By Chris

Christopher Stott is a contemporary realist painter.

One

After spending months working in a bubble for the recent solo exhibition I had in New York and turning around a tight deadline for a group exhibition in Charleston, I am enjoying a slower pace in the studio — really good timing as we shift into summer.

One / 28 x 22 / oil on canvas / 2019

I thought I’d share a painting that has yet to have a spotlight on this blog.

When working toward an exhibition I look back at my portfolio. And fourteen years ago I painted this clock and thought it was time to single it out again, this time putting it in the gallery in New York. It’s also available as a print.

Vintage Alarm Clock / 16 x 16 / oil on canvas / 2005

In 2005 when I first painted this clock, I can distinctly remember the sense of urgency. Time was always precious and fleeting for me back then. I had two children under the age of three, a regular day job at a university teaching fine art photography and an old house that was always in desperate need of repairs.

This painting would have been done shortly after the kids were put down for a nap, or in the evening when there was a spare hour or two. I look back at my journal entries from then and marvel at how much I was able to do in a day. And when I look at this past painting I can see how I was trying to move toward considerably more detailed work but was crunched for time.

The past fourteen years have seen so much change in the way I operate through the day. I left my day job long ago once I was able to see I could sustain an actual livable income off of my paintings. My children grew up and are now bright-eyed teenagers who no longer need hands-on parenting while I spend countless hours through the day focussing on my paintings.

I have to admit that I am completely in awe when I think about what will change over the next fourteen years when I plan on picking this clock up from its spot on the shelf in my studio and painting it again.

 

 

Underwood No.5 at Robert Lange Studios

May 3 is the opening day fora group exhibition called “Perfectionists” at the Robert Lange Studios in Charleston, South Carolina. Check out my contribution to the show below.

Underwood No.5 / 36 x 30 / oil on canvas

When I was invited to participate I thought about the idea of “perfectionism”. I’ll be honest — it’s sometimes my problem. I want everything to be perfect and in reality, it can’t be. The reason I keep painting is that I am trying to perfect my work. The previous painting I completed didn’t seem to work out exactly as I had planned, so I try again with another painting. If I live forever, will I paint forever, always chasing the elusive perfect painting?

A closer look at the precision in the composition.

When I set up a group of objects for a painting I always consider negative space, repeating elements, shapes, angles, lines, perspective — everything that moves the eye around the canvas. I use grids to help outline the composition. The objects I paint are engineered machines with symmetry and balance often baked right into their designs, so applying these rules to the paintings seems fitting. The overall effect I am trying to achieve is a sense of order, calmness and stability. Painting these objects transforms them from cold and banal tools to something more human and hopefully pulls a viewer in to think about how they relate to the world of objects around them.

George Billis Gallery NYC April 2019

The evening of the reception for my exhibition saw great weather and a good turn out. I had many conversations — it’s nice to get feedback from others as we stand in front of the actual paintings.

Below are some very crude iPhone snapshots of the installation and some people pondering the paintings.

Seeing the paintings framed and lit is a joy for me — as I usually see them up close and usually in an incomplete state. I am grateful to be able to do this — to spend my days working on my art and to then have the opportunity for a gallery to spend time and energy to share the work.

George Billis Gallery NYC / April 2019
George Billis Gallery NYC / April 2019
George Billis Gallery NYC / April 2019
George Billis Gallery NYC / April 2019
George Billis Gallery NYC / April 2019

I had my two teenagers with me this time around. We spent 5 days walking around New York and taking it all in. I am now back in my studio and hard at work on another painting that has a tight deadline, which seems to be the way I work best.

The Royals

Royal Quiet De Luxe III / 40 x 30 / oil on canvas

These stacks of typewriters are framed and up on the gallery wall in New York today. I’m travelling to New York to attend the artist reception for my solo exhibition on March 28.

Artist receptions are always a bit of an anxiety-inducing experience, but I am bringing my both of my teens with me this time. I hope they provide enough of a distraction so the two hours of the reception passes a little quicker.

Royal Portable Typewriter / 40 x 30 / oil on canvas

Working Space

Underwood No. 5 / 30 x 48 / oil on canvas

“Imagine a desk, a working desk, from somewhere around 1900 through the early 1960s.” That’s what I usually tell people when they ask what my favourite subject is to paint. Set in a clean, minimal composition there is a timelessness about them.

The top image shows an Underwood No.5 typewriter. Sturdy and classic. In production for over 30 years because why would you change something that was perfect?

Below is a Corona No.3, a foldable portable typewriter for when you’re on the move.

When I set to work thinking of the paintings that will be included in an exhibition I always make sure that each painting has a companion — the narrative becomes stronger when I make a few scenes depicting my subjects.

These two paintings are at the George Billis Gallery in New York City and ready to be hung in the main gallery space starting on March 26.

Corona No. 3 / 30 x 48 / oil on canvas

 

American Art Collector March 2019

This is always exciting — seeing your work in print. American Art Collector magazine has a nice preview for the paintings that will be in my upcoming exhibition in New York.

The exhibition runs from March 26 to April 27. I’ll  be travelling to New York for the reception that is on Thursday, March 28 from 6-8pm.

All of the available paintings for the show are now on my website, you can view them → here.

Fourteen Cameras

Fourteen Cameras / 24 x 48 / oil on canvas / 2019

I shared an image of this painting in the final stages on the easel, and here it is complete — shown with some of the cameras I’ve collected so you can get a better idea of the scale of the painting.

