Inside the Studio

Chris Veeneman’s Spontaneity with a Dash of Control

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

I grew up in the high mountains of Colorado so I think nature and the physicality of our world is something I am rather obsessed with and It’s something I explore in painting. I love creating imaginary landscapes. But I have also started working on more figurative works: portraits, human forms, animals…..I have a hard time sticking to one thing.

How did you first get interested in your medium, and what draws you to it specifically?

I’ve always loved art and specifically painting. I never really thought I had a talent for it though. I really like the materiality of oil paint, especially the way you can layer it and work with the opaque and the transparent colours. What I also love about painting is the exploration of color.

How has your style and practice changed over the years?

I’ve been painting for about 10 years so I am still exploring quite a bit. My work is constantly evolving. I’m not really interested in painting multiple versions of the same painting. I really like challenging myself in new ways: new subjects, new techniques, etc. I’m interested in and inspired by a lot of different things so my art is rather varied.

Can you walk us through your process? Do you begin with a sketch, or do you just jump in? How long do you spend on one work? How do you know when it is finished?

Abstract paintings are more spontaneous. Figurative paintings require a study and I will do sketches and work digitally with photos, etc. for a starting point but paintings usually evolve quite a bit. I use oil so I usually have a few paintings going at the same time for drying and layering. I usually know fairly well when a painting is finished but I will go back and retouch multiple times. There have been a few times when I’ve started a painting and then put it way for months before finishing. I have a piece that I started 2 years ago and still haven’t finished it. One of these days….

Who are some of your favorite artists, and why?

Zao Wou-Ki for his singularity and the emotion that his paintings give. JMW Turner’s paintings fascinate me, especially when you consider in which period he was doing them. I love Lucien Freud’s work: the colors, light and especially the textures. And painting live models, what an artist! Yann Pei-Ming’s paintings are really incredible. I saw an exhibition of his in Rome at the Villa Medicis where he had been a resident years earlier. He can repaint a work by Caravaggioin his style and then paint an airplane. And they are both equally powerful.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

A person I highly regarded told me that if I’m really expressing myself through a painting, and if I am really feeling something while I’m creating it, the spectator will then pick up on this. They will feel something too. I think this could be true. And I think some paintings are more personal than others.

About the Author

Evangelyn Delacare is the Associate Curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service at