His style is unmistakable - bold and full of energy. You can find his pieces in galleries around the world or plastered about the streets of London. His work comes in many forms; as original paintings, prints, stickers ... a book (in both original and limited edition flavors), and a massively loyal Instagram following. But is he really this good?
Here's what's so great about Chris Guest.
THE STYLE. You could categorize Chris Guest's work in the classical figurative tradition, but that doesn't quite do him justice. These pieces have a style of their own, and everything about it has an edge. Taking the traditional and adding a contemporary twist, his work combines a masterful command of the art form with what could be considered 'traditional' subject matter. Add the tattoos, the props, the graffiti-style text, and the astonishing use of color and you have something uniquely 'Guest'. From the mark-making to the subject matter, his work exudes a kind of sexy, rock and roll vibe. It's poppy, it's kitschy, and it's super cool.
THE GESTURE. Most artists will tell you - use the largest brush possible to accomplish the task. But saying and doing are two entirely different things. Chris Guest takes this to heart, and lets you join him on the ride (more on this later). With the use of impossibly gestural, sometimes aggressive strokes, he is creating beautifully dynamic portraits. These strokes break down into graphic shapes that are appealing in and of themselves. It feels as if year over year the work is becoming more reductive - as if the artist is looking for the most economical language with which to capture his subject. There is a beautiful simplification that happens in this approach, where the focal point receives the most attention while a secondary or tertiary element receives only four or five strokes. Portraiture, by the way, is hard. Capturing a likeness with a graphic gestural style is even harder. Chris Guest has cracked the code.
THE COLOR. There are a number of ways to approach color. Or I suppose you can be like Chris Guest and approach it from every direction at once. To start, he makes bold, vibrant color choices in his subjects and models. Using kiddie rides, pink hair, inflatable toys ... the palette is vibrating from the start. Then he doubles down by amping up the color and saturation on the palette. While his skin tones are still subtle and believable, they are surrounded and reinforced by some incredibly courageous color choices. You will inevitably find hints of underpainting popping through to liven up those flesh tones, or loosely scattered about the edges of the figure. Watching him boldly block in his vibrant yellow, red, or pink backgrounds is one of the most satisfying things you'll see on Instagram.
THE ACCESS. One of the things I appreciate most about Christ Guest is his willingness to show his own growth, and even his own mistakes. You will see him scrub out a face or work over the top of an unsuccessful painting, and in that moment, you realize that even the best artists get it wrong from time to time. It humanizes the work and it gives a bit of encouragement to those who are further behind in their artistic journey. He will show his reference photos against the final painted result, giving insight into his editing process. He shares a ton of work on Instagram, giving insight into his studio and his process, and provides even more info (and early purchase access) with his newsletter subscribers. He often hand embellishes prints, hand paints mailing tubes (which has to be an insane amount of work), or tosses in a little 'extra' thing just to be kind. With Chris Guest, it feels like there is almost always something extra, something more, something personal. It builds trust and intimacy and makes you feel like more than just an observer.
Style. Gesture. Color. Access. These are just a few of the things that make Chris Guest's work so appealing. He's put in the work to pursue his passion full time, and we are all the beneficiaries. Plus he has a cool British accent (probably).