A true visionary with extraordinary skill, Montreal-based artist Chris Dyer is recognized around the world for his painted skateboards, intricate canvases, and street murals. You might also know him for the striking mural he produced during Montreal’s first Mural Festival in June 2013, or for being one of the first artists who contributed to shaping En Masse in 2009. But no matter what aspect of Dyer’s art brings him to your attention, the style is always steadfastly his own. Brimming with positivity and imagination, Chris welcomed us into his Plateau home studio to discuss his art and show us around.
Raised in Peru, Chris moved to Canada when he was 17. An avid skateboarder since 1987, Chris started out his career painting on skateboards and had his first solo show in Montreal in 2004, at Zeke’s Gallery. “Back in the day all I painted was skateboards, but now I like to use bigger canvases,” said Dyer. “I started doing murals about 8 years ago, and once in a while I’ll do a skateboard. I like to try different things and its very rewarding coming up with something fresh that people can enjoy.”
When you look at a Chris Dyer painting, it’s pretty evident he projects a lot of spirituality into his work. “I just see life from a spiritual perspective, which then reflects into my art. I like to offer more of that to scenes that maybe don’t focus on it so much, like the skateboard art or street art movements. Are you making art because you really have something to say as a human being? Do you want to move art forward and get humanity into the next evolution? I feel like this is a moment in our history where humanity has no room for wasting time and getting distracted. Overall, it would be great if art had the same quality to make us think and see things in a different way and grow as people.”
When asked how people usually regard his art, Chris mused: “It’s whatever I have to express at the time, but I guess many people describe it as visionary, other people call it skateboard art or street art.”
Traveling is a huge part of Chris’ life and he’s had exhibitions in several countries across the world, including Peru, Mexico, Belgium, Costa Rica, Paris, Berlin, Australia, and throughout the US and Canada. He also does murals as he travels and has a few events scheduled in the US this summer. And although he draws influences from all over the world, he’s most inspired by certain places in Asia, Europe, and South America.
“It’s really tough to choose only one place that inspires me; I really liked places like Egypt or Bali, which are so colourful and trippy and the art is next level,” Chris said. “I’d love to go to Nepal and Japan, and I should be making it to Russia by next year. A lot of my trips lately were very job-based, but I was stoked I got invited to paint in Costa Rica this winter. I usually just go to the States because that’s where the demand is right now.”
And while it may seem like a demanding amount of travel, the ability to create art for a living is more than enough to keep Chris going. “There’s nothing really to stop me,” he says. “I enjoy everything I do, I’m addicted, and if anything I don’t take enough rest. As for inspiration, everything inspires me; there is so much beauty in this world and I like to absorb it and then get it out as art. Each painting is different and I have something to say in each one.”
A particular work caught our eye; it was three-dimensional and unfinished, yet alluring in a peculiar way. It told a story about a journey that Chris underwent:
“It’s expressing my ayahuasca experience from when I went to Peru recently. As a Peruvian psychedelic artist, there are certain expectations for me to have done that medicine, but I had purposely kept away from her, until I found a perfect time, place, and guidance. I was in Lima and a shaman friend of mine played music at the opening of my solo show. He invited my wife and I to visit him in the jungle and that was the perfect time to meet ayahuasca. It was a very strong experience, hard but joyful, and that 3D canvas aims at describing a little bit of what I went through. This piece is currently on hold, because I’m currently juggling many balls, but I’ll get to it eventually.”
Chris Dyer will be spending his summer live painting at different events in the US, including Brooklyn, and teaching a skate painting workshop at Cosm, the art playground of legendary artist Alex Grey.
Q: What kind of impact do you want people to have when they see your art?
When I’m doing art, I do it to express myself and what I have to say, and if I’m honestly doing it with all my heart, I think that’s when people can connect to it and make it into their own painting, with their own interpretation. I think I’m actually lucky that people like what I do, as art is based on personal taste. I’m not 100% positive; there are negative aspects in my paintings too, but when I observe these in a certain way, hopefully I can reflect on them and bring some healing. I find there’s more joy and happiness in positivity, there’s more happiness in making other people happy. But that’s just my personal experience.
Q: Do you feel more relaxed today than when you first started painting?
There are different kinds of stress now. Everything has positives and negatives, the current negative side is that I don’t get to work on my personal art as much, cause I’m so busy with commissions, events and my brand. When I was just starting out, I would wake up everyday and do my paintings all day long. There’s a certain madness in living that life too though, and being broke can suck. Today I am better sustained, but I have a lot on my plate so I’m just trying to divide my time and do as many projects as I can handle. Fortunately I’ve been able to hire my wife recently as my personal assistant, so it alleviates my load.
Q: Do you have any advice for up and coming artists who want to make it into a business?
If you’re an artist you’re going to make art. So just have fun with it, get good at it and then later worry about promotion and making money. If you want to make art you’ll do everything it takes. When I got out of school I got on self-employed welfare for 5 years, because I just wanted to focus on my art, build some momentum and build up my business. If you’re an artist, make a point of making good art that hopefully people will like, then bring your business structure and monetize it so you can keep on going. At the end of the day, you just have to be happy with what you do.