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.