A True Original
BY TRACY RISUCCI
A modern day impressionist, masterfully painting exclusively in black and white. Christopher Mudgett’s unique collection and fascinating, personal perspective has captured our imagination. We wanted to learn more about his creative process, point of view and the business behind his art, so had a few questions… Christopher graciously answered them all. We are honored to learn more about this fascinating life, and magnificent body of work. Please see Christopher’s gallery below…
A LITTLE BACKGROUND…
BB: Tell us about yourself.
Christopher: Christopher Mudgett. Born 1982. Currently living and working in the historic Whitley Heights district of Los Angeles, California.
BB: You are a product of autodidacticism. At what age did you complete your formal education?
Christopher: I’ve been making art since very early childhood, I began drawing at 3-4 yrs old. First acknowledgment was winning a school art contest at the age of 7 for best painting (it was a mountainous landscape). Casually studied art in high school. Didn’t begin taking my art career seriously until I was 28 years old, and at that point it was like staring all over. I had to relearn and reacclimate myself to art making entirely.
BB: What do you like to study? What subject do you find most interesting and what subject do you hold the most knowledge?
Christopher: I love learning, anything and everything. Special interests include, art, aviation, design/architecture, film, music, cooking, history and business.
THE ARTISTIC PROCESS…
BB: Tell us about your creative process. How does an idea develop? How do you decide where to put the first stroke on the canvas?
Christopher: My paintings don’t follow any rhyme or reason, completely spontaneous, my ideas are born and die on the canvas. I begin with something and it becomes something else. I’m always finding things in my work that I didn’t know I was looking for.
BB: What sparks an idea?
Christopher: A face, a memory, a gesture. Most inspired by the humanity in us all.
BB: How many hours a day do you work? How many days, weeks, months to finish a piece?
Christopher: I work 7 days per week, approxiamately 12-14 hrs per day. Each piece is different. As far as time frame of creation, could be hours, days, weeks or months. For every 10-15 paintings I create, only 1 survives, so some works would tally in the 100s of hrs from start to completion.
BB: Tell us about painting in black/white. Have you ever worked in color? Do you dream in color?
Christopher: Black and white is for me an expression of the duality existent in life. I have been working exclusively in B&W for going on 10 years now. I did work in color prior to this; however, many of those works have since been destroyed or painted over in b&w.
BB: Tell us about your experience living in the age of Covid. Has sheltering in place had an impact on your creative process? Your output?
Christopher: Honestly, it’s made little to no difference for my daily practice. Everything is virtually the same. I live in my studio so I don’t have to ever leave except for essentials (food, exercise etc) Some weeks I go 3-4 days without setting foot outside even once.
BB: How has your work changed (developed) from your early years?
Christopher: Yes, in a sense. I’ve explored different parts of the same whole if that makes sense. I wouldn’t say I’ve developed but more so have focused on various different aspects of my art creation throughout the years.
BB: What has your experience been at art fairs? Have you ever exhibited your work on the streets? If so, how are the two experiences different?
Christopher: I’ve done both. Early on, when I was starting out, before any gallery representation, I did show art in the streets of downtown LA during the art walk events. Everyone who passed would insist it belonged on the walls of a gallery. Then as I progressed, I had galleries in various cities, some of which participated in art fairs such as LA Art Show, Art Basel, Scope, etc.
BB: Tell us about writers block. When does it appear? How long can it last? How do you get past it?
Christopher: Yes, it happens to the best of us. I hit a wall every few weeks, that’s when I know things are becoming routine and it’s time to mix it up. I’ve also been doing this long enough to see it coming from a mile away and how to push through. Usually only lasts a week or two, but that week or two is excruciating. I embrace it, knowing that this is what is needed to reach the next plateau, and I persist beyond.
BB: Your studio looks amazing! What is essential in an artist’s studio?
Christopher: Thanks! Essentials for me are: Space (quickly running out of it in my current studio, may relocate soon for something more sizable) All the materials I could use, I always keep 30-40 canvases on hand, many spare tubes of oil paint and many brushes. The worst thing in my mind would be to run out of the necessary materials when I’m in the midst of creation so I always make sure to keep the studio well stocked. And lastly: Inspiration. In my studio I am surrounded by artworks, books, music, incense, and anything that gets me inspired and in the creative zone.
LET’S TALK BUSINESS…
BB: Let’s talk about the business of art. Do you solely manage your business? How does it work?
Christopher: Yes, as of 2016 I’ve been in complete control of my art business. Prior to that, I was repped by galleries and they handled a lot of my sales, etc. At some point I realized that no one would work as hard as me to make my dream happen so I decided to go it on my own until I could elevate my practice enough to attract the attention of galleries and dealers who were able to help me take this further than I could go myself.
BB: What was the first piece of art you ever sold? Tell us about the experience.
Christopher: First piece was a commissioned work for a friend. It was a great experience, they didn’t put any restrictions on my creativity and I was given carte blanche to do as I pleased. They loved the work.
BB: Do you have commercial considerations during your creative process, or is it important to keep the process more pure?
Christopher: None at all. Commerce is the absolute last thing on my mind when creating. I understand that the art business is vital to growing a career, however it has no place in my studio. Those things are sorted afterward and usually much later. I don’t even post work online until it’s been sitting in my studio for 6 month to one year. I don’t need the instant and immediate gratification. If the piece survives, then it may be shared with my audience.
BB: How many pieces are one of a kind? How do you choose what pieces to make copies of? How do you establish price?
Christopher: All my work is one of a kind, aside from the printmaking (linocuts and limited edition prints). I only reproduce my favorite works and offer them as limited edition prints. Price is established over time, what you can sell your work for. I’ve been selling for quite some time, steady increases over the years has been how I’ve arrived at my current pricing structure.
