I am very excited that Chris De Dier, a Belgium born painter relocated to Austin, Texas has stopped by to chat. I am a fan of his beautiful landscapes and think you'll enjoy his dry wit and interesting thoughts on painting as it relates to the planet.
mj: Your paintings are beautiful! How did you get started painting and when did you start doing landscapes?
chris de dier: Painting didn’t come easy; I was more into drawing since childhood. As a teenager, I would make finely detailed graphite drawings of the models in fashion magazines and even sold some of those copyright violations for pocket money. In 1981, with a new set of acrylic paints, I began painting close-up animal portraits. It evolved into animals in a landscape and eventually the animals disappeared entirely from my paintings. I had switched to watercolors by then which is a wonderful medium for playing with atmospheric effect and light. Landscapes easily lend themselves to be manipulated that way. In the beginning they were quite rigid, carefully colored graphite drawings. As my technique became more fluent and complex, I wanted to paint on a larger scale and that led to painting on canvas with oil paints. I like doing large paintings. It just seemed a natural progression.
mj: You have a very particular landscape style in the paintings I've seen. How did this evolve and what is it about painting landscapes that you love?
chris: The horizon in most of my landscape paintings is placed very low and the focus is on the sky, using only a narrow strip of land at the base as a reference point. There are two reasons for that. As hinted earlier, I like improvisation. In the skies I can let the paint decide what it wants to do. I start new paintings seldom knowing exactly what the end result will be. That element of surprise excites me, and at the same time can be equally frustrating because it can cause serious technical problems.
Secondly, skies with clouds and all are becoming increasingly the last representation of unbridled freedom on an overpopulated, overdeveloped planet. The sky, influenced by the weather, also dictates our purest emotions and the way we behave. The richness of the atmosphere is unlimited and continues to encourage my creativity. Landscapes inspire me to paint, particularly wide open spaces, when the air is heavy with humidity. Unspoiled nature often fills me with amazement and respect, mixed with a fear that is coupled with a feeling of personal insignificance or a certain powerlessness. There is a drive in me to translate that stimulation and those emotions on paper or canvas.
mj: I read on your blog your theory of "transitive blinks". Could you talk a little about this and how it relates to your paintings?
chris: Think of using your brain as a camera. Close your eyes for a while, then open them for a fraction of a second - a blink - and close them again (just like the shutter of a camera), then memorize what you saw. What is saved this way are only the bare essentials of what was in the view frame. When such a memorized image is then transferred to canvas, it only offers a minimum of information to the viewer that can be interpreted in different ways. Colors and forms are only suggestive, vague, almost ghostly remnants of what was in the actual scene. It challenges the viewer into making a choice between different possibilities. For example what looks like a river could as well be a wet road. In those paintings it does not matter what it appears to be because the relation to the other clues in the painting remains the same – transitive. Each assumption is equally valid. The importance is the overall impression. Looking at paintings that cause such questions can be more interesting than highly detailed images that leave no room for interpretation. Avoiding unnecessary detail also has aesthetic values that attract me. It bears relation to the minimalism in the late work of J.M.W. Turner, Agnes Martin and Mark Rothko, artists that I greatly admire.
mj: Are landscapes what you paint exclusively now or do you do other types of paintings?
chris: Landscapes form the bulk of my work but occasionally I look for a change, something different to paint for a while. That may just be a single work or a small series. I still enjoy painting animals occasionally. Sometimes I do large pet portraits. They can turn out to be fun.
mj: What are you working on currently? Do you have new paintings planned?
chris: I am working on a new series of landscapes and a couple of commissions. One of them is the largest painting I have done so far. It hardly fits in my tiny studio.
Here are A FEW THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT CHRIS DE DIER:
A) THE FOUR MOST STYLISH PEOPLE THAT INFLUENCED ME:
1 It would not be honest if I didn’t mention my partner and my parents on the first line here.
2 Those 3 are in my opinion the most stylish and supportive people that have the right to influence me. And since I try not to be influenced by anyone else, I’ll leave the next line blank.
4 Now, what about 4 stylish people that I influenced?
B) FOUR WAYS THAT STYLE MAKES THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE
1 Style is an organizational tool that allows us to express our inner nature.
2 Style provides inspiration.
3 Style makes us forget our imperfections, for a while.
4 For many, style is the only way to stand out from a crowd and get some attention.
C) FOUR OF MY FAVORITE DESIGNERS
1 In the 80’s I made Gianni Versace wealthy
2 And I also wore Claude Montana designs
3 In the 90’s it was Dolce & Gabbana
4 These days I shop at Hugo Boss.
D) FOUR JOBS I HAVE HAD IN MY LIFE:
1 Fashion stylist
2 Farmer (from fashion to farming. I have been a sheep rancher, a goat farmer and grew Christmas trees on a plantation)
4 Designer (I designed fashion, interiors and furniture)
E) FOUR MOVIES I WOULD WATCH OVER AND OVER (AND DO)
1 I recently saw Lolita (original version with Shelley Winters)and will certainly watch it again.
3 Anything with Bette Davis because she is a good actress and has style.
4 Anything with Nicole Kidman because she is beautiful and has style.
F) FOUR PLACES WHERE I HAVE LIVED:
1 Aalst (Belgium) this is where I grew up
2 Toronto, ON (Canada) great city, if only it were in Florida.
3 Wimberley, TX (USA) for culture shock
4 Austin, TX (USA) it’s an exciting time to be in Austin
G) FOUR TV SHOWS I LOVE TO WATCH:
1 Desperate Housewives
2 Amazing Race
3 There is not much on TV that I like
4 Rented movies. I much prefer watching movies at home than in the theater because I can’t stand the offensive odor of popcorn. There should be non-popcorn theatres for people with style.
H) FOUR PLACES I HAVE BEEN ON VACATION IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS:
1 Santa Fe
2 Los Angeles
3 New York City, wow!
4 Mexico. I have a Colonial style house in Merida that I totally renovated.
I) FOUR WEBSITES I VISIT DAILY (Or at least Weekly):
3 My own blog
4 The Google
J) FOUR OF MY FAVORITE FOODS:
3 Did I already mention chocolate? I am so addicted that I ignore my dog in the other room when I am eating chocolate.
4 Ripe fruit… followed by chocolate.
K) FOUR PLACES I WOULD RATHER BE RIGHT NOW:
1 My house in Merida, Yucatan
2 In a bigger studio
3 As far away from politics and religion as possible.
4 Anywhere warm 150 years ago when it wasn’t so crowded and polluted.
Thanks Chris for stopping by!