Marijuana and art go together like KY and porn, everyone is aware that it happens. Recently I put a call out on Craigslist for toking artist to hit me for an interview and my call has been answered. First up in my stoner corner is Chris Wilhelm. Chris is an accomplished muralist/painter from Oregon. He has a piece in a hookah lounge in Portland, Or and other parts locally. He plans to travel the country with his wife in a rebuilt RV while rewriting their American dream. I had a chance to interview Chris about paint, art, and life in general.
1) So how long have you been a muralist/ painter?
1: I have painted since I was a freshman in High School and I started painting murals right after high school after my high school teacher(who I have a GREAT amount of respect for) John Haus told me to keep my day job and that murals were not for me. I vowed to prove him wrong after several of my sketches for a class mural project were turned down. I was more of a comic book artist back then.
2) I notice a lot of nature themes, is that intentional?
2: I wouldn't say it’s intentional, but I grew up in the woods and have a personal connection with nature and our planet. I love people and other subject matter as well but something about an entire scene or "world" attracts my mind’s eye. A lot of my paintings are from deep seeded memories, fears, stories, and of course dreams.
3) Is there a particular mural your most proud of?
3: There are 2 murals in particular that I’m especially proud of. In Beaverton there is a Hookah lounge with 2 of my pieces facing each other in a secluded corner of the large room. There are comfy couches and laser lights back there and every time I go there to hangout I get compliments from all over the place. It was a tough deadline and I hired my mom and wife (both great artists themselves) to help me bust out 2 full size 20 foot murals in 3 DAYS!!! It took over 10 hour days and almost no breaks to bust that one out and in my opinion its one of my best works yet. (See "Sands of Time" and "Ruins" on my website)
4) Do you smoke prior to painting or even during?
4: I smoke during and it helps a lot with the mood of my painting (which usually has a lot to do with my choice of music for that session). It helps ease my mind into the "zone" where I lose all track of time and dimension and can completely focus on the painting at hand. Not that I couldn’t do the same work sober (in fact I don’t smoke when I’m in public doing murals or working away from the studio), but it definitely makes the process more enjoyable.
5) What's your favorite strain?
5: To be honest although I smoke a lot, I haven’t really given it any thought until now. I like good bud that takes my mind off life.
6) Are you a green card holder?
6: No I don’t have a card yet but I am eligible. So is my wife who has scoliosis and she’s about to get her card. We are just saving up the Benjamins for that one.
7) Going through your illustrations I noticed you still have a strong comic book look. Any artist or comic that strongly influenced you? I remember when Frank Miller was the man doing Batman and when the Sandman/Hellblazer first started. Pages that look like oil paintings were exciting.
7. Frank Frazetta has always been a HUGE influence on me as well as Boris Valejo, Julie Bell, and Salvador Dali. Comic Artists like Frank Miller and Jim Lee are very impressive too. I like to think that my approach is rather eclectic in that I try to use the best of the styles from every artist to accomplish something new. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
8) Do you have any shows anywhere i.e. Cafe', gallery, etc...?
8: I have a few paintings in a "Poppi's Pipes" a smoke shop in Portland, but recently I got most of my work back from a show at the Salem Public Library in Salem, OR. (Which is where I live currently)? My approach is word of mouth or craigslist for shows and I frequently paint live for weddings, parties, etc. My mural work gets great attention too especially in high traffic areas and usually leads to other projects and shows too.
9) Thoughts on life?
9. As far as philosophy goes, I’m very spiritual. Not religious at all but I believe that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. I also think that the only "meaning of life" that we as humans will every really be able to grasp or master is personal peace and happiness. I believe that we need to stop worrying about the superficial politics that plague our society, and gut the useless entities that are causing all of this devastation and war called religion or at least on a much more realistic note keep it the hell away from each other. It’s supposed to be a personal journey so let’s keep it personal right?
I believe that life is all about change. As Einstein once said "The only constant is change." I can’t agree more and feel that more people need to embrace change instead of caging themselves in their own beliefs, values and comfort zones.
My wife and I are rebuilding an RV and we plan to travel the country documenting our journey. We will be selling our wares (her jewelry, my art, reproductions like stickers, posters and t shirts) for gas and food and painting murals in every major city to inspire true conscious change. Not the Obama kind of change(you know empty promises that no one person can every hope of achieving.. even Donald Trump) but the kind of change that says I’m willing to turn my life upside down to make my own soul happy. I really believe that people need to RECOGNIZE what is "The Rat Race" and get the fuck out while they still can. We aren’t living the American dream; we are living the American nightmare!
Chris thanks for taking the time to say "I'm a smoker" and letting us speak. Be sure to check out Chris's website and perhaps his travels once the RV is done. Best of luck to you and your's Chris from TWB. 'Till next