Christopher Fisher is our February 2012 Artist of Month. His oil painting, The Battle of Montgomery, was a finalist in the landscape category of The Artist’s Magazine’s 28th Annual Art Competition.
Hudson Valley, New York
How and when did you get started creating art? Describe any art education.
I had a natural talent for art as a child. But, as an Army Brat, I needed an activity that could make the frequent moves and new social situations a little easier. My sketchbook proved to be an ideal bridge. It eventually led me to the School of Visual Arts and a BFA in Illustration. While there I studied under many great illustrators and painters including Peter Fiore, Marvin Mattelson, Tom Woodruff and Steven Assael.
Do you create art for a living, or do you have another occupation?
I work as an artist full time. I have worked as a digital background painter for Adult Swim’s animated television shows the “Venture Bros” and “Metalocalypse.” When those shows aren’t in production I work as a concept painter for print and televised advertisements. My oil paintings are my passion and I work on them when my schedule allows it.
What media and genres do you work in?
For my own personal work I paint in oils on linen. When I am working as a commercial illustrator the deadlines force me to work almost exclusively in Photoshop, Illustrator and Corel Paint.
What was your inspiration for this painting?
I live in the history-rich Hudson Highlands of New York. The little-known Revolutionary War Battle of Fort Montgomery is full of imagery and has been largely neglected by artists. Control of the Hudson River became the strategic focal point for both the British and American forces. The Americans, vying for control of the river, constructed Forts Clinton and Montgomery and a great Iron Chain that stretched across the river at a narrow point. A small American Navy surveyed the waters below while the forts commanded a position from above. In a surprise attack on October 6, 1777 a land-based British and Hessian Army destroyed both forts while a British Navy floated up to the Chain. As night fell, what American forces were left fled the forts. The Americans set ablaze two ships with the hopes that they would catch the British Flotilla. Their efforts proved unsuccessful and the British maintained their Navy and broke the Chain, allowing them control of the river. They used that advantage to sail upriver and burn Kingston but were turned back upon receiving news of the American victory in Saratoga.
Describe your process.
The concepts for my paintings usually come from historical descriptions. As I read, I sketch out scenes, not unlike a storyboard artist. At that point the great reference search begins. Though nothing can beat the physical experience of working from life, the demands of my paintings require me to work from photography. I photograph reenactors and research environments to use as my reference.
My palette: Titanium white, cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow, naples yellow, yellow ocre, cadmium red light, transparent oxide red, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, burnt umber, and ivory black. As a medium I like to use Galkyd Lite.
How long do you spend on a typical painting? What about this one in particular?
I came up with the concept for the painting three years ago but have been so consumed by the commercial art world that I could only work on it every once in a while. It’s also my biggest painting to date.
Were there any surprises or difficulties along the way as you painted this work?
Besides actually compiling all the reference material associated with this painting I think the most difficult part was determining where and how the light was going to catch and what was going to be illuminated. I wanted the viewer to be drawn in by the fire and show what I could of the surrounding environment without revealing too much.
What inspires you to create art?
I think the constant influx of bills has proven to be what most inspires my creativity. Artists have the unique ability to visually represent their dreams and share them with others. I have to keep up the momentum and afford my vision or else I will be forced to keep my dreams to myself.
Any funny or unusual anecdotes relating to your art in general?
Being an artist is full of ups and downs and has been exceptionally tough in this economy. It seems as though we’re always waiting to get paid and one company that I had worked for was taking an exceptionally long time. I was checking the mail every day with the hope of finding my check from that company, only to be disappointed. One day I get a mysterious letter with a fake address stuffed with some cash and a Dunkin Donuts gift card. Whoever wrote it said that they admired my historical illustrations and wanted to show their support for my work. It was signed Raoul Duke which was the fake name taken by Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I finished The Battle of Fort Montgomery soon after that.
Artists of the Month are chosen from the finalists of The Artist’s Magazine‘s Annual Art Competition.
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