Our Spring blog lineup launches today featuring a captivating artist interview with painter extraordinaire, Christopher Remmers.
How did we come to be acquainted with this stellar artist? You’re gonna love the story. Here’s what happened.
While strolling the August 2021 L.A. Art Show, my hubby and I stumbled upon a Denver, Colorado art gallery’s booth. (I love an art show encompassing galleries from around the country and the world!) We hadn’t heard of Abend Gallery and decided to check out their collection.
One painting in particular drew us in. The name of the piece was “Seed Sower” by Christopher Remmers. I hadn’t heard of this artist before. My curiosity was piqued. Upon closer inspection, the painting’s Rembrandt-esque palette, ethereal luminous subject, and superb brushwork blew us away. We were smitten and vowed to revisit the piece before heading home from the show.
As we perused the other booths, including our alltime fave, Arcadia Contemporary, the conversation turned to, “Should we buy that painting?” “Is it an extravagance or a work of art that will inspire us everyday?” When the frantic question, “OMG, is it still there or did someone else buy it?” came up, we scurried back to the booth.
Relieved to find the painting still there, Barry politely reached out to the gallery owner inquiring if the artist might consider helping us purchase his painting. The gentleman graciously contacted the artist, Christopher Remmers who generously agreed to provide us a special price so we could afford to purchase this masterpiece. It was such an exciting moment – our first major art purchase!
While Barry finalized the transaction, I engaged gallery co-owner David Ethridge in a lively discussion about the sad state of art education. He regaled me with a tale of how his university art courses were a sham (not surprised) and that he learned classical art techniques from his commercial art instructors. I shared with him that it wasn’t until I attended masterclasses by professional artists through local art clubs that I learned mine and that that was the impetus behind opening my own art school and penning project booklets that contained the information I had been seeking. He was glad to hear this.
We gleefully brought home the “Seed Sower” that afternoon. It now graces our living room, perching on our beautiful hand-made cabinet for guests and ourselves to enjoy.
When we were back home, unwrapping the painting, I asked Barry for the artist’s statement. He blinked blankly, not knowing what this was. I patiently explained that when you purchase an artist’s work, especially a living artist, a statement about his or her inspiration or motivation is expected to accompany the piece. Yet we found nothing in the wrapping nor attached to the invoice. Not wanting to miss out on this, Barry promptly volunteered to email the artist requesting his story on our painting. We were excited to receive the artist’s kind reply. Here’s an excerpt:
Thank you so much for reaching out. I’m so grateful when new collectors get in touch and want to know more about my work.
I really enjoyed painting this piece. As you may know, I don’t usually paint this small. I found that the size worked really well for the intimacy of the pose and composition. Here is the write-up for the Seed Sower.
Currently, I’m working on a body of work that explores the relationship of how we engage the numinous (spiritual) within ourselves. In the more intimate, vulnerable moments with our own nature we are faced with unexpected or perhaps unpredictable responses yet authentic nonetheless. As I explored this idea I decided to invite my models to feel into that space within themselves. What does it feel like to encounter your most raw and real self? I ask them to hold a light that is symbolic to this so that they may come into a relationship with that aspect from a more tangible place. I stand back and witness and record. The seed sower is one small moment during this exploration.
Angela Rollins, the model for “Seed Sower” is an absolute joy to work with…..she brings a lot of emotion and energy into the sessions.
I’m so thrilled that you are happy with your new painting and investment. Not only does the support mean so much to me but also the engaged interest. Thank you!
Thanks again for reaching out.
His compelling reply prompted me to invite the artist to be interviewed for the school’s blog. I was ecstatic when he accepted. Without further ado, I’m pleased to introduce master artist, Christopher Remmers.
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LRW: What is your style of painting and drawing referred to? For our art students, would you please describe what this style means or represents?
CR: From the broad to the specific, my technical style is rooted in French academic painting and drawing. There are of course varying approaches but the basic foundational skills start with a strong emphasis on building observational skills “from life” meaning studying the human form and anatomy, still life, and cast studies to hone one’s ability to understand light and form.
LRW: I’m a fan of solid foundational art skills, especially when it comes to observing light and form. Please go on.
CR: The style in which I work could be referred to as representational, classical realism, and then to add further nuance, imaginative realism, and or mythological realism. The later points to the conceptual side of the style. All that says is that these terms are broad sweeps of different forms of representational art which is representing the subject being observed rather than an abstraction of a concept or idea.
LRW: Ah, thank you for clarifying. Your work is breathtaking. Much of your recent paintings features the human form in mystical settings, often with a glowing light. What is the story or inspiration behind it?
CR. The lights started off as a simple prompt that I would present to my models. During a modeling session, I would hand them a literal, wireless glowing orb and ask them to interact with it as though it were their own spirit or soul. Over the years I have found that the interaction and relationship I cultivate with my models is incredibly important and part of what I am trying to capture which is the interaction between our shared creative expression. Each piece becomes unique in that I, in addition to recording what I see in the figure also interpret the liminal (at the boundary of) space projected from the symbolic representation, i.e. the metaphoric space that projects from the imagination.
LRW: Gah! You’re capturing the spiritual light of your models in oils on canvas. Ethereal and spiritual. That’s what captured my immediate attention with your Seed Sower and impelled us to purchase it. It’s a reminder of our spiritual nature. On a more material note, my students are interested in the latest tools of the trade. May I please inquire your preference for paints, grounds, brushes and drawing tools? What brands and types of tools work best for you? Do you ever make your own paint or have custom pigments made to order for any of your projects? Do you finish with a varnish or leave as is?
CR. Over the years I have experimented with a lot of tools and materials. I have come to have a few preferences of brand but try to keep open to the spirit of discovery and continual testing.
