Artist of the Week 65
“My painting is always about passion,” says Christopher Pierce. Whether painting figures or still lifes, he infuses his works with rhythm and energy. A realist painter who works primarily in oils, Pierce achieves his dynamic results in part through attention to color and value.
His determination to paint from life is also key, as is his attention to design. The composition “must move the eye throughout the painting in a graceful way,” he says. Vehement on this point, he emphasizes that a successful composition must have some sort of inner movement.
By working in a range of genres, Pierce keeps his ideas, techniques, and attitude fresh. “There’s no burnout in one idiom if I change subjects,” he says. Pierce also finds that challenging himself with new and different subjects ensures that his work and skillset continue to evolve.
Though his diverse subjects might present their own particular problems, the artist’s basic working process is consistent across genres. For example, whether he’s working on a large floral in his upstate New York studio or on a landscape during one of his frequent trips to Europe, Pierce insists on working from life under natural light. “Natural light is the most beautiful to me,” he says. “It’s a seductive light; it wraps around people and objects more intimately and willingly than artificial light. Natural light changes each day and offers more ideas and challenges. And since it’s the ultimate full-spectrum light, it offers the most information.”
Using a modified alla prima method, Pierce strives to complete one section of his painting per session, always working wet-into-wet, which ensures that the paint- and thus the color- remains “fresh, juicy, more alive.” With his florals, the goal is to complete one flower per day; with a portrait, the goal might be the entire head. In those cases in which even a portion of the subject is too large to finish in one sitting, the artists uses a slow-drying medium, made up of stand oil, Venetian turpentine, and mineral spirits in equal portions, that allows him to work wet-into-wet for days.
Following the lead of the great Spanish master Velazquez, Pierce pays special attention to value. “Accurate values are the essence of a good painting,” he says. To determine whether a color value is correct, he holds up a palette knife or brush loaded with a color mixture that he wishes to compare with the area he’s trying to reproduce in paint. “This is done from my easel, not close to the subject itself,” says Pierce. The method works particularly well inside, but outside it needs some modifying, partly because he works under an umbrella.
Once Pierce has completed the main elements, foreground, and background, he then goes through a visual punch list, checking color, composition, values, and overall rhythm and harmony. Sometimes he puts the painting away for a period of time before doing this so as to view it with fresh eyes. “I’m in love with paint,” says Pierce, “and working with it while I’m trying to interpret what I see in front of me is just about as good as it gets. Sometimes I get bogged down with a problem, but without that struggle, the joy wouldn’t seem so precious.”
Contact Lily Pad Gallery West for information on pricing and to view additional works by Christopher Pierce.
To learn more about Christopher Pierce and view his expanded portfolio, visit his website: