The artwork of Christopher J. Paulsen

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Bodies of Work:



"House & Home"
The Edge of Town
A Street I Never Walked
The End of the Stage
Falling Boxes
The Throne
A Story to Tell
Idolizing Angles
The Church of Oneself
The Cottage in the City
A Collapsing Universe
The Loss of Structure


"Sad Robots"


"On Beauty"

"Plastic Plants"

"The Hiking Trip"

"Bite-Sized Paintings"

Bite-Sized Painting Sale Precocious, a webcomic by Christopher J Paulsen The Sycophant, tbe sketch blog of Christopher J Paulsen

"House and Home" Artist's Statement


It is my contention that art can't help but be autobiographical. Works reflect the emotions and outlook of an artist whether the artist likes it or not. Because of that, it seems redundant to craft works specifically about oneself. Now, I do not mean to malign artists whose work is overtly autobiographical - Frida Kahlo is one of my favorite painters, after all - but it is simply not how I operate.

Art for me is not a purge of emotions, but an outlet for creativity. My productivity coincides with inspiration, which coincides with times of general happiness. Should some issue appear during these periods, it can easily find its way into my art. The key is the treatment of the issue. I will not tackle the issue on the level of how it affects me, but rather break it down into concepts. It is the root of the issue that concerns me, not how I am affected directly. The resulting artwork is passively autobiographical. Something in my life was the inspiration, and my views naturally permeate the work. However, it is also a detached, analytical look at the issue - a work that aims for the universal over the self.

"House and Home" is a departure from this trend. These pieces were expressly composed as autobiographical - a visual diary dealing with the stress and pain of my life during the months they were created. The approach to the creative process is reversed. I have placed meaning to myself over accessibility to a larger audience. The work is born of frustration over inspiration. The meditative nature of my other prints is replaced by the rawness of emotions. What is interesting is how easily the work fits in with the rest of my art. This is because everything in these pieces, from the core issue to the dark humor, is in the rest of my work - it has just been turned inside out.

The series was born of a deep sense of isolation I was feeling.

2007 was the year I was going to play catch-up. I had returned to Shepherd University to finish earning my degree and begin paving the path to graduate school. I was working full-time so I would have the funds to set out on my own when the time came. Between all of that, I had to find time to build up my resume and ensure I would succeed at my goals.

By bouncing around like I did, it was never able to fully commit to any of the realms I visited. Because I worked and commuted, I wasn't able to acquire the strong bonds with classmates and professors I needed. At work, I had little in common with my coworkers. They were all techies by choice and training, while I was someone learning web design on the spot. There are certain personality types that gravitate to technical fields, and their interests do not necessarily coincide with mine. Again, I was unable to form strong bonds. My social group, made of long-time friends, degraded as we all became busy with daily drudgeries. While my other friends had new social circles to rely on, my situation left me feeling completely isolated. The only thing in my life keeping me pushing forward was an amorphous future - one that grew more and more uncertain as I lost my grip on the present.

The ambition and drive that had propelled me through most of 2007 was waning. There was nothing in my life I could use as an anchor. Instead I drifted, perpetually off-balance and isolated. How was I supposed to keep producing art when my source of inspiration was gone? My work comes from happiness and intellectual curiosity - both of which were defeated by my situation. I could not draw my inspiration from others around, as I had no one around me. I was alone and out of place.

One day I began to talk to myself and break down what was wrong in my life. I examined what was not right and what the causes had been. In the past, I had relied on others - perhaps too much - to give me strength. When I was down, I had friends to pick me up. When I was uninspired, I would gain energy from the other artists in my classes. When I was inspired, my schedule was flexible enough to allow me to put my all into my artwork. All of that was lost. My social life was non-existent. The class I was taking at Shepherd had few members and met only a handful of times, which was not enough to give me energy. My job had moved to full-time, forcing me into a regular schedule that left me perpetually sleep-deprived.

Breaking it down, I saw that my old life in Winchester was gone. The place where I had lived since I was eight years old was now foreign. While I slept in this structure every night, it was just a house - not my home.

Each building is made of a series of related prints arranged in a structure to form a narrative. To keep the work cohesive, the base prints were produced from a single session. Ghosts from previous prints appear in subsequent prints, showing how evolution and transition altered the underlying presence - which in this series is me.

In the first house, Childhood Dwelling, I reflect on how the security of home is lost as time passes. The top three pieces represent the vantage point of the location. From "Rooftops" I can observe many things, but not interact with them. The lines on the rooftops create a form of a cocoon, implying gestation. This is the starting point for me. On each side of the rooftops are the two paths one can take - the calm life of living at "The Edge of Town" provides easygoing comfort, and the edgy, striking, almost cathedral-like appeal of "A Street I Never Walked" shows the seductive pull live in a big city has over me. I've never lived in a fast-paced area like New York City, and there is some trepidation over if my prosaic life in Winchester, Virginia has prepared me adequately for the challenge.

The pieces on the bottom row of the Childhood Dwelling house show the potential negative consequences that can come from the paths. Should I hesitate in moving forward, which is what I had done, the disconnected view from the rooftops eventually leads to the collapse seen in "Falling Boxes." Keeping safe in a small-town life would be far too constraining for me. The opportunities I need to succeed are just not offered in the area, causing me to reach a limit of what can be done - so I hit "The End of the Stage." Finally, the worry that I've lived a soft life for too long comes into play. Should I take the step and move to the city, will it overwhelm me? I could be the figure surrounded by opportunity, but too frightened to leave the comfort of my dwelling to capitalize on it. Instead I can sit at home, on "The Throne," experiencing the high life through osmosis and television.

While Childhood Dwelling was about my fears of both stagnation and moving on physically, The Artist's Loft represent the struggle I underwent artistically. As mentioned in the beginning of this statement, my normal sources of inspiration had been lost, leaving me struggling. The Artist's Loft deals with finding productivity amid adversity.

The arrangement of the pieces is a straightforward narrative, going left to right in the first and second line. "A Story to Tell" is the nascent idea, which remains a noble idea until I find momentum to move forward. Having nothing to draw upon, my first reacting is to push with what I do best, "Idolizing Angles." It's very easy for me to work in that style and, in absence of momentum, it can get me started. "The Church of Oneself" is the realization that I cannot rely on others to push me - the motivation must come within.

Here is where the fear comes in. My style is one of thoughtful complexity. I juggle many tasks and bounce between projects because, at my best, it is the most comforting. At my weakest, by taking on so much responsibility, I put myself at risk. "Cottage in the City" represents me working at my peak. Amid the chaos, I find comfort. (The piece is based upon my grandparents' house, which is both in a peaceful, beautiful neighborhood and just minutes away for major urban centers in Washington D.C.) As long as the momentum remains strong, I am productive. However, without any support, adversity takes a larger toll than normal. To cope, I have to begin cutting away some complexity so that I can still master the remaining areas. This is "A Collapsing Universe" - where the boundaries of control get smaller and smaller. Finally, should I not regain my momentum, it all falls apart in "The Loss of Structure."

By putting these fears on paper, I was allowed to confront them directly. The time period when these works were created was the most difficult stretch I've ever faced in my life - and I survived it. The old Chris would have succumbed to the dark scenarios present in the lower levels of the houses, but my current incarnation pushed through and regained momentum. Now I know that I am strong enough to take on anything.