From children’s books to gallery exhibitions, vast murals to delicate silk scarves, Chris Rivers is placing his intriguing artwork in formats for all to enjoy. Whether it’s the characters Zak and Jen introducing children into the world of reading and adventure, or the prints and originals he sells to his loyal following, he is one to watch. His ever increasing portfolio shows that Chris is truly going from strength to strength, and this is why he is TBI’s July Creator of the Month.
I first met Chris on Scarborough beach, he was drumming away as part of a five-piece band who were set to make their mark on the music world. Over the years, Heaven’s Basement had gained traction securing international tours, an array of festival slots; eventually being signed to a record deal. It was during this band life he found his next love of creating art.
Whilst touring around America he began to sketch on his old drum heads using sharpies, “…it just started with drawing on my drum heads in sharpies after shows. I started to get more and more ideas and it’s just got way out of hand since then.” Whilst he thoroughly enjoyed his time in the band, he decided to hang up his drumsticks to pursue his career into the art world.
His background in music has continued to have a very distinctive influence on his life, translating into his artwork; whether it be the canvas he uses, the muse for his work or the story within each piece. “The way I enjoy doing paintings in sets of a series to tell a story is no different to the story of song lyrics.” Many of these series are inspired by other musicians, one of my personal favourites reminiscent of David Bowie. Regarding his ‘Blackstar’ series, which is made up of ten paintings based on the ‘Blackstar’ and ‘Lazarus’ videos, Chris said, “As soon as I had seen those videos I was inspired to do some paintings, as the imagery is so brilliant in them.”
For creatives, passions tend to develop and take form in different mediums as our lives get influenced in different ways. When I asked Chris whether he would choose art or music, if he had to pick one, he responded with, “Impossible to answer. In terms of what I prefer to do, I’m always a drummer at heart. It was my life for so long and I never imagined doing anything else but honestly painting has become a huge passion as I get the same kicks creating artwork as I do playing drums. I paint the same way which I played the drums, beating the canvas to death haha.”
Amongst his favourite series of works is “Savages of Eden, a four-part seasonal series featuring the same scene which is a dreamy, surreal landscape.” It depicts a battle of some sort between two species, the dominant of the two gradually infesting and inflicting their violent nature as the seasons change. Savages of Eden is a perfect example of how he enjoys seeing how people react to his pieces,“I always enjoy the reaction on peoples face who first see just a pretty landscape scene and then notice the tiny details of all these skeletons tearing apart the helpless butterflies!”
Part of the joy in seeing a piece of work is discovering the hidden intricacies placed there by the artist. The small sections you notice after viewing it for the third time. Chris is always finding ways to draw the viewer in in this way. “I like to do things in subtle ways which I find captivates the viewer more and leaves everything to their own interpretation… Everything tends to have a slightly dark or sinister vibe to it, but its a fine line between going too far… I try to find something that seems innocent or nice and completely twist it.”
When asked ‘what next?’, his answer was simple. “I don’t have an end result or aim in mind, there’s no finish line. I’ve just a million ideas that I’m excited to get stuck in with so it’s just a case of continuing and going with the flow.” With an aim to just keep on doing what he enjoys and an open mind for the future, he’s looking forward to see what he can achieve. The past two years have shown how much one persons skills can improve in a short period of time. “…I really notice the improvement which makes me feel excited about how far I can go and develop my style. I’ve never had any art training, everything I’ve learnt is based on trial and error. Mistakes usually always lead to something good.”
Chris leaves us with some fellow creators to watch out for. His first recommendation being his old band members new band “The Cruel Knives, I’m excited to see what they’ve got going on.” His second being children’s author Natalie Page, “I collaborate with [her] on a children’s book called ‘Zak and Jen’s astronomical adventures’, she’s a great children’s author and we’ve both got some great ideas for the future of the series.”
Words by Hayley North.
Images courtesy of Chris Rivers.