Christopher Durant won 1st Place in the People’s Choice Vote of our Pen and Marker Competition late last year. His drawing of his French Bulldog Alice was executed using Staedtler Pigment Fineliners in a Moleskine Journal. His simple observational drawing of his beloved pet understated the background, focusing on the subtle beauty and delicacy of the animal’s coat, and contented, slumbersome facial expression!
Lisa: When did drawing become your passion?
Christopher: Ever since I was a little boy I have always been drawing. It’s been my passion as far back as I can remember. Drawing the things I love or became fascinated by was what made me happy, and still does today. I’d be lost without it, and I find myself becoming more inspired as the days go by. Admittedly I wasn’t great back then, but the passion and excitement was there and it made me feel good about myself. Being able to draw as a kid made me feel different, like I stood out from the crowd.
Lisa: You work often in sketchbooks, and they look absolutely exquisite – perfectly formed precious birds on each page of a regular Moleskeine book – the end result as seen in a video on your Facebook page is really stunning. But have you ever made a drawing and felt torn because you’d also like to frame it and hang it on a wall? How do you feel about breaking up your sketchbooks in order to exhibit individual works?
Christopher: I have a few Moleskine journals with different forms of art in them. Some are sketchbooks with little doodles or creations in that only I have seen, some are more detailed and the birds journal was created to place all my favourite bird drawings inside. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated by creating a book that is full of my best artwork all together in one place. I draw in the journals because it’s considered my safe place, I’d never rip out a piece of work, that would effectively ruin the whole book.
Lisa: What do you think is the secret behind continually improving with your drawing?
Christopher: Practice, practice, practice. There is no real secret. You have insanely talented artists out there that can seemingly do anything, but every artist out there has had to practice, whether they have a god given talent or have had to start from the bottom like myself. A gift can only take you so far, brilliance must never be overshadowed by laziness.
Lisa: Where do you find your reference source material for your drawings?
Christopher: I know a lot of photographers who allow me to use their images, and I am very thankful for that. In my earlier days I would copy images out of books, watching television or use anything that stuck in my mind. Ever since I have started taking commissions it’s easier to draw from a photograph someone sends to me to use, as long as it’s clear and inspires me as an artist. The photographs I work with have to have a certain spark or interesting focal point to really motivate me to produce even better art. That’s why I have such great friends and photographers I know. They never let me down.
Lisa: How important do you think it is to invest in the very best art materials you can afford? Or do you think good art can be made with lesser quality materials, so long as there’s the inspiration?
Christopher: Good art can always be made with materials of lesser quality and price, but the problems arise when the work ages over time. If you use cheaper paper it can discolour, if you use cheaper pencils they can fade on the paper itself or will break up when you sharpen them. When taking commissions it’s a must that you use the best quality materials or materials to a high standard. I always say with art materials, you pay for what you get. You buy cheap, you buy twice.
Lisa: Can you tell us a bit about your favourite materials that you most like to work with? What is it about their qualities that you favour?
Christopher: Pencils are my absolute favourite medium to work with. I have absolute control over them and I feel confident using them. Caran d’Ache Luminance and Faber Castell Polychromos are the pinnacle in terms of pencils to use for artwork. I have used them for years and they never fail. Plus you can buy the pencils in open stock, meaning if I run out of a colour I can simply order them again. Some pencil manufacturers don’t allow you to do that. The papers I use vary. I believe Strathmore Bristol plate 500 and the legendary Strathmore toned tan papers have allowed me to draw my greatest works on.
Lisa: There are quite a few videos of your drawing on your Facebook page; how valuable is social media as a tool for getting your work seen? Do you have any tips for anyone who wants to boost their social media presence?
Christopher: I post all my work to my Facebook page or on my Instagram. My Facebook page is full of some very special people who always inspire me. I always say that if you create good art and be genuine to yourself and the fans who admire you then other people will naturally be more inclined to like your work and you as a person. Focus on your art always and don’t be too interested whether people like it or not. As long as you are happy yourself it’s all that matters.
Lisa: What’s the rough process behind drawing a commission for you? Have you ever declined to carry out a commission? How do you ensure the pressure of meeting a client’s expectations/timeframe doesn’t impede the creation of the work?
Christopher: Well I have only recently started taking commissions so I’m still relatively new to the process. I believe if someone wishes you to draw them something you should have faith in the knowledge they chose you to do the work and not some other artist. Always start in plenty of time, don’t be too harsh on yourself and always try and ask the client to give you the best reference picture or information you need possible.
Lisa: What are you working on at the moment?
Christopher: I am working on a pet portrait for a client, can’t really say much as it’s a surprise for someone and it is a very important piece of work.
Lisa: Where online or in the flesh can we view more of your work?
Christopher: I have my own Facebook page and Instagram page where I post my work, but my Facebook page is my main source of work and where people visit the most. As of yet I still don’t have a main website, but I’m working on it. My Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/pencilgod/