Art Asylum: Chris, tell us the basics about yourself: where you live and your lifestyle / background?

Chris Brett: I’m a 27 year old mixed media artist living in Burlington, Ont., Canada, which is about 30 minutes west of Toronto. I grew up mainly n Calgary, Alberta, and moved out east about 8 years ago. My initial artistic background stems from my earlier years of painting graffiti. When I first moved out to Ontario I was fortunate enough to meet up with some dedicated and talented writers in my city, and they essentially showed me how to paint. They were definitely my main influences at the very beginning and I owe a lot to them.

I was initially going to university for psych major, but all my mind could really think about was painting. I would go to classes during the day, get my homework (sometimes) done, and stay out til 3-4 in the morning painting boxcars somewhere out in the sticks. Wake up, rinse, and repeat. After a year of that I decided I should give art school a shot, and applied to Sheridan College.

Art Asylum: Were you an artistic child? Are your parents artistic?

Chris Brett: I think every kid is an artistic child really. I did do a decent amount of drawing when I was a kid, mostly monsters and superheroes, but I never really thought I wanted to be an artist. It was just something to do during class or at home when it was too cold to play outside.

My parents aren’t artistic people really. My mom is pretty creative and crafty, but neither parent is a painter, sculpture, writer, etc… As far as I know I’m the only artist even within my rather large extended family.


Art Asylum: Did you go to school for art? If so what was your major? If self taught, how did you “teach” yourself?

Chris Brett: Yes I did, I took interpretive illustration at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont. Graduated just over a year ago. It is a really great school with some amazing teachers and a great set of peers.

Art Asylum: How long have you been doing what you do? Is this a full time job? If not, what else do you do?

Chris Brett: I’ve been doing shows for roughly 2 years now. Regretfully though, it hasn’t become my full-time job in terms of income. I also work a day job as a dog walker 6-7 hours a day.

Art Asylum: What is your creative process from start to finish, when coming up with a new piece?

Chris Brett: I usually spend a couple weeks doodling and writing in my sketch book. Really loose, without any real sense of direction, or expectations of certain outcome. From there I will collect a lot of those thoughts and doodles and refine them into an idea or concept to paint. It can take a very short period of time for the doodles to become finished paintings, and it can take a very long time for doodles to become finished paintings. I find from start to finish things are constantly being added and subtracted from the initial “planned” piece. I never really know what the painting will end up looking like, but that aspect of the entire process is what gets me excited to sit down and start drawing.


Art Asylum: Which leads me to my next question, is it a form of self expression or simply aesthetics?

Chris Brett: I think it’s both most of the time, but in different proportions form piece to piece. I do place a lot of emphasis on aesthetic. Evolving form the graffiti mentality of bright, shocking, in your face color and composition, that sort of aesthetic has stuck with me in my fine art / illustration work. A lot of the work I’ve done does have a message behind the painting. Whether it is a clearly communicated message to the viewer or not is a secondary consideration for me, I know what the painting is supposed to be saying, I’m more interested in how people react to the work. I suppose you could say I like to wrap my ideas in a pretty or compelling picture, and let the viewer unwrap things on their own.

Art Asylum: What is your creative space like?

Chris Brett: It’s half my bedroom, sectioned off with a long curtain across the room. I have a closet and drawers full of different patterns, wallpaper, frames, house paint, and random supplies. I work at a small desk while painting and a slightly bigger desk for all my computer stuff. I have a couple paintings and a bunch of prints form some of my friends and favourite artists on the wall, along with a ton of paint splatters and tac holes. It’s not a very big space, but it’s functional and cosy.

Art Asylum: What are three things that you need to help you get into the creating process? (certain music, time of day, etc)

Chris Brett: Music, coffee, and solitude are all important ingredients when sitting down to work.

Art Asylum: What was your first piece of art you sold?

Chris Brett: I suppose it would have been a tracing of my hand that I added long fingernails, warts, and facial features onto back when I was in grade 2 or 3. I sold it for a quarter to a kid in my class, which actual turned into a few commissions within the class. I bet I made a couple bucks alone that week. After that, I had a long dry spell in the art sales that lasted until about 2004. I sold a graffiti style canvas to the owner of a coffee shop near my place.


Art Asylum: How did you come up with your specific style of painting?

