Name: Christopher Polentz
Birthday: May 17, 1962
College: MA Syracuse University, BFA Art Center College of Design
Colour: Liquitex Pthalocyanine Blue (green shade)
Book: Mad Magazine
Movie: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Quote: ”Man’s got to know his limitations”
For how long have been in art? From serious full time art student to now; 37 years
How did you start? I think I started when I was a kid ( don’t all kids draw? ) but the exact point in my life would be hard to nail down. I remember meticulously copying pictures from of books when I was about nine. It seems I did pretty well with art all the way up to high school with little awards and such. I received no encouragement at home but In high school I had this great art teacher, Mrs. Shores, she really encouraged and supported my eorts. It is because of her I was awarded a high school scholarship to Pasadena Art Center College of Design and by age nineteen had been accepted to Art Center. It’s funny because, thinking back to all that, after all my art education, graduation and freelancing, trying this and that, I’ve completely come full circle and returned to work exactly the way I started as a kid; not copying, well, kind of, but striving toward a certain level of realism . . . surrealism.
How would you define yourself as an artist? Realized, content, grounded are words that come to mind. I think most artists would agree, it’s hard to describe in words how my work makes me feel. At age 55 I have nally found what I think I’ve been looking for. I remember when I was consciously transitioning from freelance illustration to ne artist. I kind of felt I could draw and paint anything, but what to paint, what to paint? I’d start something one day and the next say to myself; “why the Hell am I painting this”? When my wife and I started our family it all seemed to nd me. I started painting Victorian children. It just made sense-long story behind that. As an artist? I’m just me!
Would you tell us some things about yourself? Please include a few little known facts about you as well. I’m quiet, introverted, not a team player. I have few friends, but they are really close. I enjoy teaching and sharing everything I have learned about art . . . and people. I have a fantastic, the best actually, wife in the world; she is also an artist. I have two sons; Max ( 13 ) and Mason ( 12 ). I joke with them that they are not allowed to pursue a career in art, of course they can do whatever they want, as I have enjoyed my career and can’t imagine anything better suited for myself. I like to make things, all kinds of things in addition to painting. I weld, cut, wood, metal, bend, melt, drill holes, hammer, rivet, bolt, make mistakes, x mistakes, mistakes are the best! I love junk and making something new out of it. But, ya know, I wouldn’t do any of it if there weren’t people to show it to. So, while I love doing what I do, I have to admit, I need constant positive reinforcement from total strangers. Without that I really don’t think I’d create. If I won the lottery it’d ruin me. I must always be slightly nancially necessitous and egotistically nourished. It’s a HUGE thrill when someone buys one of my pieces. I think, wow, somebody actually paid money for that; a layer of paint about as thin as a hair on a piece of wood. There’s practically nothing there. I made it all up . . . from nothing-wow!
I am afraid of time. There is never enough time . . . yet, I waste it . . . at times . . . Is that irony?
Where do you find inspiration? Everywhere-it’s insane! And the Internet-shit! It’s like being insane and egged on by, well, the Internet. Everything I see I want to make something out of, or incorporate into my work, especially if someone threw it away. Faces are great, I love faces. The past, I love the past, the passed on, the vulnerable, the innocent. Antique stores, old photos, things-they all have a story for me. I saw a marionette in a antique store recently and then looked up this guy on the Internet and how he makes them; wow! Now I want to make marionettes. It just goes like that. I could ll ten lifetimes mastering all the crafts. It’s sad, and kind of unfair, that life is so short and is why I’m afraid of time. It passes too quickly.
What are you trying to communicate with your art? It’s interesting because interviews like this are so helpful. It gives me cause to think about what I do and why. Honestly, I don’t give it that much thought otherwise. I’m kind of like a dog. Wave a stick in front of my face, throw it and I’ll run after it and bring it back. Why? I don’t know.
It makes me happy. It’s the same with my work; it’s what I do, it’s why I’m here, it’s how I’m wired. Is that too ambiguous? Okay. My work is about ‘time’. People, the past, our past, my present, death. What will I/we leave behind.
What do I do with each day-that’s a gift; each day. Vulnerability, fragility, hope and hopelessness, textures, contrasts in material, subject, concept and nothing-yes, very cliché-sometimes there’s meaning sometimes I just had to make something. It’s funny because it doesn’t really matter what I’m trying to do or say with my work, people will have their own ideas despite my intention-which is great. I learned very early never to explain my meaning, as it kills the curiosity and wonder of the viewer. If I say nothing you will always wonder what it means. If I dene it, you’re done. At the end of the day it’s just me-fetching the stick.
What art do you most identify with? Anything that displays a high level of craftsmanship: expertise, mastery and skill of a traditional medium.
