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contemporary american artist Robert Chunn

::: bio/statement
::: still life paintings
::: artist interview

"I find it more painful not to paint than it is to paint. Painting keeps me sane in a cruel, cruel world."
Robert Chunn

american painter of still lifes Interview with a Painter

Robert Chunn interview

Robert Chunn Interview - November 2007

+1 ::: When did you first realize you are an artist Robert?

I was in my early twenties when I discovered that I was born to be a painter. The idea of doing anything else is abhorrent to me.

+2 ::: Could you tell us some more about your work?

I mostly paint clutter. I like how objects cluster together on tabletops, in kitchen drawers, on my printer, etc. I try to take a documentary approach to the subject by painting things as I find them. Or, sometimes, I'll just pile up a bunch of old tins and cigar boxes in a haphazard way until something interesting happens.

As for the objects themselves, I'm more interested in their formal qualities (e.g. color, form, tone) than their everyday, functional use.

+3 ::: What is it that inspires you to paint a particular subject?

The subject has to capture my interest somehow: the way the colors and shapes play off each other, or the patterns of light and shadow. I try to find poetry in banality.

+4 ::: What famous artists have influenced you, and how?

I like the simplicity of form and color in the works of the Italian Primitives. I like Morandi for the same reason. You can see the influences of Giotto, Piero della Francesca, and other early Italians in Morandi's still lifes. There's a tender sensitivity and calm in their works that makes them a joy to look at. Two other favorites are Rodrigo Moynihan and Avigdor Arikha. They have a directness and matter-of-factness in their approach to painting that I find compelling.

+5 ::: What do you do for fun (besides painting)?

I enjoy drawing people in cafes, drinking lattes, watching old movies (anything with Humphrey Bogart), and playing chess.

+6 ::: What inspires you to create art and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?

I find it more painful not to paint than it is to paint. Painting keeps me sane in a cruel, cruel world.

+7 ::: How have you handled the business side of being an artist?

I'm still struggling with that one. For many years I painted in relative isolation and gave little thought to the business of being an artist. I just wanted to paint and draw, dammit! I lived on the cheap in Mexico and South America until I finally got tired of living out of a suitcase. When I moved to Seattle, almost two years ago, I decided it would be a good time to get my work out there where people could see it, and so, a new painting blog was born.

+8 ::: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I never look that far ahead. I try to focus on what I'm doing today and let tomorrow take care of itself.

+9 ::: What is it about still lifes that keeps you painting them, and what are you working on at the moment?

Still lifes are always ready to pose. They don't talk or get tired or need to eat. They possess all the qualities of form and color that are needed to keep a painter occupied for the rest of his life.

Right now, I'm working on some single-object paintings that sometimes fall outside my usual alla prima method of working. Instead of finishing a piece in one sitting, I'll blend, push, and scrape the paint around to create a particular mood in monochrome and then add more layers of color and texture later. I've also started a series of alla prima paintings documenting the move out of my current home and into a studio apartment. Moving always represents a certain amount of upheaval and change, and I think I just wanted to record the event somehow.

+10 ::: What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

First, get in the habit of carrying a sketchbook with you wherever you go, and draw from life as much as possible. Drawing trains the eye to see what is really there and not just what you think is there. Second, don't get in a big rush to develop a style. Play around with different mediums -- experiment. Rodin started out as a painter, and then one day he picked up some clay.

More artist information can be found at the website of the artist.. Robert Chunn
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