First Im­pres­sions

Chris Dunn talks bad­gers.

ImagineFX - - Contents - Chris Dunn Chris is an il­lus­tra­tor and gallery artist. His most re­cent se­ries of an­thro­po­mor­phic an­i­mal paint­ings will be ex­hib­ited at Ga­lerie Daniel Maghen in Paris this July. You can see more of his art at

Where did you grow up and how has this in­flu­enced your art?

I grew up in a town called Keigh­ley in West York­shire. The town sits in the windswept moors of Brontë coun­try, and the at­mo­spheric land­scape has in­flu­enced many of the back­grounds to my paint­ings. The town also has a Vic­to­rian in­dus­trial past and I think that’s cropped up a few times in my work over the years.

You’re a child, you see a paint­ing or draw­ing that changes ev­ery­thing… where are you and what are you look­ing at, and what ef­fect did it have?

I was 14 years old, in a lo­cal book shop and look­ing at a Tolkien cal­en­dar il­lus­trated by John Howe. I no­ticed wa­ter­colours could be both vi­brant and dark. Howe’s work had a big ef­fect on me: I re­alised I could paint fan­tas­ti­cal pic­tures and get paid for the priv­i­lege.

Can you name one per­son who helped you on your way? And some­one who tried to get in your way?

I had a very help­ful tu­tor in my art foun­da­tion course at Brad­ford Col­lege back in 2005. He said to me, “You like re­al­ism and nar­ra­tive – have you heard of Nor­man Rock­well?” To my shame I hadn’t, and so the next day he came back with a huge book packed full of his amaz­ing illustrations. That was an­other light bulb mo­ment. I would say no­body has tried to hold me back other than my­self. I’m my own tough­est critic and I think that stopped me from pro­mot­ing my­self ef­fec­tively for a long time.

What was your first paid com­mis­sion?

Ed­i­to­rial illustrations for a his­tory of work ar­ti­cle in a man­age­ment mag­a­zine. They were based on an­cient Greek plates fea­tur­ing de­signs rep­re­sent­ing the work­place from An­cient Greece, the me­dieval pe­riod and the in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion, through to the modern day. The art­work I pro­duced was mainly dig­i­tal and I learned a lot do­ing it, but I don’t keep it in my pre­sen­ta­tion port­fo­lio.

What’s the last piece that you fin­ished, and how do the two dif­fer?

I’ve just fin­ished a spot il­lus­tra­tion for The Wind In Wil­lows show­ing Toad driv­ing a car into a pond. It’s a small water­colour il­lus­tra­tion, very tra­di­tional and ex­actly the type of art­work I nor­mally pro­duce. It bears lit­tle re­la­tion to my first paid com­mis­sion and with luck I will con­tinue pro­duc­ing orig­i­nal paint­ings for the rest of my life.

What’s the most im­por­tant thing that you’ve taught some­one?

Cre­ate what you like and find a mar­ket for it af­ter­wards, be­cause if you like it then some­body else will, too.

You’re known for your an­i­mal art – is there a species you love to paint? And one that makes your heart sink?

Bad­gers have so much char­ac­ter and they look good in a woolly jumper. I don’t en­joy paint­ing do­mes­tic pets quite so much. Wild an­i­mals are just bet­ter.

What char­ac­ter that you’ve painted do you most iden­tify with?

Prob­a­bly the badger read­ing a news­pa­per in my paint­ing Set­tling In. Sit­ting in front of a lit fire­place with a news­pa­per, cup of tea and bis­cuits is my idea of lux­ury (don’t judge me). How­ever, I haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced that de­light in the past three years be­cause my two young boys won’t al­low it. Ev­ery­body knows newspapers are for tear­ing and chew­ing.

Can you de­scribe the place where you usu­ally cre­ate your art?

I have a small stu­dio at home, in what would be the small bed­room. There are two desks, a draw­ing ta­ble and a book­case down one side and then mul­ti­ple boards, easels and port­fo­lios stacked against the wall be­hind me. Over time I hope to fill the back wall with orig­i­nals by other favourite artists.

It’s bril­liant to be at home be­cause my wife and kids can drop in, or I can join the con­ver­sa­tion, at any point. Say­ing that, I may have to fit a lock on the stu­dio door to pre­vent my el­dest in­vad­ing when I’m not there. I’ve al­ready had a few close shaves, but noth­ing a putty rub­ber won’t fix.

I re­alised I could paint fan­tas­ti­cal pic­tures and get paid for the priv­i­lege

Set­tling In “Badger re­laxes af­ter a long day. This paint­ing was com­mis­sioned by Ga­lerie Daniel Maghen, a gallery based in Paris.” Toad Crashes “Water­colour spot art for The Wind In the Wil­lows, to be pub­lished at the end of the year.”

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