Actor, filmmaker and writer Chris R. Wright has no shortage of creative outlets. He has an extensive acting portfolio and his debut short film, The Water Boatman, was released in 2017.
Around his film work, he also flexes his artistic muscles in ballpoint pen, drawing intricately detailed pictures that look as if they could walk right off the page. While his portraits are so realistic you almost believe they might blink, Chris has a penchant for the bizarre and gives his subjects unique twists that linger with you.
We spoke to Chris to find out more about the motivation behind some of his most memorable pieces.
Kirstie: How did you get into art?
Chris: I drew a lot as a kid, mostly mimicking things I loved, like Garfield, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, Where’s Wally (growing up in England I later learned that Wallys were Waldos, and Heros were Ninjas). These grew into more complicated things as I got older, like the Iron Maiden mascot, ‘Eddie’. I knew I’d crossed a technical threshold when I recreated the Piece of Mind album cover in pencil to my satisfaction. At school, I doodled a lot with a biro, because I needed to keep my mind awake. After leaving college, I focussed on acting and making films, so that satisfied me creatively, and I didn’t draw much. I would do the occasional painting here and there, but I never enjoyed the medium. Then, somehow in 2008 I ended up scribbling with a bic biro one day and knew I’d rediscovered something special. I have not put my pen down since.
Kirstie: Who were your earliest influences?
Chris: I absolutely loved Rolf Harris and Tony Hart growing up, with their Cartoon Time and Hartbeat shows. They were magicians to me. I’m fascinated by copperplate etching. I think it is deeply attractive, and sort of sad at the same time. Something delicate born of huge effort. But I don’t really look at much art, and I’m certainly not educated in it. I think the only significant creative influences I could name are Gustave Doré, from his work with Dante, and Derek Riggs, the man behind Iron Maiden’s early artwork. His imagination is brilliant. The sheer absurdity and energy of his paintings. I can’t keep my eyes off them.
Kirstie: Who are your predominant influences now?
Chris: I don’t have any that I am conscious of. I just don’t seek out art. I maybe visit The Tate to see Blake’s work once a decade, or pop to the Portrait Gallery if no one is around for a pint. Maybe it’s to my detriment, but I’m more interested in record sleeves, or fan art than going to a gallery.
Kirstie: What is your favourite material to work with?
Chris: I only work with a medium black bic and watercolour paper.
Kirstie: If you could design the poster for any movie, what would it be? What would your design be like?
Chris: Something where you could pare down the story to an isolated symbol I guess. So something visceral, like a Tarkovsky film, or more recently Mother!, Phantom Thread, etc. It’d be fun, but I wouldn’t want to do portraiture for these. Keep it simple.
Kirstie: What is the first piece of work you were really proud of?
Chris: I remember being happy with a portrait I drew of Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. I must have been thirteen or something. I have never attempted him again, probably through fear. I also recall doing a large scale Titanic illustration, complete with falling passengers when I was about eight.
Kirstie: How have you changed as an artist since then?
Chris: I got fatter, and I have a beard. Other than that, I think my tastes are pretty much the same. With commissions being an exception, I only draw what I want to draw. I still love movies, music and horror in all its forms. I’m still trying to outdo myself. I don’t scrap any piece of art, ever. I draw and share everything whether I hate it or not. It has to be a little silly, dangerous or imperfect. I can not take it too seriously. Without joy there is no point.
Kirstie: How did you develop your finely detailed, biro-based art style?
Chris: Boring answer klaxon! It is not an intellectual exercise. The more you draw, the better you are. If I had kept drawing after college, I would be ten years better than I am now.
Kirstie: Do you have any tips for drawing such realistic pieces?
Chris: I usually just say patience, but really you are always making ground, so the excitement of the short term goal should keep the process interesting. You are guaranteed to get better, and your confidence will grow. You’ll find you are more particular, but sweat it less. Just keep doing it, and you’ll soon know more than me and your mum.
Kirstie: Your work includes a number of sexy horror villains. What inspired this series?
Chris: I enjoy contradiction, and annoying people, so there’s that. I also think there is a slightly misguided idea that liking horror is a masculine, butch pastime like roller coasters, or camping; when all you are essentially doing is sitting there, letting it happen. It is a cuckold pursuit in many ways, and homoeroticism in horror is well documented.
Kirstie: How do you decide how to bring out the erotic side of a bad guy?
Chris: I guess I go by instinct. I know from reading the comments online that many people can’t find the stick, let alone get the wrong end of it, but I’ll say it here for what it’s worth: I’m not aiming for reality, either in body type or subject continuity. I am just channelling a vibe from the character, and how they might see themselves. So, no, Freddy’s body is not burned all over, but then nor is he a sexy Greek god… or real.
Kirstie: What has been your favourite villain to eroticise?
Chris: Ghostface from Scream. He’s the least contradictory one at face value, being young and angst driven in the first instance, but the confusion of identity leant itself nicely to a sort of pitiful, broody sexiness. I enjoyed Pennywise too, but I find him quite unsettling.
Kirstie: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Chris: Don’t do anything to please anyone else, unless they’re paying you upfront. Also, don’t compare yourself to other artists. We’d all stop tomorrow if we did that. Odds are, particularly in the social media age, if you are drawing from your heart or adopting subject matters that have a seemingly niche interest base, there will be plenty of people out there who totally feel what you do. If you have any compulsion to draw, it will carry you through. The technicality comes from the hunger. You’ll never be satisfied. There is no ultimate destination. It is a purely romantic endeavour.
We’d like to thank Chris for taking the time to share his wisdom with us!