Chris Brett: I don’t think there ever was a point I “came up” with a specific style. I think over the years things evolved and continue to evolve. Graffiti was the jump of point in terms of the line work and color schemes. Saturday morning cartoon, mad cracked magazines, super Nintendo, and skateboard graphics have stuck with me over the years and seems to have worked their way into my ideas and characters as well. I still have a long way to go in terms of a “style”, I’m only satisfied with a painting for a couple days before I begin thinking, I can do something better and more exciting. So I think my specific style is still being molded in a lot of ways.

Art Asylum: Acrylics, spray paint, and collage are the main mediums you work with, is there anything you would like to try working with?

Chris Brett: I’d like to try oil paints more, but always seems to avoid using them for a variety of reasons. One is being drying time and my lack of patience, the other being my lack of color vision. I’ve always had trouble with mixing colors and blending because I have red-green colorblindness, so things like acrylic and spray-paint that I can use in quick drying layers, have always been a lot more comfortable. Although I think oil paint could add a whole different look and depth to my works, so I think I should stop making excuses and give I a shot.

Art Asylum: What do you love most about what you do?

Chris Brett: The process. When I am rolling along a painting or series of paintings, away from outside distractions, I enter an almost meditative state. The physical act of painting for me is always more satisfying then the final result. I do enjoy finishing a painting and being able to step and say “it’s done!”, but the real enjoyment comes from the process of making the piece.


Art Asylum: Give me three words to describe your art:

Chris Brett: Creepy, cute, and colorful.

Art Asylum: What are some pros and cons to be being an artist?

Chris Brett: The pros are definitely the personal satisfaction I get from painting and creating something from nothing. Art has always been an outlet for me, it’s not something I just want to do, it’s something I needed to do. It allows me a chance to escape the day to day life experiences that are grey, or stale and add some color to my world. Being able to share this escape with others is very rewarding also.

I suppose the cons of being an artist, at least at this point in my career, is the financial instability and inconsistency I’m forced to work a day job to keep the bills paid. If I ever reach the point where I don’t need a day job, I’d have to say there are no cons to being an artist. It’s the hardest easy living a person could have for themselves

Art Asylum: How do you come up with your characters?

Chris Brett: My characters are a result of the doodles and writings in my sketchbook. A lot of time I’ll come up with the name of a piece before I’ve even sketched it out. A cheeky wordplay or a simple shape could be all I need to develop those doodles into their own character and personality. Childhood influences play a role as well, the sense of playfulness, and pure fun, mixed with a certain tainted sensibility most adolescents and young adults develop once we all realize the world isn’t a perfect place. The characters I do are an extension and exaggeration of my own personality and experiences.


Art Asylum: Your characters would look amazing in 3-d, considering how popular designer vinyl toys are, would you ever produce / design one? If so, what type of character would it be?

Chris Brett: I would love to design or produce a vinyl toy. I’m currently working on my first DYI Munny and am having a lot of fun. If given the chance to design a character for a toy I’d enjoy making one that looks like it’s flying somehow, or perhaps one with a bunch or interchangeable masks and hats.

Art Asylum: You mentioned that graffiti was how you got your start doing art, how has that shaped you both a person and an artist?

Chris Brett: I owe everything to graffiti and the writers I first met when I moved to Ontario. Those guys really showed me not just how to paint, but also the art of getting over. They are some of the hardest working dudes I have ever met, and I am certain that if I had not met them and spent those years learning from them, I would not have taken art beyond a hobby. Their passion and overall energy was definitely contagious, and that had a profound effect on how I viewed making art. It still does in aloft ways. Painting freights had definitely slowed down over the past 3 or 4 years for me, trying to pay off student loans, finishing school, taking care of life responsibilities, but these guys are still smashing boxcars on the regular while facing similar challenges themselves. It’s a big inspiration for me also to see the new generation of kids coming up and putting in work as well. Graffiti for me was never really about fame, but more about the process of infiltrating spot and leaving a mark behind, and recently I’ve had kids come up to meat house parties or whatever and tell me I had influenced or inspired them to paint. That for me is beyond flattering and is so rewarding to know that I have touched the life of a total stranger to pursue their creative outlet. Seeing something I just did for myself become a spark for someone else really fills me with a sense of fulfillment and joy to keep moving.

Art Asylum: What are your hobbies besides painting?

