By Nicolas Palermo | Posted Friday, December 21, 2018
Chris Raia is a visual artist from Freehold, NJ. By working in different mediums, Chris doesn’t allow himself to get boxed into one specific style. The subject matter of his work has a wide range as well. Taking influence from his favorite animators, he creates anything from still life charcoal drawings to abstract paintings. I spoke to Chris to learn more about his techniques and artistic influences.
The medium you choose to work with varies from one piece to the next (charcoal, watercolor, graphite, etc.). Do you have a favorite? How do you decide which medium you are going to use for the project at hand?
When it comes to a favorite, I’ve definitely been bouncing around, but ever since I touched Watercolors a couple of years ago I’ve been hooked. I love how it naturally makes marks that are organic and gestural. When it comes to choosing a media, it often feels impulsive. I, of course, try to think about materiality and what using a certain medium over another may suggest, but sometimes being overly analytical can inhibit me from making art at all.
Do your portrait illustrations and paintings come from real life or your imagination?
Both. I think that to be able to draw from your head, you first have to draw from life so that you can build a vocabulary of visual information. It’s important to know the rules before you can effectively break them in your own work. If I don’t know what to draw then just I study what’s around me.
Another thing that stood out to me about your artwork is that you don’t stick to one particular style. It ranges from minimalist doodles to more complex and experimental oil paintings. Is it a conscious decision to create work that ranges in style from piece to piece or does it just turn out that way depending on your mood/mental state/emotions?
I think I bounce around a lot because I am somewhat indecisive and just want to learn everything. I think artists feel a pressure to quickly develop a brand that is easy to package and sell to an audience. Not to say that I won’t eventually have a more singular practice, but I think that artists owe it to themselves to take their time with finding their voice.
Who are some artists that you are influenced by? Do you attempt to drop hints of their work into your own art?
There’s a billion haha, but right now, I have been focusing on a lot of animators. Max Fleischer, Lillian Friedman Astor, Don Hertzfeldt, Pat McHale, Kazuo Oga, Satoshi Kon, and Alexander Gellner to name a few favorites. I don’t think I intentionally drop hints of them in my work, but I think they always seep through. It’s actually most exciting when people tell me that my work reminds them of an artist that I’ve never even heard of. It’s always great to discover artists who care about the same ideas that I do.