Artist of the Week: Chris Alvarez
Chris Alvarez is a painter and art instructor based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Chris Alvarez meets me at the door to Second Floor Studios in Old Colorado City. He greets me warmly before leading me upstairs to his studio. The studio is full of… everything. There’s a guitar on the wall. Books. Easels and coffee cups. A spider skeleton hangs from a makeshift chandelier. Not to mention the five-foot canvas that dominates the space. A jazz record plays over the stereo, but, surprisingly, I feel right at home.
I start by asking Alvarez about a quotation from an interview he did awhile back. Does he regret taking other jobs that kept him from practicing his art?
He says, “Now that I think of who I am as a person, I can attribute a lot of that to my experience that I had as a bartender, or being a GI in the army, or doing social work. All those experiences have just added to the mix of who I am today. It’s really crazy because it seems the older I get, the regrets I used to have when I was younger just kind of like go away and I can tell myself, ‘No, that wasn’t a bad experience. That was just something to help you along the way and learn something about yourself, develop the skill you don’t know you need until later on.’”
This attitude toward the relationship between art and life remains steady through our conversation. Life experiences shape us as artists. And our artistry shapes how we live our lives. Alvarez describes the art classes he teaches as “a holistic art program.” I ask him to elaborate.
“I like to think of what we do in class as practice,” he says, “practicing a process as a person in life out in the world because we talk about practice over product… Just focus on your practice and your process. I have a little sign over here that says “Fail Better.” Just being able to not get caught up on or getting down on yourself for making mistakes because your mistakes are valuable. And then also “Suck to Succeed” – I heard that from another artist.”
Yes, practicing craft is important, but Alvarez notes that the practice fundamental to painting or drawing is the act of seeing. “It’s just being able to look at something and see it for what it is and take off the filter of what you think it should look like. But we do, when we talk about this, try to be open to possibilities that will fall outside of what you believe something should be.”
And sure enough, Alvarez practices what he preaches. He recently held an art show called “The Unseen,” which focused on unattractive scenery. “Like that dumpster there,” he says, pointing to a series of paintings on the wall. “It was just trying to get people to notice and show interest in uninteresting places. The bus. The truck. Just things like that, normal street scenes. My focus, I guess, is looking for interest and romance in the mundane. So that’s one of the main themes of my work.”
I lean in closer to examine a painting of a classic car parked in a front yard. And he’s right. Through the eyes of the artist these ordinary scenes become beautiful.
Then Alvarez smiles. “Since I’ve been painting like this and doing scenes like this, I am hardly ever bored with scenery. I’m happy walking down alleys just checking things out in an alley, just looking at interesting arrangements of shapes and seeing if I can make something out of it. Simple everyday moments. The extraordinary in the ordinary. That’s what I’m looking for. And it also seems to help me appreciate the little things. It doesn’t take much to entertain me. I’m easily amused.”
Explore Chris Alvarez’s art and the Alvarez Art School at https://www.alvarezschool.com