Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Interview with Chris Dyer


Zeke: How did you get into painting?

Chris Dyer: Painting? Well, I've drawn all my life and then when I went to college in Hull, Québec, that's by Ottawa . . .

Zeke: When you say you've been drawing all your life, that's where I want to start.

Chris Dyer: Well, I've always had this creative energy in me.

Zeke: Where do you think that comes from?

Chris Dyer: I have to speak for myself, but I like to assume that everyone has this creative instinct in them as... we're images, we're in the image of God, and God's the creator, so we have this feeling inside that we want to create.

Zeke: When you were a kid, what type of stuff would you create?

Chris Dyer: Well, I started with scribbles, and crayons and stuff, and those hand paintings, but the earliest stuff I can remember was aliens. Do you remember that TV show V, with the spaceships and stuff, and the aliens that were humans but they would rip off their skin and they were lizards inside - that's the type of stuff I would draw. You know, their spaceships … it's awesome. So that's the earliest I can remember. Like robots, giant robots.

Zeke: So, at the time, what were you getting from it?

Chris Dyer: TV.

Zeke: No, what were you getting from it? Not where did you get it.

Chris Dyer: What was I getting from it? Teachers liked it, that would pump me up. Also, something that would pump me up was that kids around me dug it and a kid likes to feel loved, and I like to feel loved too, so you get good energy that way and get good at drawing and it motivates you.

Zeke: So after the kid stuff, how did you develop your style?

Chris Dyer: I'm still developing my style. I always drew or created some sort of thing. As a kid I used to build these clubhouses out of all the furniture and there would be rat tunnel and at the bottom of the pit I would put a radio and a little desk and there I would draw and write. And now I'm living it. But I always drew in school. Me, I was one of the best in the class, you always want to keep on working on it. When I came out of school I was like, "Man, what am I gonna do with my life?" And I always had it like a joke, because I always knew I was going to come Canada when I was living in Peru and I didn't know what to do, but I told my friends, "I'm going to go to Canada and become a cartoonist." It was the biggest joke because it's so far off in Peru. Maybe in Montréal it is something you can do but in Peru it sounds like a huge joke. But then when I came here I tried to get into that, I wanted to get into animation, and I took fine arts to get my skills better. In my last year of fine arts I went to an animation studio and I saw how hard they had to work and I was like, "No way, man. I'm not going slave all night for a 10 second frame. So I kept working on the fine arts side and that really helped me express my feelings.

Flamer, Acrylic on busted Skateboard, 2004

Zeke: Were there and specific classes that turned your crank or any specific teachers?

Chris Dyer: Oh, teachers in college... There were always nice teachers that would help you get more like... Because I'm a little bit stiff in my style, I still think that I'm a little bit stiff, but there were some teachers that were like, "Get messy." It's mad. It doesn't have to look like a picture. Art is not supposed to be totally realistic. You can be messy. Abstract art can look beautiful. Anything really... my first college, I couldn't say that anything really stands out. It was barely scraping the surface. Ottawa U totally demotivated me.

Zeke: Why?

Chris Dyer: Because it was really not fun. I had studio classes but the teacher wasn't teaching anything. The little I learned in my first college experience was totally forgotten because I was in the same class as people who were just learning the basics and then the teacher sent so much homework. Like, "OK bring three paintings by next class" and from my style, you can see that it takes me a long time per painting. I was like "Man, I can't do three paintings and do a good job." I would rather make one really good painting than three crappy ones. After that, I just quit, packed, and went to Montréal. I went to Dawson College. And there I did have awesome teachers, and the one that stands out the most was Carmello Blandino. His first year, and he also changed over the three years we were together, but in his first year he was real strict and that was good because he knew I had talent, and he pushed me to be even better. If I was doing realism, he would say "Look at the microscopic light that's hitting the top of his eyeball. Get it all. Don't let anything slip." So I did that, and I could do it, but you just work hard. It was good that year. The next two years he loosened up as well, he found his own path in life, it was more spiritual, and it came through in his classes. He was like "Alright, use your brain. Find a new idea". And then the last year, he was like "Paint time and space." You know, getting more mystical. As he grew, I was growing in my own right, so it went well. So I'm out of college, but I still stay in touch and he's doing really well.

Zeke: Do you envision going back to school for more stuff?

Chris Dyer: No, man, I'm done with school. I've been there for too long and I'm really enjoying not doing homework.

Zeke: Who's your favorite artist?