Chris Brett: To be honest I don’t really have a hobby besides painting. I have certain activities I enjoy doing when I have free time. Such as spending time with my friends, watching hockey, benching freight trains, taking photos, watching David Attenborough Documentaries, space documentaries, telling jokes with my family. Nothing I would consider a hobby, but more or less things I really enjoy outside of painting.

Art Asylum: How do you see the evolution of your art compared to what you did in the past? Is it important to you as an artist that you constantly evolve or would you like to continue maintaining a unique style that represents YOUR work?

Chris Brett: My work has definitely evolved over the years as I’ve learned how to use acrylics. Compared to even a couple years ago, I’ve learned to paint a lot better and incorporate different elements into a more polished and effective manner. I feel that I’ve only really began to scratch the surface of my “style” as it were. It is important to me to continue evolving my work as an artist, trying new things and materials, as well as new ideas and concepts. I think in order to maintain a unique style this evolution has to always be taking place within my work. Each painting I do I learn more and more about my own process and ways in which I can improve on my technique. I am open to change and often times will look for that challenge to take place, instead of remaining within a framework of a “style”.


Art Asylum: How separate are you from your art?

Chris Brett: That’s a tough question. I mean if you ask my close friends when they are looking at my work, they would say, “Ya, that’s definitely Chris.” So I think my personality often reflects the style and content of my works. On the other hand, my work is a little over the top, and “crazy” some might say, which is not really the type of person I am. Making paintings perhaps keeps a balance for me, if I was unable to express myself or find some sort of outlet for creativity, I may be a little weird and dysfunctional in life. Paintings allow these ideas to manifest externally and keep them from doing battle in my head all the time. So in sense I am my art because I am able to place it outside of myself in a physical form.

Art Asylum: What have you stolen/learned from another artist
lately?

Chris Brett: I’m always reading artist interviews I find various online and print formats. It’s very important to me to hear how these people achieved a certain level of success in their career and how they have had to overcome obstacles in order to achieve that success. I learn a lot from those interviews with regards to mentality and perseverance in the business. I’ve faced a unique set of challenges in my path towards trying to become a career artist, just like everyone else, and knowing others have overcome such challenges through hard work and dedication is a great inspiration for me to continue moving forward.

Art Asylum: What is the biggest mistake you have ever made?

Chris Brett: Allowing peoples hostility and all around negativity effect me. I am a pretty fun loving and peaceful person, I mean I get angry and frustrated like any normal person does, but I generally try and remain positive about life and bring that positive vibe to the people around me. Allowing others negativity to bring me down to a negative head space is by far the biggest mistake I have ever made. Not only is it completely counter-productive to allow that to happen, but it also has the potential transfer to others around me, and I never want that to happen.


Art Asylum: What are you trying to do to people with your art?

Chris Brett: Make them laugh, and let them escape, even if it is just for a moment. My work is a mix of the happy and sad things I encounter in life, and what I try to do is let people see that delicious side of the disgusting things in life, a making of lemonade out of lemons sort of mentality. I hope people see my work and are able to not only laugh at the characters, but also laugh with them. See their own inner turmoil’s and being able to have a sense of humor about themselves. Mostly I am trying to bring a little color into peoples’ lives.

Art Asylum: Last but not least, what will we be seeing from Chris Brett in the future?

Chris Brett: Hopefully a lot! I’m currently working on a series of paintings for a handful of shows this fall and early winter and I’ve been speaking with a couple people about some new projects and shows in 2010. It looks to be a promising year already in terms of production. It will be nice to have a full plate of projects over the winter season up here in the great white north. A man could go a little stir crazy when locked away by the cold for 5 months, so I hope to make the most of it and really push my works to the nest level in 2010.

-Chris Brett

www.chrisbrett.ca

We will be releasing an exclusive print with Chris, details TBA

Check out our site for more info HERE

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1 Response to “Chris Brett”


  1. 1 Leo
    March 30, 2010 at 6:07 am

    This young artist has the ability to create intricate multi layers in his work. His paintings have a wonderful 3 dimensional feel. You can focus on the background of some pieces and find many different things going on or move your eyes to the forefront and experience an Alice in Wonderland story. Chris Brett is part of the pop culture fantasy movement. His work for me, although not completely original, displays some of the best technique out there. If i were this artist I’d be looking for Art Asylum Boston to bring him to the next level.


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