An Interview with The Artist

- Chris Pelletiere Speaks Out -

by Mark D. McKinley


Interview - New York Art World
Artist/Painter
Chris Pelletiere
© Chris Pelletiere
Metal Self Portrait
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(May, 2004) -- Artist and oil painter Chris Pelletiere lives in New Jersey.

I contacted Pelletiere after viewing an online exhibit that featured his painting on the New York Art World Web site.  Pelletiere has a remarkable eye for composition, and his use of colors and blending is fascinating.  The artistic perspective of his works enticed me to explore his art further.

- Mark D McKinley

The Interview

mogswebsite.com:  Tell me about your background ... where you studied art ...

Chris Pelletiere:  Ok, after high school, in my twenty's, my first school was the Art's Students' League in NY City.  From there I studied at a School called the New York Studio School of Painting and Drawing, also of New York City.  I was born in Brooklyn, NY and studied in Manhattan.

mogswebsite.com:  I've read that you enjoy sketching people when traveling by subway ... have you had any interesting interactions with frequent subway riders?

Chris Pelletiere:  Yeah, that's interesting.  I used to try to use that time going to work. I would carry a small sketch book that I could put in my pocket.  And, one time, coming out of Brooklyn, going to work, I was sketching this guy that was sleeping, a young black guy.  I got a pretty good drawing and I put the book in my pocket ... I was through, you know.  Then suddenly, about a month later that guy taps me on the shoulder and says, " Could I see that drawing you did of me." (laughter)  He remembered me, it was sorta funny, so I ... and I had the same book with me, and he liked the drawings, he said, "that's great".  (laughter)

mogswebsite.com:  So, he was kind of sleeping with one eye open, then. (laughter)

Chris Pelletiere:  I like to get people when they're sleeping, because they don't move and I get a chance to really study them.  I had one really interesting incident that happened to me once.  I was in Spain one time with my wife, and this was all very new to me.  We went to a bull fight, you know, and we were sitting there, and so I thought I'd sketch.  I got my pad ready, the matador comes out, the bulls , and the whole preparation, and everything started going so fast, they were moving faster than I really could draw.   So,  I had to like really speed it up, and use my eye and my hand quickly ... I was having a lot of fun.  And I heard these old guys behind me, they were watching me, and at the end of the fight, the woman we were with said to me, "those  guys behind you, they think you're the guy that does the posters for the bull fights."  (laughter)

mogswebsite.com:  that's neat! (laughter)

Chris Pelletiere:  They were good sketches,  because the quick action forced me to go out of my own style and I got some of the best drawings I ever did.

mogswebsite.com:  So it pushed you do what you didn't realize you could do.

Chris Pelletiere:  Yeah , It pushed me, pushed my envelope.

mogswebsite.com:  Are most of these people receptive to being sketched?

Chris Pelletiere:  Yeah, for the most part they are.  They are fascinated, and they want to know what I'm doing, and then they ignore me.  One time I had a guy, he was annoyed, and he got up and changed his seat, but that was the extent of it.  Most people are kind of interested in it and wonder what's going on.

mogswebsite.com:  Is there anything about a scene or person that literally catches your eyes, and you just want to make a sketch of them?

Chris Pelletiere:  That's a very interesting question, because my first one man show was called Felons. And a funny thing was I had this big book called THE FBI'S MOST WANTED.  And it was all pictures of people who were wanted by the FBI or captured ... wanted.  There was something in their faces, it was different, it was like a desperate quality in a lot of these faces.  They weren't all famous criminal, like John Gotti necessarily, they were just guys, or women, and I responded to that.  Something in their face was disturbing or interesting, or was something, you know, you could almost read the person's troubled expression.  So I wound up doing my first show, big paintings like 50 x 60 from these faces, and it was a really good show.  A friend of my came to the show and he said, "This is like being at a catacombs, it's very disturbing" (laughter).  Yeah, but there is something about a person, even on the subway, I might see a person who, where something is really going on in their face that really draws me.  I go for that.

mogswebsite.com:  When you find someone like that, and you have to do a sketch ... do you ever get to a point where you want to make a painting [from the sketch], and find that you must re-arrange the subjects or make changes strictly for balance?

