Chris Fisher

Chris Fisher was born in Germany. The son of a US Army Officer, he moved many times before being stationed at West Point and eventually settling in the Hudson Valley. After graduating in 2006 with a degree in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts he pursued a career as a painter of historical subjects. Soon after he won the top prize at the Society of Illustrators Student Show in 2007. As a result he was offered a job on the animated Adult Swim program "The Venture Bros". Realizing the opportunity to work on a program revered by his peers. He set aside his brush and canvas and picked up a stylus and photoshop to work as a digital background painter. Since then he has worked on three seasons "Venture Bros" and other well know animated shows such as "Metalocalypse" and "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." He also freelances for game companies, advertising firms, and on various other illustration projects. When he is not busy working as a commercial artist he goes back to his easel and paints landscapes, portraits, and the historically themed paintings that he had originally envisioned himself doing.

R. What led you to decide to be a painter?
CF. I think it might be a love of visual art, genetic predisposition, and a hint of narcissism. My grandfather was an excellent draftsman. My brother graduated from Parson's School of Design and is very successful in the 3D animation world. Since I can remember he and I were admiring the illustrators and designers that created the media of our youth. I made the natural choice to follow my passion so I enrolled in the School of Visual Arts which had a reputation of creating working artists. In the end what keeps me working as a painter is the clear knowledge that I am doing what I do best and that I have the kind of creative freedom that will occupy my curiosity. I know that every project I work on will someday end and I will have the opportunity to explore another direction.

Battle of Fort Montgomery - 2006
R. How important is the process of painting from observation to your work?
CF. Everything is from observation in one way or another. An important lesson in school was to look at an model for a moment and then without looking draw from memory what you had just seen. You soon realize exactly how little you remember and how little you can make up. But the muscle can be developed and the mood and even some of the details of the scene can make it on the page. I spent thousands of hours drawing and painting from life painting as I did then but manage to incorporate that observational muscle in the process I use now. I usually carry a camera and or a pad of paper to note how the camera distorts color as I see it. If I don't have camera I will do a pencil drawing and through written description correctly remember interesting development in life painting is the ability to paint the color transitions and values. Its all thanks to those hours in the classroom. Probably the most with photoshop on my portable tablet computers which I do often. I try to occupy my time commuting on the train by observing and digitally painting the ever changing landscape as time passes and the train moves. Lastly I probably spend two hours a day googling images as reference.

Revolutionary War Field Amputation - 2006
R. Can you tell us how you go about making a painting? Do you make studies first or work from drawings, before you apply them to canvas?
CF. My historical paintings are pretty complex. I tend to work like a storyboard artist as I read an account, sketching lots of little compositions and color studies. I may have a couple of hundred before I know it. That step is followed by more thorough research of the subject with the help of knowledgeable historians. In the case of my amputation painting I read the most well know literature of the time, a book called "Jones on Surgery". The scary thing is that they were simple pamphlets and consisting of less than fifty pages of text, very few pictures and were completed by correspondence. I hired models to pose for reference photography, usually historical interpreter because they have a sense of historical accuracy and the aesthetics and narratives of the time. Finally I complete the photography in a photoshop file and carefully compile the design. Then on to paint.

Venture Bros Digital Background Painting

R. Does the fact, that you were born to an Army officer play an important part to your historical work? What it is it about this subject that fascinates you?
CF. Absolutely. Whether I like it or not we always managed to live in places that were important to history. I began my life as an army brat on the East german border thanks to the Cold War. Our last station was at West Point, the most the most strategic location of the Revolutionary War and training ground for Grant, Lee, Eisenhower and many more. Perhaps not every army brat thought about these things while they were stationed in these places. Becoming familiar with history forces you to make connections to people, places, and a past that historical paintings are mostly Revolutionary War era my interests are certainly not limited to that subject. Living in the Hudson Valley gave me access to a landscape and history that I could easily translate and apply to canvas. Had I ended up in Hawaii I would be painting Captain Cook.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force
R. What has been significantly influential to your growth as a painter?
CF. So long as my eyes are open the answer is seemingly everything. The illustrations on Garbage Pail trading cards and the closeup "gross out' paintings on Ren and Stimpy were what inspired me as a kid. My professors at the School of Visual Arts have had a profound effect on me. They taught me technique but more importantly the kind of critical thinking skills that one must have in order to compete. Of course the greatest credit goes to the person who discovered me and offered me my first gig in the animation industry. She taught me how to use photoshop and the other necessary skills to be a professional. To her I am eternally grateful.

Metalocalypse digital Background Painting
R. You later moved into the commercial world of gaming and advertising. How is this for you compared to the more traditional foundations of painting?
CF. It has only made my foundation stronger. All I have traded was paint for pixels and the solitude of my personal studio for the busy learning environment of an animation studio. We are still making pictures where color theory, drawing, and perspective all apply. More often than not I am happier working on a collaborative project like animated TV shows. The pooling of talent and the fast pace of production keeps you on your toes. One draw back is that animation studios are often like creative factories and the roles of the artist is streamlined by assigning specific tasks. For instance, I am a background painter. I sometimes design the backgrounds but mostly am a color and texture expert. Despite that the end result is worth all the bragging rights.

Last but not Least…

R. If you could do a portrait of any celebrity or icon who would you do it of and what methods of medium would you use?
CF. I started a pair of oil paintings of Benedict Arnold. I guess I like complex people. There are bigger fish to fry though. If I were to paint someone current I would probably repaint Kate Middleton. The portraitist made a lot of unflattering choices. By painting her emerging from darkness he flattened her features and added ten years. Kate if you reading this I will give you a 10% discount on your next oil portrait.

Follow Chris Fisher


Anonymous said…
Thanks for the insights!
Gayle Fedigan