Creative Inspirations: Chris Baker Art.
In my earlier post, I introduced you to the incredibly gifted 21-year-old Cardiff artist, Chris Baker: Chris Baker & his photorealistic drawings,
Emily and I discovered Chris’s work when I took her to her first convention, Manchester Film and Comic Con, earlier this year (see Star Wars Rey for the day: Emily’s convention adventures: HERE).
Whilst chatting to Chris’s parents, Sam and Stewart, who were selling his artwork at the convention, we discovered he has Has Asperger’s syndrome. We also learned how art really has changed his life. Since then, I’ve hoped for a chance to tell you about him. So when started my ‘Creative Inspirations’ series which features artists who inspire me, Chris was one of the artists I wanted to feature.
When I contacted Chris’s mum to ask if they’d be willing to be involved in Creative Inspirations, I discovered Chris’s career has gone from strength to strength since we met in Manchester. There have been TV appearances, convention bookings and commissions coming in thick and fast. However, despite their busy schedule, I’m delighted to say that Sam agreed for Chris Baker Art to feature in the second in my series of ‘Creative Inspirations.’
Chris Baker, in his mum’s words.
1.When did Chris first start drawing?
Chris drew as a very young child at this point it was cannons, guns, anything to do with the war. All of these drawings were very small and squeezed onto the corner of newspapers. We could see that he had talent but did not realise how good he would become.
2. How old was Chris when he was diagnosed with Asperger’s?
Chris was 7 years old when he received his diagnosis.
3. You removed Chris from school at age 14. Tell us more about this decision.
Chris was getting bullied at school as he peers could see that he was different from them. Due to the bullying, he became more and more withdrawn. His grades and, more importantly, his mental health was suffering. Most weeks we were phoning the school or meeting with them to try and get the bullying to stop. In the end, we decided that it was not in Chris’ best interest to continue forcing him to go to school.
4. In what ways does Asperger’s affect Chris and how does it impact his day-to-day life?
Day to day, Chris struggles with motivation, planning and social skills. Although he is growing in confidence, he still finds face to face conversation uncomfortable and will avoid it if he can.
When artwork is sold, Chris is unable to walk to the post office on his own and post the parcel. He needs the support of his dad to walk with him and talk to the post office employee to complete the transaction.
5. What was the lowest point for Chris and yourselves?
The lowest point for the family was in 2009. Chris was 14 and his whole personality was changing due to his struggles in school. Chris became very withdrawn and stopped interacting with his family. When he did, he was a very angry young man and this was difficult for everyone.
6. When did you first realise Chris had such an extraordinary talent?
Within weeks of Chris leaving school, he produced a portrait of Will Smith. This was when we really started to encourage him further and helped him see that his talent was not just therapy for him but also a business in the making.
7. I watched some of his videos of how he draws his pictures. I didn’t notice any outlines and he seems to draw specific blocks at a time. Explain his drawing process.
Chris always draws from a reference photograph.
When Chris starts a drawing he places a digital grid over the reference photo and also places a grid on the paper. From here he will always start with the subject’s eyes and work out from there.
8. When did art change from being Chris’s hobby and therapy to a career?
This transition happened on the 10/4/2014.
9. Because of Chris’s Asperger’s you’ve needed to help him with the business. Consequently, CJB Art is a team effort. Explain how that works and what roles do you all play?
We are a complete team. I take care of e-mails, the financial side (logging sales and the yearly tax return), I update the website and also the CJBart Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.
Stewart stays at home with Chris. He is the main point of physical support and motivation, Stewart takes him to appointments and also drives all three of us to conventions.
While at the convention/event Stewart and I engage with the customers. Chris is the artist and he is the only person who can produce the artwork that he does.
10. Do you manage CJB art full-time now or do you have other jobs outside this?
Stewart is with Chris full-time, whereas I work full time as a support worker for adults with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome.
11. Can you sum up how art has changed:
a) Chris’s life.
Art has enabled Chris to make a living doing something that he loves. It has opened doors to him meeting and working with celebrities that he looks up to. Yesterday he met Sir Ian McKellen
b) Your life.
For Stewart and I, we have the pleasure of watching Chris grow as a person and succeed where the education system said he wouldn’t. We get to travel to places we haven’t been before as a family and, of course, meet the most amazing people along the way.
While at conventions/events we get to speak to people who have also been touched by autism and it’s lovely to be able to give them hope and possibly inspire them too to support their child/relation to reach for the stars and achieve their dreams too.
12. Where do you sell his artwork?
Chris sells his artwork through www.cjbart.com. His drawing of Cardiff Castle is available through Castle Welsh crafts in Cardiff, and we also attend comic conventions around the country.