That being said, I usually work with both Rublev and Williamsburg® paints and mediums. Rublev is the product line behind Natural Pigments (George O’hanlon) and is referred to by most as an authority on the highest quality most archival pigments and materials for painters. I will occasionally pre-mix certain colors for large works and make my own oil grounds for priming.
LRW: It’s fun to discover and test new brands of paint. I’m not familiar with Rublev and Williamsburg and will have to investigate further. I’d like to learn more about your custom made oil grounds for priming at some point. What about brushes and/or palette knives?
CR: For brushes, I like Rosemary® Brushes as they have a very expansive line of high-quality and affordable brushes. I don’t have a preference for brush type and have over a hundred brushes at my easel to play with. I do however use a lot of “bargain” brushes from craft stores that I have a tendency to modify to create unique textures. I also use a wide range of palette knives for various reasons.
LRW: I’ve heard good things about Rosemary® brushes from the art community. I’m a fan of Taklon brushes for teaching and my own projects. Good to know you use both brushes and palette knives. What about varnish?
CR: Varnish is used on every piece. I try to add very thin layers to not make the gloss be too distracting.
LRW: Good strategy to know about. Any other workspace tidbits you’d like to share with my readers?
CR: Lastly, I switch back and forth from palettes, both handheld traditional, and a surface mounted to a tripod when working small and not wanting to have anything in my hand.
LRW: Keep the space organized. Thank you for sharing your workspace intel. On a more personal note, may I ask, at what age did you realize you wanted to become a professional artist?
CR: I went in and out of art for the better part of a decade in my 20s, never fully committing, though always learning. It wasn’t until I witnessed that I was continually unsatisfied with other creative prospects that I decided to fully embrace painting as the best way forward to express my ideas as well as build a career. So late ’20s early ’30s was when I seriously transitioned to full-time painting and haven’t looked back since.
LRW: Nice. Did anyone try to talk you out of fulfilling your dream as an artist? If so, how did you handle it?
CR: Many people tried to convince me that pursuing my art as a serious career was foolish, some were well-intentioned some were not. Ultimately, I think they were a catalyst that helped me see the value of cultivating a high level of expertise and craftsmanship in my work, a mastery mindset. I do see many young people that naively approach art without ever seriously considering the undertaking of becoming an entrepreneur and business owner. It is good to have a strong understanding of both the creative and business relationship and not believe the paradigm that artists are incapable of the latter.
LRW: So glad you persevered. Mastery is a mindset! Yes, art is a business! As a CSUN graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, I share this with my students who are considering a career as a fine artist. Agreed! Speaking of business, may I ask, are you represented by a particular gallery, several galleries, or do you work solo? How did that gallery and you become acquainted? Did you seek them out or did they find you? [Insert gallery logos and photos of Christopher’s works at the galleries.]
CR: I aim at whatever gets my work in front of as many people as possible. I currently work with a couple of galleries but also put a lot of energy into building direct relationships with collectors and organizations that work with artists. I have both pursued galleries and they have reached out to me. In today’s world of robust social media platforms, artists have more reach and advantage than any time in history. Galleries are amazing stepping stones to getting your name into the world but it’s wise to build relationships with galleries that have your best interests in mind. Group shows with high-profile galleries are an easy way to get your foot in the door.
LRW: That makes sense. What tasks does a gallery handle on your behalf? Pros and cons?
CR: The most important aspect of what a gallery offers is its client/collector list. A good gallery will have a robust community that you will have access to if your art makes an impression. A good gallery will make many moves on the social media front, public art events, and publications.
The only con is really the commission rate that most galleries will take between 40-50%. This becomes somewhat suspect depending on how much work you are willing to do yourself to build community through your own marketing efforts. It becomes questionable in today’s world of social media just whose efforts are paying off between the gallery and the artist. I like to ask myself the question…”how much would it cost (time/money) for me to market myself and is that comparable to what I’m paying in commission through my annual sales?”
There are of course many variables to consider here in terms of skills needed to sell your work, and I don’t want to oversimplify the endeavor. Currently, my relationship with Abend Gallery is proving to be very beneficial on many fronts in terms of my own personal goals and collaborations that are happening in the future with them.
LRW: Good evaluation process. Sounds like you found your ideal collaboration with Abend Gallery. On a more community level, art can touch people’s lives, bringing happiness and hope. For example, my art school partners with CoachArt to provide free art classes for families impacted by childhood chronic illness. Is there a charity you are fond of or support, that you might like my readers to learn more about?
CR: The DaVinci Initiative and the Art Renewal Center are the first that come to mind. They are non-profit organizations that are passionate about promoting realism in the arts and education. They offer training and scholarships on many levels.
LRW: Thank you for sharing. I hope my readers check out these great organizations. In closing, do you have a favorite quote, mantra or process that you find inspiring or helpful when faced with a creative block, that you would like to share with our readers?
CR: Two things…
1. First this quote by Carl Jung.
“Whoever speaks in primordial images speaks with a thousand voices; he enthralls and overpowers, while at the same time he lifts the idea he is seeking to express out of the occasional and the transitory into the realm of the ever-enduring. He transmutes our personal destiny into the destiny of mankind, and evokes in us all those beneficent forces that ever and anon have enabled humanity to find a refuge from every peril and to outlive the longest night.” ~ Carl YoungWhoever speaks in primordial images speaks with a thousand voices; he enthralls and overpowers, while at the same time he lifts the idea he is seeking to express out of the occasional and the transitory into the realm of the… Click To Tweet
2. A video inspiration from Alan Watts.
LRW: Jung and Watts! What a treat. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story with my readers. I wish you all the best with your beautiful projects!
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Pastimes For a Lifetime Art and Piano School is located in Valley Glen, California. 818-766-0614. School is open Tuesday – Saturday year round, except major holidays.