This is a companion painting to the clocks that I recently painted. The objects are all functional, they serve a purpose and all fit in the hand. They are painted slightly larger than life-size.

The canvases are twice as wide as they are high — they make you look left to right and I deliberately composed them to form an arch — the images below demonstrate what I’m trying to get across.

Fourteen Cameras / 24 x 48 / oil on canvas

The myriad of repetitive circles — the lenses and flashes of the cameras, the faces of the clocks also move your eye along and across the surface of the painting. The details hopefully pull you in. These objects all serve the same purpose, but they have subtle differences that make each one unique.

My goal was to take this very simple compositional style — an object shown straight forward on a white shelf — and transform it into a rather complex scene of minute detail.

All the Time in the World / 24 x 48 / oil on canvas

Both of these paintings have already been claimed by collectors — I hope they make them happy for decades to come.

All the Time in the World

All the Time in the World / 24 x 48 / oil on canvas / 2018

The one overarching theme that is consistent in my paintings is time. The passage of time, a subtle sense of nostalgia, perhaps the dread of time moving too fast, or moving too slow.

I’m showing the painting here along with some of the clocks I have collected not to be cheeky about the achievement, but rather to give a sense of scale. The painting is four feet across, the clocks are just a bit larger than life-size.

I have painted groupings of clocks before, but true to the theme of time in my work, the more time I spend painting, the closer I get to what I am trying to achieve. The process moves at a glacial pace. With each painting, with each passing year, I move toward a goal in the distance. The goal of a unique painting style and technique married to a solid and cohesive theme.

I was once asked why I paint realism, why I paint objects to look just as they are, and why I would not take photographs instead. The answer is simple – because painting is transformative. Now, I do not want to come across as someone who is anti-photography or a Luddite, in fact, I enjoy cameras and tech (see my other painting subjects for reference). But the thing is when you depict these objects in paint with a centuries-old painting process, the viewer will look at them differently. They’ll slow down and look closer. They’ll think about what it is they are seeing, they’ll connect what they see to their own ideas. At least that is what I hope they do.

Art Palm Springs 2019

Art Palm Springs / February 2019

The George Billis Gallery has some of my work showing at the Art Palm Springs fair. The fair is on from February 15 to 18.

It’s always nice to see my work grouped with other artists from the gallery.

Work in Progress

Colored Pencils / Work in Progress

And there, just like that the final touch and this one is done. Now it will dry, then a coat of varnish to make the colors pop before it’s off to New York to debut on the gallery wall under a well placed light.

Work in Progress

I have been keeping a journal for 26 years. Something I notice when I read back to see what was going on in my life, say 10 years ago, is that there’s a definite cycle, a pattern of behaviours and moods. February always stands out. There is a way for me to combat the February doldrums — by occupying myself with deadlines. So for the last several months, I have been working toward a late March exhibition in New York. Too occupied to fuss around on social media. And that is a good thing.

I have begun working on the last two paintings for the exhibition and it feels good. Once they are complete, I move into packing and shipping. The shipping part is the most anxiety-riddled process as I hand over my life’s work to companies whom I trust to get everything across the continent intact and on time.

Cluster of Cameras / Work in Progress

Remembering the Good Times

January 5 was a momentous day for my family. My Grandfather, James William Stott, died at 96.

My brother, sister and I have been talking over these last few days about him. There’s a connection we have with him that is unique and special.

In 1968, long before my sister and brother and I were born, long before my parents were together, there was a terrible incident on a warm October evening in the small town of Midale, Saskatchewan. My other grandfather, Eric, was found unresponsive in his home. He had finally succumbed to complications with his heart after it was weakened by rheumatic fever decades earlier when he was a child.

A panicked call went out, an ambulance was called but would take time to reach the small town. In desperation, my mother’s mother ran to their neighbours and friends for help. I can’t imagine the scene, it breaks my heart. My mother was just a young teenager, her brothers 10 and 4 years old. Their father slipping away. My father’s father ran to help — in vain he performed CPR. Eric died that day, and my parents families were forever linked with a unique bond.

Decades later I would find myself visiting my grandparents and walking around the little town with my own children — our personal family history surrounding us in a few square blocks, almost unknown and forgotten.

43 years after my Grandfather Jim tried to save my other Grandfather Eric’s life, I would stumble upon a room in a heritage building opened for a festival. A schoolhouse about one block away from where my mother and father grew up. I found stacks of books in a classroom frozen in time. I have used these books and memories as inspiration and direction for my work and will continue for years to come.

Frozen in time. One room classroom in Midale, Saskatchewan. In this room I found direction for my work.
My grandfather (right) walks past the schoolhouse that is less than a city block away from his home.

My grandfather had a difficult beginning to his long, long life. In 1932 his mother died young, his father left for the coast to find work. At 10 years old, he was left in the care of neighbours. Essentially an orphan during the roughest economic times in the past century. It’s amazing that he was able to carve out a full life after a precarious start, but I think we owe this to his remarkable wife, Kay. They were together for 73 years.

We should all be so lucky. To spend seven decades of your life with someone who respected and cared for you as much as these two did for one another. Although the last few years have been incredibly difficult, we can now focus and remember the good times. It’s what Grandpa Jim would have wanted.

James William Stott / June 19, 1922 – January 5, 2019
James William Stott / June 19, 1922 – January 5, 2019