13. Does Chris draw things other than portraits?
Chris also draws beautiful pet portraits and last year he drew his first building, Cardiff Castle.
14. What famous commissions has he had so far and have you had any feedback from them about his work?
Chris is very proud to have drawn a personal commission for Michael Van Gerwen, the dart’s player. He is Chris’s ultimate idol. This commission is now in the Netherlands and Michael and Daphne are extremely happy with it.
15. Who would be his dream commission?
Chris has followed Michael Jackson’s career for many years and this would have been his ultimate commission as Michael Jackson was an artist himself. As this is no longer possible, drawing for Michael Van Gerwen is equally as exciting.
16. Aside from the commissions, have any of his subjects seen the drawings? What do they think?
Robert Englund, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Van Gerwen, Sir Ian McKellen and Sam Warburton have all seen their portraits. Each and every one of them couldn’t comprehend the level of detail Chris puts into such a small drawing.
During black history month last October, Chris worked with the Wales Millenium Centre to draw three black Welsh influential women. Two of the subjects were presented with their portraits and both had to hold back tears.
17. What has been the highlight of his career so far?
This has to be working with Michael Van Gerwen to produce his official portrait.
18. As a result of Chris’s success story, have you had any feedback from other parents with children suffering from Asperger’s or autism?
Through Chris’ website and social media, we have received many messages telling us how inspirational Chris is. We have also had parents sending through drawings that their children have drawn for Chris to see.
19. Does Chris come along to any of the conventions with you?
Chris attends every convention with us, although he is hiding behind the display he hears all the lovely feedback that the public give.
20. How long do Chris’s drawings take to complete?
Chris’ Giclee prints bring all of his drawings to a uniform size. In reality, the original pencils drawings vary. The drawing of Jax on his motorbike is an A4 drawing and this took Chris 40 hours to draw.
In comparison, the Drawing of Rick and the zombies is also an A4 drawing but it took 30 hours to complete.
The smallest drawings that Chris has undertaken are Alien and Bane, these are only 2×3 inches and took 8 hours each to complete.
Most of Chris’ drawings are A6 in size and take around 15 hours to complete.
21. Does Chris recognise his own talent?
This is something that Chris has only just started to see as he has doubted that his drawing is any good. During a meeting with Michael Van Gerwen and his manager, his perception of his talent changed. Michael’s manager told Chris that he is to drawing as Michael is to darts.
Chris knows that Michael is the best (darts player) in the world and this gave him huge confidence in his own talent.
22. Which is Chris’s favourite drawing to date?
This is something that Chris struggles to pinpoint. The closest he can get to that is drawing the portrait of Michael Van Gerwen and his wife. This was a personal commission for his idol.
23. Any plans to take him and his artwork abroad?
We are now planning to travel with Showmasters (Conventions) to Amsterdam and Ireland next year.
24. When he isn’t drawing, how else does Chris relax?
Chris has a dart board and he likes to throw darts, mostly on his own and on odd occasions with his dad and I.
25. Who would Chris most like to have as his number one fan?
That would have to be Michael Van Gerwen (MvG). Chris is a huge fan and collects MvG memorabilia. His 21st birthday was dominated with MvG items and his cake was also inspired by MvG himself.
26. Who are Chris’s Creative Inspirations and his favourite work of art?
Chris is inspired by strong characters from film and TV and people who are the best at what they do.
27. Who inspires Chris in life?
This is something that he struggles to comprehend but brings everything back to MvG.
28. What are yours and Chris’s hopes and aspirations for his career? His life?
We would like Chris to obtain a permanent place to sell his work from, maybe a deal with other darts players, maybe for him to be confident enough to sell his own artwork.
29. Is Chris working on any interesting commissions at the moment and what other exciting things have you got in the pipeline for CJB art?
Sorry to say that these are both top secret at present!
30. If you could sum up what Chris’s artistic ability means to you as a family in 3 words what would they be?
Financial. Independence. Fantastic.
Thank you, Chris Baker Art.
I would like to thank Sam, Chris Baker and his family for agreeing to be involved in my Creative Inspirations series.
I think you’ll agree it is an uplifting and inspirational story of an extraordinarily talented artist.
Don’t forget, there’s still time to enter my giveaway to win a Chris Baker A4 giclee print of your choice (excludes Van Gerwen print). Just click on the following link: Discovering Chris Baker and his photorealistic drawings (and giveaway).
Over to you.
Have you heard of Chris Baker and his art? What do you think of his story and his artwork? Who would you like Chris to draw next?
I hope you are enjoying my Creative Inspirations series. If you missed my first interview with Mike Matola and his incredible line by line posters, then click here: Creative Inspirations: Mike Matola, LineByLinePosters.
As always, I’d love to hear what you think.
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