CREATING CONSCIOUSNESS

LET US BEGIN

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Your web site is called www.bagpainter.com. Other than the obvious that your paintings are on paper bags, is there any other reason for that name? How did you decide to work on paper bags?

The website name came about as obvious as it seems. I am always making up goofy URLs and sometimes look them up to see if the are taken. bagpainter.com seemed to also have a “brand” feel. Other than that, I thought it was easier and more recognizable than chriscrites.com, that if you said in conversation, people might not remember or spell correctly.

I had done some work on bags in college, mostly life drawing with charcoal and conte. Messing around in 1999, I painted 4 really hasty mug shots on pieces of bag and really liked the effect. That sealed the
medium for me and have done it ever since. It was easy, accessible and at the time I wasn’t seeing anything like it (I hadn’t yet heard of Jay Steensma and James Martin’s work on paper bags).

How long have you been painting? Did you go to art school? Do you have any instructors that influenced you positively that you’d like to mention?

Been painting seriously for about 7 years in this style. I have always drawn or made art of some sort for most of my life. Mostly pretty laughable stuff. My grandmother is an amazing artist and has always been a great inspiration. Didn’t go to art school. Went to community college for a design degree and then a state university initially for illustration but majored in art. I probably got the most out of a color theory course I had with Andrew Leone.

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What artist friends of yours have been a big influence in your journey as a professional artist?

Many of the artists and people I have met here in Seattle have been a huge support and influence and I feel fortunate to call many of them friends.
Sara Lanzillotta
Kipling West
Kamala Dolphin Kingsley
Carole d’Inverno
Robert Hardgrave , more than I can list really.

But then I met through Claire Johnson this group of artists who meet loosely every week called “art night” and they really influenced me and I noticed a jump in the quality of my work after hanging out with them. They include
Demi Raven
Rebecca Raven
Tim Marsden
Rich Lehl
Christian French
Joel Lee
and now
Joey Bates

Apologies to those I missed, but so many people to thank.

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When did you know that the portraits on paper bags were going to be your thing? Is it your thing? Are you still searching or are you happy working in your current process?

Somewhere in 1996 I was doing some large pencil mug shot pieces. At that point I really knew I wanted to work with mug shot images for a long time. Once I did those first 4 paintings of them on bag though in 1999, that is when it really clicked. I suppose it is one of my “things” if not my main thing. I enjoy branching out, like with the mushroom clouds, other portraits and guns, but I will probably never stray to far from the mug shot. I am really happy in my current process. Do wish I had more time to do more life-sized pieces, but it is a pretty slow process.

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Where has your work been shown lately? What galleries have you shown at in the past? Has your work been published? If so in what publications?

I had a show in San Francisco at a hair salon in October. Alternative venue, but at least it felt good to get exposure in that area. Then Jack Fischer Gallery (San Francisco) just had several pieces of mine at Red
Dot in Miami during Art Basel this December (thanks for the photos!). Group shows here and there. In the past I have shown at Bluebottle Gallery in Seattle, group shows at La Luz de Jesus in Los Angeles, OKOK Gallery in Seattle. My work has been published online in a couple of art journals, True Eye Volume 3 and Proteus Magazine. A few local papers and magazines…

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Describe the process if you would? How does a piece generally begin? What’s the time frame for completion?

My process is pretty straight forward. I begin with an image I think is strong, one that will work for me and has a fair amount of contrast. If it is color, I convert it to black and white so I can work with it and not be distracted or influenced by the original colors. After the drawing is done on the bag, I choose my colors (five or less) from darkest to lightest and work in the same order. I paint one color at a time and no over painting. Each color lies by itself on the bag, right up to the edge of the next color. Time frame really depends on scale and detail. I just finished a portrait with crazy hair and lots of tiny details that took over a week.

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You work is made in a series. How does it take to decide on the concepts for a series?

There are so many ideas for series that I have in my head and new ones keep coming up. Series can help with cohesion for a show. Choosing the particular idea can depend on the venue or just something I want to work on at that time. If it is not work for a show, it doesn’t always end up as a series. I generally do work in pairs though with the same colors just to see how different the pieces will turn out.

Your colors are interesting. How do you decide on the colors to use for your pieces?

