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Painter Chet Zar recommends some books.

Chet Zar talks about his paintings of strange creatures, and his daily routine...

READERSVOICE.COM: Horror writer Clive Barker reportedly advised you to start on your oil paintings of the creatures in your works. How did this meeting come about and what were some of your first works?

CHET ZAR: Well, he didn’t advise me to start painting but he did advise me to get into fine art. I had met Clive working on films in the past (Lord of Illusion) and really got along with him.

In 1998, I tried starting a digital effects studio called, Screaming Lobster Digital. I had a demo reel that I was sending out to different production houses and he was on the list. I didn’t have much experience working on digital effects for films or commercials, so the only stuff I had on this reel was my own weird, fine art type of digital animations.

So anyway, I sent Clive a copy hoping he might consider me for an upcoming film project or something. When I spoke to him on the phone he said he didn’t have any projects for me but thought that I had a really unique vision and that I should try my hand at my own fine art rather than trying to start a service based company. That was actually the best compliment I could have gotten from him and it really got me thinking about fine art as a real possibility for me.

I had been in the makeup effects industry since I was just out of high school, so I was a bit ‘institutionalized’. I only saw myself as working on other peoples films. It was all I knew. I never considered that anybody would take seriously the kind of artwork I wanted to do. So hearing that from somebody I really respected as an artist and writer really had an impact on me.

RV: What’s your daily routine?

CZ: I wake up, have some coffee and check my email. Then I go on a 20 minute walk to get some excercise. When I get home, I shower and then do a 20 minute meditation. After that, I start my work day by painting or doing whatever other business needs to be taken care of. I usually end up painting in the evening while watching a movie.

RV: When you were curating “The Talking Board Show” at the Copro Nason Gallery, did any of these pieces get activated, or were they strictly art?

CZ: The concept was that they should be able to function as a Ouija board, but they were really more made to hang up as art. As far as I know none of them were activated!

RV: What will trigger a paint ing of one of your creatures for you?

CZ: Sometimes it comes in a flash in my head but most of the time I just start doodling. I have said before that my paintings are really just extensions of my doodles. Sometimes I will get ideas from seeing something the wrong way, like when you see a face in a rock or cloud or something.

RV: Do you keep a lot of art notebooks full of things you might use in paintings or 3d videos or sculpture, and what sorts of things are in these?

CZ: Yeah, I am always sketching and doodling and I do this in sketch books. I keep a catalog of the best sketches for use in different paintings or other projects. I also write down titles of pieces and sometimes I mix and match pieces with titles. I find that a good title is really important for an art piece- it can completely change the feeling of a piece.

RV: How did you learn Photoshop, and do you test out your paintings in Photoshop before creating them in oils?

CZ: I taught myself Photoshop in books and on the internet. I use it a lot to mock up paintings quickly. It’s a great tool that every artist could benefit from.

RV: Do you plan on creating the art lesson dvds still?

CZ: I have done one for the Gnomon Workshop called Digital Creature Painting with Chet Zar. It shows the techniques I use while painting and designing creatures in Photoshop.

I would like to do more, perhaps one on painting in oils and one on sculpture, but it’s all a matter of finding the time.

RV: Can you give examples of some of the prosthetic effects you created for The Ring and Planet of the Apes?

CZ: Mostly sculpting and some painting. I didn’t head up any of those projects.
I sculpted and painted some little dead girl legs for “the Ring” and for “Apes” I didi some character design and sculpting of background ape masks. I also did some detail sculpting for some of the main characters. So I was just part of the sculpting/painting crew on those and did whatever they needed me to do.

RV: What were some of the lessons you learned from being on movie sets, that you might apply to making your own films, or even to your writing if you pursue that?

CZ: Don’t treat the crew like shit. Be open to ideas from others. There are a lot of really creative people in the industry that have a lot to offer. Filmmaking is a very collaborate process. Be flexible. Film sets are usually total chaos and I think you have to be ready to change gears at any moment. It’s really amazing how films ever get done.