Why do you do … what you do? Have you ever tried to explain an idea you have, to someone else? They‘ll never be able to see inside your mind, to picture it exactly the way you do. When I do what I do, I’m doing just that . . . by doing my work I can share what is going on in my head. Someone else can see exactly what I was thinking or trying to express, something that cannot be communicated with words. It’s so much fun to show the work to someone and think to myself “ya see, that’s what I be talkin’ bout”! I can give, and show, my thought, my idea to others.
What does “being creative” mean to you? That’s like asking me what breathing is like. Well, don’t you know? It‘s all that I’ve been talking about, but so much more. It’s something I have to be reminded not to take for granted. People comment all the time; “where do you come up with these ideas”? I really don’t know how to answer that, it seems so obvious and normal to me-like breathing. What, don’t you do it?! It is an extension of myself, almost like a sixth sense. I used to think everybody just “did it”, but now I understand it is a gift and a skill. It has to be worked, nurtured and it will grow. Unfortunately not everyone has it. I think I mentioned my wife is also an artist.
We both have studios in our home-at opposite ends of the house. Our boys grew up with this, to them it’s ‘’normal’’. As they got older, and we ventured to homes of their/our friends, I remember one visit my son asking “where’s your studio?”. Our boys thought everybody does what we do. Now, a studio doesn’t nmake you creative, but, maybe you know what I mean. Our boys realized in that moment we were dierent, we were creative.
Any shows, galleries, or publications where our readers can find your work? I’m always showing, trying to show, not showing. There’s this really, really cool gallery that not many people know about, you have to know the right people, you know, be ”in” with the “in crowd” to nd it. Even then it’s by appointment only. They hold most of my work. The gallery is called “My House”, but, as I said, really hard to get in to. Yep, I’m funny! I’m shooting for a show in L.A. this year or next. There’s a particular gallery that would be my dream to get in to but I can’t mention any names for fear I’ll jinx it. I’ve been showing quite a bit locally in San Diego at Sparks Gallery. It’s a very cool space in the Gas lamp District in downtown San Diego. A family, the Sparks-cool name, bought the building and did a complete restoration. They did a really, really nice job.
Otherwise my work isn’t really all that too much out there. I’m not the best at marketing myself. If you Google me you’ll nd quite a bit. I was a freelance illustrator in L.A. for twenty years so I’ve had a bit of work in print. I did, you know, L.A. stu, during the 80’s and 90’s-entertainment, editorial, product. It was my training ground.
You can check out my website; www.christopherpolentz.com
Follow me on Instagram; @christopher polentz
I post work and share my process on Instagram all the time.
Cannon Gallery, Carlsbad, Ca 2016/2017
Sparks Gallery, San Diego, Ca 2016/2017/2018
Echo Gallery, Monterey, Ca, 2011
Alternative Café, Seaside, Ca, 2011
Alternative Café, Seaside, Ca, 2010
CoproNason Gallery, Santa Monica, Ca, March 2008
Distinction Gallery, San Diego, Ca, August 2006
La Luz de Jesus Gallery, Culver City, CA, 2005
How do you cultivate a collector base? I’m not sure I have a collector base. I sell about half of what I make. The rest I get to enjoy all day as I walk from room to room in my house. Ha, ha, yeah, I guess it’s the ultimate state of narcissism. Social media; the Internet is invaluable and Instagram seem to generate a lot of attention.
Which is your most cherished piece? I’d like to cherish a Van Allsberg but I can’t aord it! I won’t buy prints, I’ll only own originals. I can’t aord originals. Therefore, I have none to cherish. My work? To me each piece has something special about it. Yes, I know, let’s all barf now. No, they aren’t like my “children”. As mentioned, I have children, and they aren’t like them at all . . . my work I mean . . . I’m not sure what I mean. I’m confused now. After I nish a painting, I cherish it for about as long as it takes me to put another board down on my table and start a new one- I guess I’m ckle.
If you had an exclusive collective exhibition with other artists work, who would you choose? Chris Van Allsburg, Thomas Kinkade, Bob Ross, Mort Drucker-yes, seriously! It would be awesome.
What do you see as the strengths of your pieces, visually or conceptually? Academic elements/qualities; palette, contrast, surface texture, subject, composition. It’s all important and necessary. You put it all together and I think I have something. Nothing earth-shattering. I think it’s just decent solid work. I’m not doing anything new, I have no underlying agenda. No tricks, or it’s all tricks really, and just good old fashioned drawing, painting, craftsmanship and observation. I broke two bones in my right hand, my painting hand, this year. It was in a cast for six weeks but I kept on painting-it was funny to watch, I’m sure. Anyway, after getting the cast o I went to physical rehab.
During my visit the young doctor asked me what I do for a living? “I’m an artist” I replied. “Oh, what programs do you use” queried the young doctor. “A paintbrush” I replied. A much older doctor, closer to my age, in the same room chimed in with; “oh, you’re a real artist”. I looked her way with an appreciative smile and nodded. That’s the only jab I’ll make at digital art.
