It 10:30am and Chris has ordered his Americano. Today he opted for decaffe with a splash of milk after recently discovering it was the coffee making him jittery and he still doesn’t feel brave enough to tackle the alternative (and elaborate) sounding concoctions on offer. Like myself, he orders his coffee in a to-go cup even though we’re sitting in; the logic behind it is that it keeps the drink warmer for longer and fingers curl around the paper cup perfectly.
Despite it being his day off work he was awake at 7am, spending the first few hours of his day ploughing through his summer project for his 1 year foundation course in Art and Design at Oxford Brookes come September. The project is on ‘heirlooms’ and although hardly inspiring and painfully dull, he trudges on anyway. The unfortunate reality is that in order to be in a position in which you can make a living by creating pieces that you’re proud of you really do have to start from the bottom; like an internship making coffee at Vogue. We all have to start from somewhere; Chris knows this is his somewhere. He follows this up with a bowl of shreddies accompanied with the first of several coffees as he gets the lo-down on the current position of Team GB in the Olympics. A quick scrub up and wash down and here he is with me.
When I asked his to tell me his idea of an individual’s ‘ordinary’ day he describes someone who works a standard 9-5 job. Somewhere between the blur of waking up and getting to the office they might drop their kids off at school or perhaps walk the dog. After a busy (but not necessarily bad) day they have dinner with their family before kicking up their feet and watching reality TV until the sun goes down and it’s time for the whole process to repeat itself until the weekend roles around.
“Do you think it’s bad to live a life filled with these days?” I challenge. As if Chris can read my own thoughts he says”it is not the way in which we spend these ‘odirnary’ days which makes them bad but merely our expectations of what we hope to achieve on a day-to-day basis that leaves us wanting more.” We constantly want to inspire and be inspired, make a change or be part of one, leave our mark. Admittedly this is easier said than done.
Chris recalls a little tale he once heard of a man who was walking on a beach one day throwing starfish that had washed up onto the sand back into the salty water. The man was not disheartened by the seemingly never ending amount of fish in his path, continuing to save each one. He was eventually interrupted by another man who asked him why he bothered if he knew he couldn’t possibly save all the starfish from dying? ‘Who was he saving?’ The man responded by picking up another starfish and placing it back into the sea before saying “I might not be able to save all the starfish, but I saved that one.” Take what you will from the story but Chris interpreted it imply that the small changes we make on an ‘ordinary day’ are as important a those much larger made less often that often go unnoticed. We don’t need to do extravagant things all the time to make a difference.
Chris continues that it’s not uncommon in careers, especially ones that reply on imagination, determination and lots of luck like the creative industry, to find yourself in a rut. For a long time much of what you do is determined by those around you which can make you question why you do it at all. What is it all for? Who is it all for? Chris sometimes finds himself losing sight of what made him want to do art as a full time job in the first place and he must make himself remember the story of the starfish and promts himself “to fake it until you make it.” Rather than a measly project on ‘heirlooms’ I ask Chris what his ‘dream’ career would be, if he could do anything, if the world really was his oyster… “Like any other artistic person I want to earn money for my family and I by creating things I love and am proud of but I realise that is a long shot.Aside from that I would have loved to have done some of the set designs for Jurassic Park or illustations for the new Harry Potter graphic novels, something along those lines.” Until then he will continue to make pieces, whether they excite him or not, earning his keep through his part-time job at M&S and small commissions always with that end goal in mind and eyes on the prize.
Chris goes on to say that down the line it is irrefutable that he’ll most likely do a job he likes and is happy to go to most of the time but there is bound to be bad days where he’d much rather hit the snooze button that leave the warmth of his bed. He may not always be able to do work that he’s passionate about, but hopefully he will more frequently than he is now, perhaps he can even fork out a yearly holiday for his ife and children with it, who knows? Unlike many young creators today he’s aware of the competitive nature of the industry and has no expectation to be the next Van Gough or to travel the world all willy-nilly. Chris remains in love with his art but also reasonable and confesses that so long as he remembers why he fell in love with art in the first place and on those (hopefully) few and far between bad days he can come home to complain to his family, Chris is perfectly happy living an ‘ordinary’ life.
(Chris actually did the web design for this blog and painted a water colour image for my Grandad’s birthday on request. He does have a red-bubble site that he’s hoping to work more on once the heirlooms project is over but has not had the time recently. He does commissions on request and, being very talented across the board, can pretty much create anything you like be that a sketch, illustration, web design or water colour.)
Youtube channel with drawing machine videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/ChristofsCreations