BY SHALEEN DESTEFANO
Chris Huang creates mixed media art that truly captures our relationship with the natural world in a fluid and almost mystical way. His beautiful use of color and unique style of combining colored pencil and ink on wood is what originally drew us to the Boulder-based artist. He believes art can truly expand consciousness if its intention is to reflect ideas greater than oneself. Chris has a very open spirit and graciously welcomes studio visits to his Yellow Lotus Gallery. With gallery visits on halt at the moment, we are grateful to have the opportunity to share his story and art with you.
My interest in art started early on with my love for comic books which I can point to as one my first influences.
I learned a great deal about composition from reading comics as each panel really had to convey what was happening and so is in itself a piece of micro-art. When I discovered psychedelic rock posters of the 1960’s-70’s I could really begin to enjoy the beauty and mystical quality that artwork can provide regardless of the medium or context. Marti Klarwein is a painter that impacted me, he has a few famous painting you’ll recognize from classic Santana and Miles Davis albums. I would have to mention the Austrian architect/painter, Hundertwasser for his colorful lines and shapes and nature-based work that also shaped my style. Lastly, being of Chinese descent, I am very much influenced by an Asian aesthetic which I think is a foundation for much of my work, and I think if you look at my art closely, you’ll see what I mean.
I try to limit taking too much from influences similar to my own so as not to imitate. I tend to look at a whole spectrum of art outside of what I’m doing. I do enjoy looking at murals with bold imagery, color and that contain empowering messages for the people. The city of Boulder’s Chamber of Commerce recently had a mural painted on the front of the building by Armando Silva. It really exemplifies the kind of murals I like to see. Nani Chacon, Karl Hoffman, Joshua Mayes, kill.joy.mall, Gavin Troy, Ursula Young, Anne Erlewine, Feral Studio, and Jack Shure are artists I follow on social media that I almost always like. Look up any of these artists, you won’t be disappointed! I also like abstract works, minimalist styles, and mid-century modern design. You may not initially think that these would be a heavy influence for me however, I believe they have all probably found their way into my work in different ways, if not so much visually but through a feeling in spirit and intention.
It is! For some people I’m sure it looks tedious. It can be, if there’s pressure to finish in a given time frame, but I work best when I don’t feel rushed. I very much enjoy the process of creating my art and so I tend to give each area of the piece equal attention. I usually begin by sketching the piece directly on the wood that I plan on using. After getting everything in place, I ink the pencil lines, and lastly I apply the colored pencil. It’s all finished with a varnish, a frame and they are good to go! When given the chance, I do appreciate every stage of the process.
What is your state of mind when you are creating?
My state of mind is very grateful when creating. It is happy and highly honored to be given the opportunity to express itself for a profession. I try to hit new highs with each piece and bring the feeling of a shared cosmic connection to the people who see it. It’s a therapeutic as well as uplifting activity for me that I’ll always do. I can’t really say in strong enough terms how much it means to me to be able to make art as my job, but because there is this financial aspect to it, I am forced to maintain a strong motivation to keep producing better work to share with others and so that I can continue working as an artist.
I love the Denver Art scene. I was lucky enough to participate in some Santa Fe District and Berkeley area shows years ago and experienced the community support and the enthusiasm for artwalks. I’m happy to say that I am seeing that more and more in Boulder. The fact that I still live here is a testament to the community’s support of art. Also the fact that I have been selling work without any gallery representation for over 10 years also points to the incredible support I receive from the Boulder community. We are now beginning to see it on the city level where just over the past couple years, public murals have begun popping up all over the place. I’m happy to have been a part of a couple of these projects. There is a mandate for more public art and we are starting to see that, it is visibly evident. I live in North Boulder, a recently designated art district so I appreciate the efforts by the city to create a more artistic Boulder.
You have a distinct style, what are your guiding principles when choosing your subject matter?
I like to create images that I have some kind of connection with. The principle I follow in choosing subjects is asking whether or not they are something worth celebrating or have some kind of significance for me and others. More often than not, if it is of something found in nature the answer is yes! It is easy to find inspiration in any number of subjects to draw really.
Tell us about your studio and what music if any is playing while you create.
My studio is a detached garage that’s been remodeled into an art studio. It’s a perfect haven for me a few steps away from my back door. It’s a dedicated space to creative endeavors and good vibes. It’s important to have since I also have kids (who enjoy the space too, but also know that if they act up in the studio, they are out of there!) Music goes along with making art perfectly. I really like it all, the classics like Grateful Dead, CSNY, Santana, etc…Motown, Reggae, and contemporary musicians like The Barr Brothers, Hiss Golden Messenger, and Marco Benevento.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Hopefully a large new body of work that I can put together for a celebratory art show when we are all free to come together again.
We look forward to seeing your next creations, Chris. Thank you for offering a glimpse into your process and inspiration. Your art indeed reaches beyond trends and indicates your intention of reflecting the beauty around us that is so often overlooked. If you’d like to see more of Chris’ work, please visit yellowlotusdesigns.com.