Christopher Peter: Breathtaking, Ethereal Silhouettes
Published October 4th, 2022
As art lovers, we are constantly searching for that one painting that makes you stop in your tracks and say, “Wow, that is breathtaking.” That is how we felt when we first saw Christopher Peter’s mixed media silhouettes. His work adds vibrancy, pattern, texture, and life to living spaces. You can now view his work in person at the gallery!
Known for using unconventional materials, Christopher’s mixed media silhouettes blur the line between portraiture and vibrant abstract painting. Combining these elements creates a personal narrative between the viewer and the work. He creates his mixed media paintings by hand and is a celebration of color, movement, and light.
His work is a reflection of his ultimate goal – using art to explore the relationship between ourselves and how we experience our surroundings. To achieve this goal, Christopher’s mixed media silhouettes often includes handmade papers, vintage roadmaps, and repurposed books in addition to acrylic and oil paints. Below, read about Christopher’s inspiration, his studio life, and his color palette!
What do you do to find inspiration for your mixed media silhouettes?
“My silhouette paintings are inspired by a craft that my grandmother used to do as a kid. She would have a family member sit down and then shine a light on their face and trace the shadow and cut out the tracing on paper. She did it extensively; I have a cutout that she made of my mom in second grade. As an adult making art, I keep returning to that, and I keep trying to push that as far as I can. There’s a slightly different approach depending on whether I’m creating the painting as a custom commissioned piece. In general I start by photographing a model in my studio. I’ve painted friends, acquaintances, peers, even the woman who drives the bus that went past my old studio. Anyone interested in the work and wants to be a part of the story can be!”
What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?
“I have a pretty steady studio schedule. My alarm goes off at 6:00 or 7:00 depending on the day. I wake up, drink some coffee, pack up breakfast and lunch, and ride my bike to my studio space. My studio is a bit unique in that its in a retail gallery space in the heart of SOWA (the art district in Boston). I am open to the public so I get quite a few visitors! It’s really fun to engage with the community in that way. There’s always exciting new work in progress, work that’s finished, and pieces that is shipping out. The whole process is on full display.
I paint for about 8 hours each day. I’ll typically choose a particular pose to fit an idea, style, dimension, and palette, then I’ll get to work on the painting. I paint everything unstretched, with the canvas cut from a massive roll that is tacked flat to my work surface. By building the piece in layers I am able to see the entire surface develop in stages. In fact, the entire prep layer is developed simultaneously and then the underpainting is next. After the underpainting, I add layers of paint, layers of collage, layers of paint, collage, until the piece starts to make sense. It tells me where to go and what to do.
Once I render the portrait and the negative space is realized, I untack it from the wall and build the stretcher bars and brace. Then, I stretch it and varnish and install the wire for hanging. The entire piece is done completely by hand. If the painting is a commission, the client and their designer or gallerist are all included in this process. Bringing the vision to life is such a wonderful feeling!”
What is your ideal color palette to work with?
“I tend to gravitate towards blue/cream/black/silver/gold and my favorite white is Snow White. Additionally, I respond really well to surfaces that have a really subtle shimmer. I love it when a painting really comes alive in different lighting conditions. It’s almost like the piece has a life of its own! After about a decade of experimenting I’ve found myself returning to a handful of specific mineral paints like stainless steel and micaceous iron oxide to achieve that quality.”