I think it is pretty much an ongoing experiment. The colors are selected while looking at the source image but I am also always looking at my color wheel and at how the colors interact or play off of each other. The bag adds a whole new color and I think there is no way I could achieve the same effect on say a white or canvas background. A couple of years ago I actually would do sketches with colored pencil to see how the colors might work but that took away the element of surprise. The great thing about these for me is that I never know how it will look until that last color is in.

You live in Seattle and curate a space called www.joebar.org . Can you briefly describe the scene in Seattle? How has curating a space changed your work? Has it? Has your work changed your choices as a curator?

I think the Seattle scene is pretty exciting. There is a lot going on and I heard at one point that Washington state has more artists per capita than any other state – I don’t know if that is true or not, but there are a lot. Galleries come and go, grow and shrink, move. It’s great to watch but really is a small scene for the size city. There seems to be more going on than I can keep up with. I am not sure if curating has changed my work itself, but has certainly changed how I frame and present it. It has helped to see what other people consider “ready to hang” and the reality of actually hanging it. It is a lot of fun and a good challenge at times.

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What artists are you keeping an eye on right now (with links to their web sites)?

Pretty much all the people I listed with the friends an influences question above, then Brad Benedict out of Los Angeles is putting together a Sideshow Fine Arts collective of 15 artists that I am part of which includes

Brad Benedict (I don’t think there is a website for his work yet)
Andrew Brandou
Lou Brooks
Dave Calver
Korin Faught
Lori Field
Ryan Heshka
Nancy Kintisch (?)
Travis Lampe
Travis Louie
Everett Peck
Judy Ragagli
Bob & Val Tillery
Brian Zick

What type of music are you listening to now?

Lots of different music, but recently Big Business, Akimbo, Unsane, High on Fire, Foetus is a long time favorite, I pretty much keep the iTunes mix going most of the time which keeps it blended.

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As you see your work progressing do you have a vision for where you will be progressing with it in the years ahead? Maybe you could give us a sneak peak of what direction it might be going?

Recently did a couple pieces on oak that was a good change. Won’t abandon the bag, but may work more on wood panels. Also would really like to do more life size portraits, they are just that much more
engaging and intense.

Do you have any advice for artists who are just starting out? On how to approach galleries? On how to price ones work?

Show up at openings, meet people, talk to people. Networking is so critical that it cannot be overstated. Get a website, post art on free galleries (flckr, that sort of thing). It is really about exposure but you do need to focus as well. Research galleries you like. Does your work fit with what they show? When you have shows, send your postcards to galleries you think fit, it gets your name and some art in front of people. Approaching galleries is about research as well. Check their website on submission guide lines and follow them. Try and meet the owners or curators, get to know them if possible. Get into group shows, the cross-pollination there can be awesome.

Pricing your work? Good luck! That is about the most difficult and challenging aspect of doing this. It really is hard. Look at work you see around from other people starting out. Do you think their prices are reasonable? Would you buy that? Is it selling? Do you want to sell your work? Also think about how much you really put into it in time and materials. You have to cover that to a certain degree, but if you stopped and figured out how much it came out to in dollars per hour you are charging, that could get depressing quick. Ask people and artists you know as well. It is something we all struggle with, but getting other’s opinions on it could help.

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Also, any advice on shipping work across country for shows and how to make sure everything comes back in one piece? Packaging, legal paperwork, etc.

Always make sure your work is ready to hang. Try and find out if it goes on a hook in the wall or hangs from a wire from the ceiling. Do your research and make sure the work will hang in the space easily. Pack well, broken glass and messed up art is no fun at all. Some people put an “x” of masking tape on the glass, or you can use plexi if you ship. I always frame my work, put a sheet of card board the size of the frame on the glass side, then wrap in the bigger bubble bubble wrap. I wouldn’t use the small bubble stuff, you ever see how UPS or USPS chucks them boxes once you turn them in? Make sure your work doesn’t slide around in the package. Paying the extra to ship it safely is better than getting it wrecked. I am big on paper work. Emails are legally binding agreements if terms of a show are listed in there, so keep email correspondence for shows. I try and get a contract or agreement on paper. If a gallery doesn’t do contracts, present them with one of your own, you can find examples easily online. Cover yourself. Often times it is just business with them and personal to the artist. Cover yourself.

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