Chris Montell is a young, up-and-coming talented artist, based out of Jacksonville, Florida. He is a military child at just 18 years of age. He will be graduating from High School next month (June), and continue on to College in Atlanta. Since he first started posting his art on instagram in November of 2020, his account has seen a rapid growth in a short period of time, intriguing the viewers with his unique and recognizable style.
Hi Chris, it’s a pleasure to sit down with you. First off, where are you from?
I’m from Jacksonville, Florida. Not born and raised though, I moved around a lot because of my Dad’s involvement in the military before coming here. I’ve been here the longest out of everywhere else I’ve been so I say I’m from Florida.
When did you start to draw and paint?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I could remember. Every school I’ve went to, I was always “the guy who draws”. I’ve been painting for about 2 years now and counting.
I see… So what do you use to create your art with? Is it paint or markers?
I use oil paint primarily, but I like to call myself mixed media overall. I like to use whatever medium that can leave a mark.
Some of your work is inspired by rap/hiphop. What does that genre of music mean to you? And who is your favorite rapper and why?
Music is as important to me as painting. I love all kinds of music, but hip hop is something that’s been with me since day one. Good quality instrumentals and production along with lyrics that resembles poetry is just something that has always touched my soul, I can’t really put words to it, it’s just a really great and powerful feeling I get from it. I can never name a favorite rapper because I have too many, but a few of my favorites are Kenny Mason, Kendrick Lamar, and Tyler, The Creator.
When I go back and look at your work from a while back, the teeth seems to have always been your signature. What is the story behind the recognizable teeth? And do they represent anything?
To be completely honest, I always just liked the way the teeth looked in my work. I was experimenting a lot before I started posting on Instagram, and I sort of just got lucky when I found this signature. I don’t really think they represent anything, or better yet I don’t try to make them represent anything other than the emotions the teeth displays on the faces they’re covering. I also noticed that people’s eyes tend to gravitate more toward the teeth when they look at a painting at first glance, much like you would when meeting someone for the first time in real life, so that’s a bonus.
Your art resonates especially well with the youth, why do you think that is?
I’m really not sure to be honest with you. If I were to guess, I’d say it’s because my work isn’t really the typical traditional stuff that you would find in fine art museums. I guess people around my age just like the grungy aspects of my work instead of super refined boring work.
Do you already have an idea of what you want to create when starting on a new canvas? Or do you come up with it as you go?
When I was starting out, I would come up with ideas as I would go. Then some time passes and I move more toward laying out my ideas first before starting on a painting. I’m not sure what sparked that gradual change, but I guess my tastes just shifted.
When looking at your paintings, it is clear to me that they have a deeper meaning, and kind of dark vibes. How do you feel about that statement?
I really appreciate your interpretation! I believe that no matter how people see it, art is subjective to the viewer, whether it may be a painting, or a song, or a sculpture, or a fashion outfit. A lot of people have different interpretations of my work, and I love it. I love the conversations and the different opinions on a single topic, it’s something that you aren’t really seeing as often among my generation nowadays. I almost never really intend to portray a “deeper meaning” to my paintings, I usually just think of stupid or weird ideas and put them on a canvas. It’s really the viewer who decides the meaning.
What does a normal day for you look like?
As of now, I wake up, go to school, come home, paint, edit photos/videos or research ideas, sleep, rinse and repeat. On weekends I’m either focusing on myself or painting some more.
Biblical figures and scriptures are featured in several of your paintings. Talk to me a little bit about that.
I’m not religious at all, but I do find the people and stories found in the Bible to be very interesting. I like the idea of prophets and sages or angels walking amongst common people, it’s an idea that has always resonated with me for some reason.
What song do you listen to the most right now?
A song that I’ve had on repeat for a while now is Drain You by Nirvana.
What’s your favorite movie?
Good question. Again, I have too many to list a favorite, but The Joker, The Batman, John Wick 2, Upgrade, and The Gift are on the top of my list as of now.
For more information about Chris, check out his Instagram.