September 29th, 2010
Christopher P. Turner: An Interview with the Artist
Three years after his grandmother died of cancer in 2006, Christopher Turner’s fiancée gave him a gift of three painting canvases. They sat in a corner of his home for months. Growing up, football had been his passion like nearly every other kid in Baton Rouge, LA, but painting had been his comfort, his escape.
In 2009, at the age of 26, Turner hadn’t picked up a brush in nearly four years. He had spent the time driving trucks across the country, making a living and seeing the all-American sites, but at the same time, he was on the run. When he finally blew the dust from the canvases, he realized that the gift was more than just cotton fabric stretched over a frame of plywood. The canvases were a second chance.
I recently had the privilege to chat with Christopher. We talked about music, art and culture, but most importantly, we struck a mutual understanding that sometimes you have to leave the house to find your ticket home.
Growing up, what were your big influences?
Well, obviously, music plays a great role. There was a high school known for arts in Baton Rouge, but I’m a big guy and wanted to play football, so I attended another school. Art was really something I had to keep up with so I participated every chance I could get. Growing up, I felt that pressure that I belonged in New York or California somewhere, but after my experiences driving trucks away from home, I learned to love the soul of Louisiana and the south in general. The culture, the food, the blending of music styles, everything- even the dialects. You can drive 100 miles south in Louisiana and hear a totally different way of speaking.
So you had to leave home to really know what home was?
Exactly. After my grandmother passed away and I was driving trucks, my priorities had changed. Life got in the way of what I really wanted to be doing, but one day I picked up the brush and knew it was time to get back to what I loved.
So why are you looking to expand to Houston?
The south has so much to offer. You don’t have to run away to other places any more. The color, the people, the fun – it’s a big city, but it’s still down-home to me. For me, coming to Houston isn’t going to be about expanding a brand. It’s just a natural progression for a humble guy from Louisiana. This is all part of my journey and I want people to share it with me and have some fun. I may be doing one of my live paintings at a festival or a huge, fancy gala for charity, but I want people to take the ride with me no matter what.
What about professionally? Who are some of the influences you look up to?
The live art I do has been influenced from people in different areas of the country. The concepts of Eric Waugh really stuck with me when I first saw them. He’s got a pretty laid back style but I also really like high energy stuff as well. I’d like to throw Frenchy’s name in there too- this guy who paints scenes at the Saint’s games. He’s been doing it for a looong time. Looking at the music side of things, I like to pull from different sides- somewhere between hip-hop, rock star and classical.
So when you’re doing this live, that has to be a pretty intense experience. I mean, it’s one thing to bear your soul in the studio, but I can’t imagine the rush of doing it front of strangers.
You know, people always say that. But I set everything to music, and music and art are both my comfort zones. It could be jazz, R&B or I really like instrumentals in general, but once the music starts, it’s just me, the paint, the canvas and the music. The first time I performed my live art, I did it in front of 1,100 people, but music is a state of happiness for me, so it doesn’t matter who’s watching.
Do you play any instruments?
No, I wish I did.
Seriously, looking at your work I was thinking you played at least three.
No, but I really respect music. In a way, I am using my talent to honor someone else’s talent that I respect so much. Doesn’t matter if it’s sax, drums, classical or a DJ- If someone’s soul is in it, I respect so much how it all comes together and I really admire other artists’ work.
So, right now, Houston is undergoing a sort of Street Art Renaissance. On one end of the spectrum, you have a few traditionalists calling it a fad. Others call it refreshing and colorful expression at its finest. From someone who sort of bridges the gap with live art, what is your take on it?
You have to look at the time period. People are stressed and angry with the economy, the environment and other issues. Sometimes that is the best atmosphere for artistic expression. For some people, they see it as outside the norm and they believe that therefore it must be bad. But it’s just pushing the limits just like art has always done.
Young artists are broke too. Maybe they can’t afford to express themselves in galleries or the way they first wanted to, and I say that if that artist can find a way to express themselves – go for it. Those may not be the only reasons you see all the street art, but either way, it’s beautiful. Think about it; if someone took away your pen and put you in a box and told you that you couldn’t write, you’d find a way to tear out of that box right?
Exactly. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Some people carry their heart and soul on their sleeves. Some people do their art in the street. For Christopher P. Turner, every step in life is just another brush stroke and musical note toward home. Here’s to the journey.
Whether you’re a fan or a potential client, Christopher invites all to partake in his process. Visit http://artbychristopherturner.com/ for the latest on CPT, or do things the new old-fashioned way and friend him or ‘like’ his stuff on facebook.