There is definitely no summertime sadness here. Although Chris Guest may be based in the UK, his paintings are like the best parts of Los Angeles summers: hot babes with tattoos, popsicles, and pool toys...each depicted with that sexy sunshine glow.
Guest's paintings have been exhibited at tattoo conventions, most recently the London Tattoo Convention, he's hosted oil painting workshops at tattoo studios, his work has even been made into tattoos. His portfolio is a perfect example of when tattoo culture collides in the best kind of way.
In this interview with the revered pop painter Chris Guest talks about how he became interested in fine art, who his paintings are based on, and why he loves tattoos as much as we do.
Can you talk a bit about your artistic background? How did you get started in the fine art world?
Sure thing - I did study art at University when I was about 20, but due to a combination of not being in the right place to get my head down and study, and being on a course that wasn’t that great, my art career didn’t go anywhere! After leaving Uni and needing a job, I ended up working as a family photographer for 10 years!
Then, when I was about 30, my girlfriend asked me to paint a painting for our new house (“You used to do art didn’t you?” She said!) After that, I became completely obsessed, and somehow (with a lot of hard work and trying to develop my skills) I ended up here!
You have a really particular style and vivid aesthetic. How did you start with this style, and how has your work evolved over the years? Who would you say are your biggest inspirations or artistic heroes?
Going back to the first question, the painting my girlfriend asked me to create was a red abstract piece that she found on the Internet. Since making that first piece, I’ve tried all sorts - from cartoon characters, to landscapes, but for some reason, I was always drawn back to painting people, as this was what I enjoyed painting the most!
As for getting involved in painting tattooed people, that started because I thought it would be fun to paint some of my friends who had tattoos, and see how I could create that in oil paint!
Biggest inspirations - Historic artists would be Sargent and Leonardo, living I would say Jenny Saville and Michael Hussar.
Do you have a philosophy or theory behind why people are so infatuated with tattoos?
I don’t think I’m qualified to answer such questions, but from my personal point of view, I always wanted to get tattoos since I was about 8 years old. My friend’s dad has a traditional rose and dagger tattoo, and I though it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. From that point on, I knew one day I’d get tattooed!
Then when I was a teenager, all the bands I was really into were tattooed (Guns n’ Roses, Motley Crue etc) so there’s no way I would’ve got though life without getting tattooed myself!
Of course, we must ask, who are these absolute babes that you paint? Are they merely muses, or based on real women? Who are some of your favourite females? Is female empowerment important to you, and if so, why?
All of my models I use for my paintings are real people – Sometimes I paint from life, but generally I work by doing a reference shoot, and I create my paintings from this. Most of the models I use in my art are people I know, and I’ve got a very good working relationship with them!
The way I was brought up was that you respected women, so I think that all the characters in my paintings always look empowered and strong, rather that looking exploited or vulnerable perhaps? My favourite females are the two I live with - My girlfriend and my daughter, which means it’s a very female environment. I wont lie, sometimes it would be nice to have some football on the TV, rather than ‘Say yes to the dress’ (or something similar) on all the time!
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? What is the best advice you feel you can give?
The best advice I’ve been given (and I would give) is you have to work your face off and be patient!
It takes a long time to get anywhere in Art (took me about 5 years before I sold any paintings) and you have to put in a ridiculous amount of work, but if you want to live out your dreams, it should be hard work!!
If you try to paint for the love of painting (rather than painting to make money, put the time in to develop your skills) you will win! The money side of it will follow, you just have to be prepared to put in the effort!
I always think this is good to hear, to anyone starting out, who would one day like to make it a career - I remember when I started, looking at all these established artists, and thinking it must’ve always been that way for them - that they painted their first picture, and that was it - all the top galleries were knocking on their door! After experiencing some success with art, I’ve learnt that’s not the case, and you have to paint a load of bad paintings before you get anywhere!
So to sum it up, the best advice I have is - Be patient, and work hard!
You are also tattooed...can you talk about your experience getting tattooed? Who are your favorite artists, and is there anyone you hope to get tattooed by someday?
Yes I am tattooed! My general experience getting tattooed would have to be…OUCH!! (Especially tattoos on the ribs!) Different artists seem to hurt more than others, but generally I think you have to focus on how great it will look at the end, and put up with a few hours of pain!
I really love the work of Ivano Natale (based in Naples, Italy) who actually owns several of my paintings, and visited me at my studio in London. His work is so awesome - it would be amazing to get a tattoo from him one day!
Do you have any projects, collabs, events, merch, travel plans, etc for 2019 that you’d like to share?
I do – I’m exhibiting at the London Tattoo Convention again this year in September, which is always super exciting because they bring all the best tattoo artists from all over the globe, so it’s a really inspiring weekend, as well as being super fun!
I’m also putting out my first ever book! I want to make it a bit of a mash up – Lots of beautiful images of my paintings, some candid images behind the scenes in my studio and what I get up to everyday, A few bits about improving your painting – A bit of everything, of what I’ve been up to for the last 6 years!
I’m looking to release it November; so best thing to keep up to date is, check out my Instagram where I always post all my latest news!