What aspect of your work do you pay particular attention to? Presentation. But really there are so many considerations. If each one, each step isn’t given it’s due
attention in proper order, the entire universe will methodically disassemble itself. That universe anyway.
What Role does the artist have in society? Anything the artist wants: entertaining, political, self serving/fullling, fame. Most of my friends are artists and the thing I hear the most is that they just want people to look at things more carefully. I think that’s what artists do. We really look much deeper on many dierent levels. I experience this often when teaching. My students will say; “oh, I didn’t see that”. I’m not teaching them how to draw. I’m teaching them how to look, to see.
What is your most treasured memory? When I was about ve or six my Dad got me up very early one morning. We lived in the harbor in Huntington Beach. It was a foggy, overcast morning. Just my Dad and me. Our house was on the water, a dock in back, his Cal 20 sailboat tied was tied up to the dock and an old wooden rowboat lay upside down on the dock. He had bundled me all up against the morning cold as we walked down the gangplank and on to the dock. My Dad was a big man, 6ft. 4. I remember how he picked up the rowboat like it was nothing, and placed it in the water without sound. Climbing in he lifted me and put on to the seat at the back of the boat and pushed us away from the dock. It was so quiet. Just the sound of the oars and the water lapping against the wooden boat. I don’t remember us talking. We glided among our neighbors’ docks and boats along the seawall. I remember us drifting to a stop, my Dad smiling at me like a little kid. Lifting one oar loose from the boat he gently scooped a small octopus from a small storm runo drain in the seawall. I don’t know, it was magical and exciting to me. The whole thing was surreal; the fog, the quiet, the alien-like octopus. This big man so quiet and gentle. That is one of very few memories I have with my Father. He died within the following year of that morning.
What for you is the most enjoyable part of your art? Showing people. Seeing them enjoy it.
What famous artists have inuenced you, and how? Many, many I’m sure, but I try not to look at other artist’s work. I get jealous, wish I could do that, wish I was that talented. I admire other artist’s work but that admiration can quickly turn into envy and insecurity on my part and with my work. It can inuence me and give me cause to
question why I do things. I don’t like to think too much about it-just want to “fetch the stick.”
What other interests do you have outside of art? People. I nd people fascinating. Why we do things, act in certain ways, react and interact with each other. I have taught art for over thirty two years. Teaching has been the most fullling, unexpected and fascinating pursuit in my life-it’s the people. We, myself included, are very, very bizarre. We are really the only thing on this planet that doesn’t quite t in with the plan.
Some short questions now:
more Colours: Dioxazine Purple, Turquoise Deep, Cobalt Blue, Raw Umber, Paynes Grey, Yellow Orange Azo, Acra Gold, Quinacradone Red Orange-these are all Liquitex
Textures: Toothbrush spatter, anything pressed into gesso, real wood grain/surface texture, running pigment into standing water, dappling paint
Define your art: Coolio
Describe your style: “Define yourself”… Dr. Professor Baron Von Polentz Esq.
Prizes: Too old and long ago to mention . . . but life is a prize.
Art Fairs: Don’t hang at fairs
Museums: Huntington Library, San Marino Ca. Getty Center, L.A.,
Cities: San Francisco, New York, Encinitas, Carmel
Travels: Only in my mind
Artists: As I mentioned, I try really hard not to look at other artists.
Music: Wow, I’m kind of out of it with naming the music thing. I listen to pretty mellow stu. Tom Odell, The 1975, Empire of the Sun, Kavinski, Love and Rockets, Chromatics. When I nd a song I like, I download it, put it on repeat, and listen to it all day, over and over and over and over, day after day. It’s like this sort of mental rhythm I get into. Like monks chanting. I’m sounding stupid, but I know there are people out there that know what I’m talking about.
Cars: They should have stopped making cars after 1969.
Drones: What the Hell is a drone?
Mobile App: What the Hell is a mobile app? I’m kidding on both of these. I just seriously have absolutely no interest in this-waste of my time.
You seem to be very aware of the history of works. Where do you see lms, photo exhibitions, art performances today? You give me way too much credit-I have no opinion.
How would your life change if you were no longer allowed to create art? Idle hands are the devils workshop-another quote for you. I’m not sure but nothing good would
come from it.
What do you think about the art community and market? It’s all amazing. There is such great opportunity in this global market. I love seeing other artists realize success through eort and commitment. It shows me art is still valued by the public. A culture is dened by its people and their art.
Should art be funded? Why? no comment-too argumentative.
Which of your projects has given you the most satisfaction? Me.
Who are the writer’s you admire the most? I don’t read
What about architects and designers? That’s an entirely dierent world to experience in another life.
What else are you working on at the moment? Next projects? If I talk about them it will bring me bad luck.
Share something you would like the world to know about you? I’ve probably already said more than I should.
Define “Klassik Magazine” for the audience? Living in a bubble the way I do, I would never position myself in such a way that others should be aware of my opinion on anything. But it looks pretty cool . . . just don’t quote me.