Chris Dyer: There has been many artists over the years depending on what I'm feeling at the time but MC Escher was always a huge inspiration because he was always so tight and detailed. In my linear style, he motivated me to get that tight and I'm still working on it. And Mati Klarwein, he's the artist who did the cover for Santana, Abraxas, and his stuff is awesome. He would spend five years on one painting so it would get retardedly detailed and plus he had mad technical skills and with oil so he could do anything realistic or turn it surrealistic and he was from Spain. And he was in the same era as Dali, but nobody knows about him.

Zeke: A lot of people know about him, they just don't know his name.

Chris Dyer: They know of his art, maybe. When I tell people, they're like "uh..?"

Zeke: It's connected to Abraxas, and more people have seen Abraxas than Dali paintings.

Chris Dyer: But there's so much more. He's got a round painting [ed note: after clicking the link, look at the one on the ceiling]. You have seen that one?

Zeke: Umm hmm.

Chris Dyer: It's so dope. He's my favorite painter if I had to say anybody else. I guess I like Alex Grey, but he's pretty new to me. A lot of people might think that I take a lot from him, but we're similar in the way that we're both colorful and detailed and spiritual.

Zeke: How did you get into painting on skateboards?

Chris Dyer: It started with … I had been skateboarding since I was a kid and retook it back in the late 90s, I guess '98, I'm always trying new things. I did a skateboard and then I went on.

Zeke: What made you think to paint on a skateboard.

Chris Dyer: It was a good canvas, it was just lying there. I guess something I really wanted to do was a graphic like the ones in the 80s by this artist named Jim Phillips. He did all the graphics for Santa Cruz skateboards. Something that always stuck in my mind was his Roskopp series of monsters because they were so detailed and so well done. One day I had the inspiration to do one of those monsters and I did it on a skateboard because that was right for that and then I didn't do it for a year. And I was living in NDG, on Oxford St. right next to this new skateboard shop that opened called Alena, and they were really into the arts. I wanted to get my art show there, but it was really difficult. So he said, "We're having this broken deck show and I want to fill up the room, so do as many as you want and you'll have a lot of art." And I was like, "Cool!" because this guy knows a lot about artists and if I got some of my boards in, I can show my skills, I just have to get it on a board and I can get my name out there with other good artists. I did one, then I did two, and then three, and then the show didn't happen, and then the show got delayed by a year, so by the time the show happened I was on board with 50. But when the show happened, I was tree planting, so I totally missed it and I wasn't even there and when I got back I was like, "Man, I did all of this for nothing." Then I exposed the boards anyway at Le Swimming and that's what people liked the most. They were like, "Your skateboards are awesome." I guess it was also that it was my newer stuff so each painting improved. I always thought I was done with that period and then I came here and you said "I want to have the skateboards for this thing" and I said "Alright, man. So let's just work at it." I was aiming at 100, but that's a pretty far off goal. I got to around 65. I'm pretty happy. I don't think I could have pushed myself any more because I almost lost my head this winter.

Angel of Death, Paint Marker on busted Skateboard, 2000

Zeke: Of all the boards, which is your least favorite?

Chris Dyer: I don't know. I like them all. Even when they come out ugly, they still have some energy that captured a moment. I guess the one - the Blacklight Raver - I did that one when I started going to rave parties because I was getting invited to expose there. I was never into that scene because my friends were like "No, don't go to raves, raves suck" but I would go and have a blast. I tried to express the energy of those parties but, because I'm not a part of that culture, it might of not come out perfectly the way I wanted it. It was also the first time that I used fluorescent colors. I didn't have a hold of them that well. It still captures a good dance thing, it's not totally horrific.

Blacklight Raver, Acrylic on busted Skateboard, 2002

Zeke: How do you decide what you want to paint on a board?

Chris Dyer: I get ideas. A lot of my ideas come when I'm meditating, when I'm supposed to keep my mind blank. That's when my mind wants to act the most because it fights against me. Sometimes I have ideas that will stay in my head forever. Sometimes I'll have a really good idea and I'll go to my sketchbook. I'll do a really fast sketch to capture the idea. Eventually I'll get to it. If I'm really feeling it, I'll do it right away. Other times, I'll have sketches that will wait in a book for years and then I'll say "What do I do next? This sketch has a lot of potential."

Zeke: When you have the idea, are they completely formed? And you go back and try to recreate. Or is it that you have this idea, so when you create it, you modify and change, and go with the flow.

Chris Dyer: Both.

Zeke: So which is one that would have come full on?