Chris Pelletiere:  Yeah, that's right.  Sometimes when I was at a loss for things to paint, I got up in the morning and buy the paper.  Sometimes there was something going on in the press photograph, which was really interesting.  It might be a disaster, it might be something about the ... well, it was a ready made story.  It was right there, so it just allowed me to move quickly, and work from off that photograph.  Sometimes I would eliminate whole parts of the photograph that I felt weren't necessary, you know, that didn't have to be in there to make a much stronger composition.  I don't always work that way ... I don't work that way anymore, but for a time I found that interesting.   Because, it was like grabbing immediate life ... these photographs from the press, well you know what they're like, you see them, they are so immediate.  Something happens and it's all over peoples faces, and the action, it's everywhere.  So it's a good thing to try to corral and grasp.

mogswebsite.com:  So in looking back, you had to speed up your sketches, it was like an exercise.

Chris Pelletiere:  That's exactly right.  You know what it's like?  It's like your signature.  You recognize your own signature.  You learn how to write, and it's hard at first.  It's like getting that under your belt.  The more drawing you do, the quicker you can arrive at what you want to capture.  And sometimes, like years ago, I used to wonder why am I sketching, what are these sketches, what is the purpose of them.  And, except for the ... my own love of them, what are they doing?   Then I realized it was like developing a kind of shorthand, which is exciting.  A lot of times, preliminary sketches of any artist are more interesting than the finished product.  Because when you finish a painting, sometimes you "chill" it ... you put too much detail in, or the painting loses something.  I find that sometimes the first idea, the first sketches, the most immediate thing, is the most interesting.

mogswebsite.com:  I would say a lot of people share that feeling.  I recently had the opportunity to see some original Michael Angelo's.  I got to the exhibit, it was one of many things in the exhibit.  But, when I actually got to it ... it was four small framed panels.  Each [panel] was just a sketch, about 5"x5" and it took a while to sink in, because I was expecting an oil painting.  They were very powerful sketches.

Chris Pelletiere:  Yeah, a lot of times it's interesting.  You look in these artist magazines that are sold, and there's some beautiful work.  The thing is, a lot of times, like the portrait painters, when they are painting so exactly, and getting like a photograph, then something is lost.  It becomes like a dead thing.  I find it's more exciting when you just catch an impression, rather that lock it up and finish it up.

mogswebsite.com:  Don't connect the lines completely.

Chris Pelletiere:  Do something.  Do something to get some life in there.

mogswebsite.com:  I found your painting "Walking" to be just fascinating.  What did you have in mind when you painted that?  What was the symbolism?

Chris Pelletiere:  Well, first of all, it was painted at night.  It was a scene of the night.  I do a lot of paintings from painting at night.  I think that lone figure walking amongst cars, that creates an edginess, like ... it looks dangerous, it's mysterious.  I think that was my motive ... to just lock into that edgy feeling with those dark colors.  To say What does that figure do, what is he doing?  I thought it was like, I'm not telling a story that doesn't have a beginning or and end, or anything, it's just up to the viewer to fill in the blanks.  Like, what's going on here? ... It's very strange.

mogswebsite.com:  I think you succeeded in that edge you're talking about.

Chris Pelletiere:  Yeah, I like to find that.  I think that's it.  I like to look for that edge, whether it's somebody's face or it's some situation.  That's what I'm kind of on the prowl for.
mogswebsite.com:  How do you explain your use of colors?  What caught my immediate attention in many of your paintings, was just that they were very colorful, but there was amazing blending and shading.  Could you elaborate on the techniques?