BB: What is the work of art that has had the strongest response commercially?
Christopher: I’m lucky, there have been several. Probably one of the most popular works I’ve created is the Lovers series works as well as the women’s portraiture.
BB: What is your personal favorite piece? A piece you will never part with?
Christopher: All of them.
BB: What is your experience with art critics? What good comes from their feedback, if any!
Christopher: Again, I’ve been lucky. I’ve gotten nothing but love from most everyone.
Jerry Saltz and Kenny Schachter regularly like and comment my works. As with anything, you take the feedback with a grain of salt (no pun intended) it’s one person’s perspective and however valued that is, it is only one side. I find that I value far more what I think of my work than what anyone else ever will.
BB: Is there a danger in creating art that you know is destined for the commercial marketplace?
Christopher: I believe so. I feel it inhibits the artistic process. You’re not going to get an artists full true real self with that commercial work, as you would with a work that they know would never see the light of day.
BB: How has social media helped/hurt your business?
Christopher: It’s been absolutely incredible. I’ve met so many amazing people, not only art industry peeps but real art fans. It’s a great forum to share ideas, work and create an awareness around what you do as an artist.
BB: What do you consider a life well lived?
Christopher: Getting to wake up everyday and beginning a new adventure. Creating the work I want to see in the world and sharing love with others.
BB: Truth and authenticity are your guiding principles “we are all unified both in existence and our humanity” how does this perspective influence your art?
Christopher: My work goes beyond the superficialness of skin color, race, gender, age etc. It’s more about the person’s energy, a power that can be seen and experienced beyond the mere physical form.
BB: You’ve said you hope your work will help to expand the consciousness of the world. In layman’s terms, can you explain what that means?
Christopher: Sure. The more I paint, the more I learn about myself. It’s a never ending quest of self discovery. But I am you, so this enlightenment is just as useful to you as it is to me, and that is why I feel it important to share what I do. If the art can help someone identify deeper within themselves it has reached its objective.
BB: We thought it was interesting that you say “you abandon your art. you don’t finish it.” Can you explain?
Christopher: Yes. There is never an “I’m done, it’s finished” moment when I’m creating art, I can always go further and deeper. At some point I must be content and ‘walk away’ from the painting, not because it’s “done or finished” but because there is nothing else I could possibly do with it and to go further would only sacrifice what is currently there in order to create something completely different.
BB: Please explain “the duality”?
Christopher: Light and dark, love and hate, peace and war, night and day, life and death.
BB: What is the most interesting experience you’ve ever had as an artist?
Christopher: All my experiences in this field, thus far, have been momentous. I’m continually discovering and rediscoving myself. I’ve traveled the world. I’ve shared great happiness, joy, sadness and love with complete strangers. Art is a unifier, and it is in bringing people together that I find the most magical of all.
BB: What is your personal favorite work? Is there a work or works that you will never part with?
Christopher: All of them are my favorite. The same blood, sweat and tears go into making a small painting as an extra large one, for me it’s the same process. Each work is a piece of me. It’s uncomfortable to part with any of them.
BB: What cracks you up?
Christopher: Dad jokes, social media and politics.
BB: How do you unwind? Outside of your studio, what is the ultimate day?
Christopher: My studio is the unwind. Art is my life. I love it and it’s a privilege to wake up everyday and be me. However, when I must get outside, I love walking and exploring my surroundings, riding my motorcycle to the ocean or mountains, eating sushi, visiting museums and bookshops.
BB: Favorite movie? Book? Quote? Ice cream flavor?
Christopher: Cookies and cream, Fight Club, love all inspiring quotes, favorite books are probably art books.
BB: If you could have any work of art hanging in your living room, what would it be?
Christopher: Something by Van Gogh, Dubuffet or Francis Bacon.
BB: Would you/have you ever put your work on a t-shirt?
Christopher: Yes, I have and they’re available on my site.
BB: Tell us about your adorable cat.
Christopher: Her name is Isabelle, she’s a Norwegian Forest Cat and she’s very mischievous, loves to play with the most random things and climb all over the mountains of canvases and sculptures in my studio!
BB: What is a dream trip to ignite your imagination? For romance? For r&r?
Christopher: Love Europe, it’s always incredibly inspiring. Probably Paris for the museums and architecture and Italy for the views and food.
BB: What is your best advice for young artists? What is the best advice you ever received?
Christopher: Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something. If you have a dream to make art, it is only up to you to make that dream come true, it is your duty. It won’t be easy, as a matter of fact, it’s extremely difficult; but, it will be so rewarding, not only once you reach your destination but all along the journey as well.
BB: If you could meet any living artist today, who would it be?
Christopher: Would love to meet David Hockney, Frank Stella, Damien Hirst and Thomas Houseago.
BB: Who are some modern day artists that you admire? Why?
Christopher: Currently enjoying Robert Nava’s playful paintings, Mark Posey’s windows paintings and Thomas Houseago’s visceral sculptures.
BB: Any good art jokes?
BB: You have a hunger for “honesty, truth, and wonder for the endless possibilities of life…” Please explain what drives that.
Christopher: Curiosity is the driving factor. I’m always curious and hungry to learn, excited to see how far I can take my work and discovering and hitting upon uncharted territories.
BB: How would you like to be remembered?
Christopher: As one of the greatests to ever do it.
BB: Is there any question you wished we had asked?
Christopher: Not at all. You all did good, very thorough. Thanks!
This is the world of Christopher Mudgett… #thepeoplebehindthemagic