Chris Dyer: Well, it depends on the sketch. Sometimes I'll be really faithful to the sketch, sometimes I'll modify it. I guess the one - Smoke Signals - I wanted to express how cloudy my brain felt in the last half of a year. All these bubbles around. All of them I keep developing as I go.

Smoke Signals, Acrylic on busted Skateboard, 2004

Zeke: Which one came up completely formed in your head. Which is one that you had this idea and that, as you painted it, it developed on its own into something different?

Chris Dyer: I guess all of them. As you go, you say "What if I put this here…"

Zeke: Just pick one so you can explain to me how it started and how it ended up.

Chris Dyer: One that totally just keeps developing from an idea or just freestyle?

Zeke: I figured you did have the images and the ideas and some of them developed and some were right there.

Chris Dyer: Sometimes I freestyle totally.

Zeke: Which one did you freestyle totally?

Chris Dyer: This one here - Alex Gavin's Energy - it was the first time I tried this style after hanging out with Other. He just chose a blotch to spray paint and then he goes. I did the same thing. Some blotch you spray paint and then you see the lines. Except for the realistic stuff, most of it is like, "Let's see what happens." Then things come out and I'm like, "Interesting." Something that changed a lot throughout the process. You have this one with the boobs, sexual one. It was like, "OK, let's see what happens." This one I kept on adding. Each sketch that I do, I add more and by the end, it's totally different. I do a scribble of a car with a bunch of crap and stuff and the next sketch will get better.

Zeke: When you are coming up with your ideas, do you have the style down? I figure there's about half a dozen different styles in here. When the idea comes, do you have the idea of the style you want to do it in, or is it "I want to this idea in this style?"

Chris Dyer: Yeah, I do a sketch, and then I'll decide what style will be the best.

Zeke: What's that process to decide which style will be the best.

Chris Dyer: Let's go to the Man About to Crash. Usually I would have done that in watercolors because it is very detailed. Even without color, it would have been a very detailed drawing. I could have just done a black and white and it would still have looked good. Watercolors are a good way to put colors fast and then I can draw on top of it. But I said, "Let's challenge myself let's do an acrylic". Acrylics are so dry and it takes longer. That one there - that's watercolors. I'm losing my train of thought. I guess I decide right before what medium would be better.

The Man About to Crash, Acrylic on busted Skateboard, 2004

Zeke: It's not so much medium, but style. You have certain ones like Man About to Crash, then We are all Cells of the Same Body, and then HOH Supermodelz which are very cartoony. Then you have DMT and Lion-I City Blues and Progressive Evolution #2, which are drawings and realistic, but they're much more symbolic. How do you choose? I imagine that the idea of Progressive Evolution #2 could be done in a more cartoon style.

We are all Cells of the Same Body, Acrylic on busted Skateboard, 2004

Chris Dyer: It goes with the theme. The theme for HOH Supermodelz, it's my friend being silly, so cartoon flows nicely with it. Those pieces with psychedelia, it more like I'm trying to express emotion so symbolism feels better. So, Lion-I City Blues is basically the way I felt the summer after my girlfriend left. I felt sad, I felt blue, and I felt chained, and I felt industrialized because I was stuck in a city. Those tubes on the side. So symbolism helps me better to show those things than a cartoon would.

Lion-I City Blues, Acrylic on busted Surfboard, 2004

Zeke: When you're doing something with the symbolism, is your technique different than when you do something that is more cartoony?

Chris Dyer: Technique? No, I'm not the type of painter that is super-expressionist and waving the paintbrush in the air. I'm sort of stiff in that way. I lay color one at a time. I'm like "OK, this feels blue" so I put the blue and then the light blue and put the dark blue. It's pretty simple. It's just a matter of time.

HOH Supermodelz, Acrylic on busted Skateboard, 2004

Zeke: How did you get into the symbolic stuff? I would imagine that that stuff came later than the comic stuff.

Chris Dyer: I used to do comics in my era when I wanted to do animation. I did a big, fat comic book with 60 pages. I got a handle of the comic style. I got really burnt out on it so I don't do comics any more.

Zeke: What happened?

Chris Dyer: There's so many and the more you do, the better you get and by the end I was getting so detailed with all of the things I wanted to express that it would take me a week to do a page. It was too much. It was a huge compromise of time. I was getting more into the fine arts. You can't dedicate your time to everything. And then the symbolic stuff. I think it's because this year I went back to experimenting with drugs, and that's the way. I had stopped for a bit after my spiritual period and I'm still in my spiritual period. I guess it's because I'm always moving on. I don't even know myself. Things just flow through me. I can't look at it intellectually. I'm just a medium. Yeah, I'm grateful for whatever style flows through. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that style because I really love that painting but I can't. It's done. Even if I try, I can't get it because it's not me, it's something beyond me. I can only be faithful to what I do.

