint other than the usual everyday. I also gather most of my inspiration from online galleries, books, museum walks, traveling, and getting to know other artists’ inspirations and their influences, especially when we share methods and techniques just by observing. Finding out about other artists and their journey is a way of shadowing my own work in relation to theirs. It is like evaluating my accomplishments while at the same time trying not to compare myself to other artists.
Which artist inspired/inspires you and what draws you to this person’s work?
Today there are hundreds of artists who are inspiring. But there is one artist I like who seems very successful: Steve Hanks. He does primarily figurative works in watercolors and his imagery is beautiful. I enjoy them. But, I realized that one reason I am drawn to him is part of what makes him successful. He seems to know the techniques for getting recognized and shown in galleries throughout the USA. It took me awhile to realize that his wife is a PR marketing specialist, and she knows things that help him get published.
What is the best advice you have received with regards to the creative process and what words of wisdom could you offer an aspiring artist?
Follow the successful ones. Go to art conventions. Study, study, study, and practice, practice, practice! Keep on painting and drawing. Meet other artists, and pay attention to successful ones. I very much encourage them to spread their wings in the self-marketing arena and let a broader audience across the country know about their work and where to find them! It’s not easy for an artist to do that; most artists need a lot of help in this area. I’d rather be mixing my colors while I listen to Top 40 music.
Artists usually have their own unique approach to creating, what would you say is yours? (i.e. methods, routines etc) How has it changed from when you first began?
I enjoy hiking around the bridges of Portland, Oregon with my camera and stepping off the sidewalks to get a different perspective of the city where the landscape is framed by its bridges. The photos I use are references for me to create original oils.
I start the day in the morning with a cup of coffee or after dinner decaf, and sit to ponder my thoughts by running through my accomplishments and evaluations. Then I go into my studio that’s in the garage. It’s been fixed up with new sheet rock painted white, a new garage door with all glass giving lots of natural light. I put on music, sometimes classic rock, sometimes classical, and sometimes the upbeat 70’s disco and hustle; just moods. I then start to mix colors and work on a painting for three or four hours. If I were doing a portrait, ideally I would like to work from a live model, but I am more comfortable working from a photograph. I used to use grids to draw the image on the canvas, and now at night I use a projector to trace the projected image in a large-scale, outlining it with a pencil so it is ready for me to begin to paint the next day.
Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone and discovered a new (to you) artistic genre? How did it come about and what insights did it offer?
Yes, I did. Back in 2010, I discovered that portraiture was coming back into popularity. I started to ask friends and people I had met if I could do portraits of them. I even had a few commissioned jobs very quickly. That evolved into my second line of work alongside the bridges which I am still currently doing.
Tell us about your current works in progress and where can we find your work? (Links, galleries, etc).
Recently, I’ve finished three new paintings of the Portland bridges and will be submitting them to the Portland Art Museum Rental and Sales Gallery. I am now working on a series of portraits of some celebrities. The current one is Storm Large, and next I intend to paint Ellen DeGeneres. I‘ve noticed the economy is picking up and also have noticed a number of people driving some of the most expensive cars on our planet. With this as an inspiration, I am also going to create images of fancy sports cars. Possibly, I will be inclined to create portraits of well-known women in extreme sports.