Chris Pelletiere:  Thank you.  Yes, I tend to use a bright kind of primary palette.  And I do, at least when I paint at night, think about that.  It seems that it draws me.  I love it ... at times I go the Coney Island during summers in Brooklyn, and I like to mingle and blend into the crowd at night.  To see all the bright lights ... it's the most extreme light and movement ... and it's getting lost in the crowd.  At times I might paint a Prussian blue ground to start off.  Then I'll start hitting brighter colors for light in that.  Next, I'll rub out, and change and build off that dark ground with colors.  And that is where that comes from, I think.

mogswebsite.com:  What artist or artist's have inspired you the most?

Chris Pelletiere: I like so many artists.  That's a good question ... it's a hard question because there's so many, from all periods.  I guess the artist that always stands out for me, is the Spanish painter, Goya.  He's a very beautiful, powerful painter.  Especially his Caprichos, and those last dog paintings, were called the Black Paintings, From The House Of The Deaf Man.  Anyway, yeah, I would say the Spanish painter Francisco Goya, If I had to pick one, that would somebody, who I would think about.  He was an incredible painter.  I think good art would transcend any time.  Like you were talking about Michael Angelo, before, It's really a feeling, that transcend all times.  No matter where you live or what time, what period you live in, you pick up that life,   you get a hold of that life and use it, transform it and use it for yourself -- make it that shorthand that I was talking about ... that language.

mogswebsite.com:  Like surroundings, clothing may change a little but the work itself remains the same.

Chris Pelletiere: You're right, the surroundings may be different, a whole different time period, it's a whole different age, but it's really the life in the painting, the feeling, that transcends all ages.  It always kind of rebirths itself.

mogswebsite.com:  Good work is always relevant.

Chris Pelletiere: That's right, that's exactly right, good work is always relevant, you said it. (laughter)

mogswebsite.com:  Is there a particular type of brush you like best?

Chris Pelletiere: This is interesting, kind of funny.  I start off with a brush, like everybody.  I'm not fussy that way, I like house painter brushes.  I like to go into a paint store and pick up a brush, and it doesn't really matter what brush it is.  The thing is I'll use it ... a lot of times I'll put the brush down and go in with a rag, or I'll go in with my hands, and I'll change things.  I'll blend with my fingers.  I know that's not suppose to be healthy for you (chuckle), but once I get caught up in the thing I'm doing, I think everything goes into play ... my hands, rags, and all kinds of brushes ... artist's brushes, house painter brushes, all kinds of brushes.

mogswebsite.com: Do you enjoy any other forms of art in addition to painting?

Chris Pelletiere:  I like film, I like good movies.  I get caught up in that.

mogswebsite.com:  Do you enjoy [film] strictly as an observer, or do you enjoy going out and filming?

Chris Pelletiere:  I enjoy as an observer, I respond to a good story, to good action.   That's what draws me I think.  I guess as a painter, I probably look at the screen and break these images down into still images, I probably see things that I could turn in to paintings.

mogswebsite.com:  I understand that you prefer to paint at night ... why?

Chris Pelletiere:  Yeah, that's my mood, I think.  I don't think it's exclusive, but I gravitate toward that.  I like to move with people and watch people at night.  I get inspired by that.

mogswebsite.com:  Do you prefer working in solitude, or do you prefer having something going on in the background?

Chris Pelletiere:  Yeah, I guess I work in solitude, I'd have to say.  I do like to play music in the studio, but I guess I'm better off when it's quiet, and I can see whatever I'm doing.

mogswebsite.com:  I would like for you to think of your paintings as music ... what genre best exemplifies your work?

Chris Pelletiere:  I guess I would say all kinds.  I do like classical music, I guess I would say I gravitate toward that, but then again, I like all kinds of music.  I like blues.  I like Rock n' Roll.  I guess I'd have to say there's no one thing that important to me.

mogswebsite.com:  In the same sense, there's no one scene that catches your eye?

Chris Pelletiere:  Yeah, whatever comes my way, I'm on the lookout to grab it.

mogswebsite.com:  Do you have any upcoming shows?

Chris Pelletiere:  Not right now, I have just moved to another house with my wife and I will need time in a new studio here, and try to put a body of work together.  That's what's happening now.

(C) 2006 Mark's Online Music Source

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