Zeke: Where do you envision yourself going next?

Chris Dyer: I'd like to travel next year and recharge my energy. I'd like to re-inspire myself from the world, hopefully from a totally point of view of the world. I'd like to keep on moving. I like the progressive evolution of my spiritual self because I think that's my ultimate higher being.

Zeke: With regards to the painting, where do you want to be going?

Chris Dyer: I have been wanting for a while to do stuff like Mati Klarwein and just get one huge canvas and work on the canvas for a year. That's not just financially feasible. I tried to pull it off this year but I couldn't get the grants to live off. Still, I'm just staying with the skateboards. Which is cool, because I have to flow with what destiny brings me. If my destiny is skateboards, that's awesome. It's still really fun. I don't hate it at all and it's given me a huge opening into the skateboard industry that, right now, it's moving pretty good and hopefully I'll find more financial rewards that way. Not that I'm into it for the money, but now it's my career and I have to think that way. Hopefully, one day when I'm established enough I can go by, I can just go and do art for the sake of art and not worry about money. And that's what I would love to do. Have a simple life, maintaining in a country place, do a couple trips here and there. And working on a painting that would benefit humanity in some way. Do something new.

Progressive Evolution #2, Acrylic on busted Skateboard, 2004

Zeke: What would you like a viewer to get from your art.

Chris Dyer: Each board has its own message. Pretty much as I've changed throughout the years from more self-centered, violent person to a more spiritual person who wants to help the world heal, because there's a lot of problems in the world and I think that we all should have a little part in it. Just help out. The purpose of my life is to use the talents that God gave me to pass on a good message. There are so many bad messages out there in the media and TV. There's so much violence and being bad is good. I'd like to be like "Hey! You can be a good person or spiritual and it's a cool thing, too. Being religious or spiritual doesn't make you lame or gay." I really appreciate when I hear people say "Hey! Your painting really helped me out a lot because I was feeling that way inside but I didn't know that anybody else was feeling that way and now I can accept that and I can come to terms with it and now I can come to terms with it." And that's great. And also… just showing how hard a person can work inspires them to go and chase their dreams no matter how hard it seems to go for it because this world isn't designed for the arts. I'd like to pass on as many good vibes as possible about my many environments around me.

DMT, Acrylic on busted Skateboard, 2004

Zeke: With regards to the show, what were you expecting?

Chris Dyer: With the show… I'd have to say that since I had this goal of traveling next year, I really wanted to sell a few of them and be able to finance this trip for a year. A half a year to a year would be nice. So that was one goal. I didn't know it at the time when I was doing it, but I have never done so much art as I did this year. Never in my life, pounding the art constantly. Now that it's done, it shows me so many different faces of inner myself day by day because each day there were so many people. People changing by the seconds. So that put my expectations high and to go for it. What else can I say about the show? I guess to get Montréal to see what I got.

Zeke: Anything you're disappointed with?

Chris Dyer: With the show or the art?

Zeke: Yes and yes.

Chris Dyer: I'm not disappointed that I didn't get to 100 because you can only do what you do. I wanted the cover of the Mirror and the Hour. I can't be disappointed that if hasn't happened yet but there's still potential to get that. I love to still get into Juxtapoz because it's something I've been trying for years but I never had an in. I'm not disappointed yet. I have to be happy with whatever comes out. Sometimes I look at something I've done and I say "Wow, I'm horny. Oh, I got really violent on that one. Or, "Woah, what's that entity that's inside me? That's freaky scary." I can't be disappointed. I can only be who I am and I love myself for it.
Zeke: Is there anything else you want to say?

Chris Dyer: If I get a chance for other people to hear me: We've got a beautiful world and we're all such a beautiful human race. There's no good or bad. The whole world is going through the same things. We can make it. We can go through the shift of consciousness without destroying ourselves. And I would really like for us to go through that without the need of a mass destruction or a mass catastrophe. I think we can all unite and I think we can all find the love inside. So we all become united and stop the struggle and help each other out in out own personal, inner struggles towards whatever. Love is the way, I guess.

Zeke: Thank you very much. Was it difficult?

Chris Dyer: No, it was awesome. Interviews are fun.

[note: I edited this slightly, cleaning up one mistake, and clarifying some things, along with adding some more links on Thursday Sept. 23]

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