Make a trip to The Underdog Gallery in London between Friday 1st of December and Sunday the 10th, you’ll find them proudly exhibiting a new solo exhibition by British figurative artist Chris Guest. Chris has spent the last 6 months pouring blood, sweat and tears into the collection of beautiful and striking oil paintings. In the gallery found at the appropriately named Crucifix lane, he feels that he’s found the perfect space to showcase his art.
Creating art has been a part of Chris’ life from an early age. He even had a taste of making money from his paintings from as young as 14, through commissions of musicians and other icons for his schoolmates. But it wasn’t until later in life that Chris realised he could make painting a full-time vocation. “Well, before I painted full time, I ran my own photography company for 10 years. One day my Mrs asked me to make a painting for our living room (which believe it or not was a red abstract piece copied from something she found on the internet). After finishing that I was addicted and I knew there was no turning back.”
It’s no secret that the dream for most of us, not just artists, is to make a comfortable living doing what we love. Manage to do that and you’re a good way to carving out a fulfilling life for yourself. This is exactly what Chris did, spending all of the hours available to him on weekends painting and reaching the point where he was too busy to do anything else. He soon gave up on photography and pursued his real passion. “I think you know when you’ve made the right career choice; when you live and breathe art, and all you can think about is painting from the moment you get up, to the moment you go to sleep.”
Critical to his journey was the time he spent at London Fine Arts in Battersea, where he still holds classes and painting workshops (as well as elsewhere in the UK and US). Chris aims to guide those with minimal experience with painting all the way up to those wanting some advanced help. “My workshops are suitable for all skill levels – I start quite basic so if you’ve never held a paintbrush in your hand, or if you’re the next Rembrandt, that’s fine – it’s about having a go and learning some new techniques while having a fun day!” It’s important for him to cultivate a laid-back atmosphere and facilitating people to use their artistic licence to express themselves whilst working with him. He wants people to tap into their potential and create what they want to.
Chris’ recent work and especially that featured in his upcoming gallery all has a common theme. Chris uses oils to create distinctive figurative paintings of heavily tattooed people with a contemporary flair. After experimenting with landscapes and abstracts early in his career, he realised that people were what interested him and being heavily tattooed himself, he was drawn to other heavily tattooed bodies. A huge boon was plenty of friends on hand to sit for him for inspiration. Chris draws influence from a variety of his favourite artists, spanning different time periods and genres. “I’d probably say my favourite painter is John Singer Sargent, but I’m also a big fan of Renaissance art – from Leonard da Vinci to Raphael. More contemporary would be Michael Hussar, and I also love the work of Jenny Saville. Definitely worth checking out if you haven’t done so already!”
It’s not uncommon for Chris to have multiple projects on the go simultaneously. He’s able to complete paintings in a few days at times but feels others need to sit and breathe before he can return to them. With his work sometimes sitting in the studio for 6 months without being finalised. This fluid approach to his art leaving him able to focus on what he wants to paint and when. As far as tools go, Chris makes no secret of what he uses but maintains that the most important part of the path to creating art is to practice, practice and practice some more until you’re able to find your artistic voice and are able to express yourself.
“I use Michael Harding paints. They’re handmade in small batches and are lovely to use. Brushes, I use a brand called Rosemary Brushes, which are also lovely! I’m quite hard on my brushes so I need something to stand up to a bit of mistreatment, I like all the imperfect strokes you get from a slightly damaged brush.” – Those imperfect strokes and textures coalesce to form one of the hallmarks of Chris’ creative signature.
We’ll leave you with some links to follow to check out more of Chris’ work and even buy some prints. But if you have the chance over the next 10 days, you should absolutely head to the Underdog Gallery, because there’s nothing quite like appreciating such work in person.
Chris Guest Solo Exhibition details:
Chris Guest’s website:
Chris Guest on Instagram: