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Interview: Surreal Paintings of Sharks “Swimming” in Mid-Air Show a More Peaceful Side

Chris Austin Shark Paintings

There are over 450 species of shark that roam the planet's waters. Although many have a bad reputation, artist Chris Austin hopes to add a little perspective to the ocean predator in his new series of paintings.

The Toronto-based artist has a multi-faceted creative practice that spans both painting and sculpture. His diverse portfolio of work is greatly inspired by the environment of North America, specifically the Pacific Northwest. Austin explores the mutability of the landscape as well as our tenuous relationship with it.

In his most recent series of gouache paintings, the Canadian artist shines the spotlight on one of the ocean's most fearsome predators—the shark. These surreal pictures depict great whites and orcas wandering urban and rural landscapes above water. Although Austin occasionally includes a yellow-coated figure, the series focuses predominantly on the quiet mystery of sharks as they “swim” through the air.

We recently had the chance to talk to Chris Austin about his series of shark paintings. Read on for My Modern Met's exclusive interview.

Chris Austin Shark Paintings

What is your background in painting?

I am a self-taught painter and illustrator who has always dabbled in different means of expression.

Is there something about sharks and sea creatures that fascinates you?

I have always been fascinated by the vast elusiveness of the ocean.

What do you try to achieve or express in each of your paintings?

As of lately, the shark is one of the most feared things on the planet and I’d like to help change that perspective through my work.

Shark Paintings by Chris Austin

Shark Paintings by Chris Austin

How has your artistic practice changed over time (if it has)?

It’s constantly evolving over time. I’m trying to hone in on a concept that I’m ultimately satisfied with—although, to be quite honest, I hope I never really find it and always continue the search.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

There are too many tools I cannot live without in the studio. However, if I were to pick one, it would be my studio dog, Winston.

What is your typical work process for each work?

I begin with a lot of reference photo material research, followed by a digital mock-up. Afterward, I sketch on paper, then paint to a surface.

Chris Austin Shark Paintings

Chris Austin Shark Paintings

How do you know when a work is finished?

When it tells me…sometimes it never tells me.

Which artists, or works of art in particular, inspire you?

I am constantly inspired by a lot of my peers. Seeing their drive and determination, as well as what they produce daily, motivates me…there are far too many of them to list.

Chris Austin Shark Paintings

Chris Austin Shark Paintings

What is the best artistic advice you've ever received?

Keep working, even if it’s no good. Eventually, it’ll come through hard work and perseverance. Never work for a dollar figure, you will always find a way to make money. However, your creative energy may not always.

Chris Austin Shark Paintings

Chris Austin: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Chris Austin.

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Ethereal Underwater Portraits Captured While Free Diving with Live Sharks

Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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