Chris Alvarez is much more than just an artist: he is a father of two, a volunteer soccer coach, a bird watcher, and a trail runner. Art, however, is his passion.
Alvarez’s experience with art began when he was a child and his cousin moved in with his family. “She could draw and I would watch her. I’d never seen anyone do that. So I started to draw. I liked it so much that I kept drawing and drawing.” While he claims that his skills were decent enough by high school, he never considered a professional career in art until 2002 when he decided he might as well go for it.
After working in the army as an optometrist, Alvarez decided to return to school to pursue a degree in figure drawing. He studied at the Cottonwood Art Academy in Colorado Springs—now known as the Cottonwood Center for the Arts. After completing his studies, Alvarez approached the chair of the art department with some complaints about the program and was offered a position as a professor. He taught beginning drawing there for five years.
Since then, oil painting has become his specialty. Others have described his work as “realistic impressionism,” but he prefers not to assign a specific genre to it at all. Instead, he considers himself a composer of sorts. He looks for interesting arrangements of shapes, colors, and values, and how he might combine them to create an interesting composition, which he finds much more important than just a “pretty picture.” His art, Alvarez says, is advised by many philosophies including “process of product,” and “it’s all practice.”
In terms of artistic process, Alvarez prefers to start and finish a piece in one sitting. “When I start a painting, I have a certain spark, an interest, a motivation. As I work, I find that my motivations and interests change as the piece progresses. If I take too long, it doesn’t have the same spark that drove me to paint it when I started.” Typically, he is able to complete one or two pieces per week, but he admits that not all of them are good.
Chris Alvarez is the Machine Shop’s most recent studio resident. The gallery, inspired by overlooked downtown scenes, is titled “the Un-scene.” In this project, Alvarez tries to find the “romance in the mundane, the extraordinary in the ordinary.” Even though the residency required nine paintings, Alvarez provided 18. The gallery opened Feb. 5 and will continue to be open until this Friday (Feb. 26).
Beyond his artistry, Alvarez is a teacher. His school, the Alvarez Art School, is located in Old Colorado City at 2418 W. Colorado Ave., Studio J. Since its conception in 2010, it has moved out of two spaces to accommodate the growing number of students. At first, most of the students were older retirees. Now, a broad spectrum of people seek out Alvarez’s classes. From emergency room doctors to professional commercial artists to high school students, the classes are open to all levels, backgrounds, and ages. For those who proclaim that they have no artistic talent, Alvarez sees this as a challenge: “We’ll see if what you say is true! Talent is overrated. All it takes is a desire to do it, time, and work. You might surprise yourself.”
The Alvarez Art School offers workshops, art camps, and classes. Previous workshops have been a huge success, and the art camps take a unique approach to involving kids in art and their environment—activities include painting songs, collecting textures from the city, and creating ink and straw paintings.
The two-hour classes on Mondays and Wednesdays incorporate a holistic program. “A lot of the things that we talk about and explore in class are things that you can take into the outside world,” Alvarez describes. However, there is a heavy focus on figure drawing, which Alvarez claims is the foundation to most representational art. “You can learn so much,” Alvarez says. “The human figure is the most beautiful, complex entity in the universe that I know of. It has all the problems that artists try to solve. Line, form, values.”
When students leave the class, Alvarez hopes that they see the world in a new way, can create art with confidence, and begin to find beauty where they hadn’t before.
To sign up for classes and learn more about upcoming events, head to his website, http://www.alvarezschool.com.