I met Charlie one spring afternoon in 2013 at Balboa Skatepark in San Francisco. He was just shredding the bowl, with so much finesse. At some point, he shared his art with me, which complimented his style of skateboarding and music perfectly. Here’s a little about it.
What education and learning did you do prior to painting your art?
I started out in high school, taking art classes, just drawing and painting. In those classes early on, I was just doing representational work, just drawing with still lifes or photographs, and honed my skills on that. When I really started to paint, instead of wanting to replicate reality, I was having more fun experimenting with what the paint does, what you could do by experimenting with the medium.
Why do you paint? What motivates and inspires you to paint?
Why do I paint? I’m not sure why. I think I paint for the same reason why I play music, and skateboard, because there’s just that freedom to be creative. What makes painting similar to music and skateboarding is that I’m reacting to what’s happening on the canvas, as with skateboarding, I’ll react to what’s on the street, and with music, I’m just trying to create something with sound by experimenting. It’s all based off of improvisation and it’s reactionary. I might have a plan to make this kind of composition, but I don’t know how it’s turning out until I see it forming on the canvas. It’s always a conversation between what’s going on in my head, what I first intended to do, and then what the painting is turning out to be – All of which are subject to change. Also, I paint because it’s physical, it’s all about motion.
The movements required to create the paintings are very gestural. And that’s why I gravitated towards painting, because it feels like a physical thing that I’m interacting with, opposed to something tedious and repetitive. Painting is very spontaneous, just how music and skateboarding are to me.
How do you go about painting?
I make little sketches like this.
I don’t have a sketchbook. All of my compositions in this series are pretty basic, so I’ll sketch it out on scrap pieces of paper just to get the idea out there. Maybe it will be something I want to bring to reality, or something I just trash. I’ll sketch something out really basic and then just see how it turns out on the canvas. Maybe I’ll continue with it, or maybe I’ll turn it around and repaint, starting anew.
I’m always looking at what I made previously, because all these current paintings are for an art show, so I want them to be cohesive and relate to each other but also be different. I’ll start by mixing the colors out from dark to light, warm to cool, and then I’ll blend the colors on the canvas with a cross-hatching motion, so it makes the gradients look seamless.
I’m a perfectionist with it. If it’s a little off once it has dried, I’ll have to re-do it because it’s an eye sore to me. Lately, I have introduced the usage of tape to my process. I use it very basically – to create frames, borders, or visual layers. I do this to experiment with color relationships and subtle tricks to the eye.
Have you seen your style change much in your time painting?
Yeah, it went from representational, then to very abstract expressionist (where it was all about mark-making, energy and movement), and now it’s turned into… stillness and spacious compositions. It’s changed a lot. I’ve found more direction. My other paintings were like, “What the fuck am I doing?” I didn’t know what I was doing with painting before, I was just doing something spontaneous and in the moment. I would get a bunch of paint and just push it around on the canvas, and something would eventually happen that I thought worked visually. I would step back, and I could see a presence or character to the painting and then I would call it done. But these new paintings are so much different because it’s more about evoking stillness and peaceful moods and creating space. This new process has a more solid foundation, offering me many directions to choose from. I have a method to these, where my previous paintings were more about making noise and grabbing people’s attention. These new one’s are about centering and balance.
Tell me about the shift between your old work and your new work.
I did a mural for a tech company down the street. It took me 3 to 4 months to accomplish because I was using brushes to paint a wall that was the size of two billboards. They wanted something seamless and calm, and I worked on that kind of composition for 4 months. Soon after, I went down to LA and made a painting for my aunt and she wanted the same kind of thing. So I was making art for other people, trying to bring their vision to life while utilizing my own techniques. Following other people’s guidance in art-making was hard to get used to, but when I finally came back to making my own stuff, and because I did that for so long, I took what I learned and made it my own. That’s why I’m working this way now. Even though it was unbearable at times, if I didn’t do those commissioned pieces, I’d probably still be dragging paint with wood and stuff like that.
Do you think you’ll do that stuff again?
I think so, I think I’ll bring it back in some way. It was a different state of mind that I was in then, I was lost and trying to figure out what I was doing with painting.
Once I finally found a method, I stuck with it and that’s where I’m at now. I have control with these, where my other paintings were about losing control or letting go of control. Letting go of control can be a good thing.
What do your paintings mean to you, what do you like them to express/portray?
I feel like they are a reflection of what I’m going through as I’m making them. But to go even deeper, my paintings are visual manifestations of every single event that led up to their creation. For example, no different from the complex networks required for two people to meet or for what it took for our planet to become inhabitable to its many different life forms. When other people view my artwork, I hope they can feel a presence of being. When I look at them, I don’t necessarily see just myself, but a new foreign presence as if the painting has taken a life of its own, evoking different moods and playing with the viewer’s perception differently.
What do you see 5-10 years down the line?
It’s hard to say because I look back 3 years ago, and I never would have expected that I would have gotten here. But I want to bring my artwork out in the public space. I’d like to do big murals of this style. I’d also like to expand from painting and create these kinds of moods through ambient music and other mediums as well.