"FALLEN" by Chet Zar (oil on board) 16 x 20in art image copyright: CHET ZAR
*The following interview with CHET ZAR was conducted by LANA GENTRY, who is an amazing artist herself. She is an artist, writer, musician originally from Virginia in the USA. Lana's done freelance art interviews for The Lost Gallery and Beinart and continues to be very active in the arts. This rare interview with CHET ZAR is the first in a series of in-depth art interviews with MASTERS IN ART! This interview is copyright of Chet Zar, Lana Gentry and SURREALISM NOW!
With marked accomplishments in the fields of both film and oil painting, Chet Zar is no stranger to commercial success. Having said this, his emotional core has always remained true and intact and his perspective and observances on commercial film and art are extremely fascinating. He remains to date, one of the most admired modern surrealist painters to emerge from the West Coast underground, pop surrealist and lowbrow art scene of the past decade. He is creatively diverse, multitalented and humble in sharing his personal thoughts on emotional matters, such as the murder of brilliant artist Zdzislaw Beksinski. His revelations are informative and personal, and it is here that you will find a great depth emerging from his dark and apocalyptic imagery. Despite his ability to convey lightness in the dark of his work, and optimism in his overall view, there does remain a sensitivity and connectedness about him that make him quite human, in addition to being a master artist.
"I think Beksinski was a genius and one of the greatest painters of the 20th century...I was surprised at how affected I was by his murder." ~ Chet Zar
"THE ID" by Chet Zar (oil on canvas) 18 x 24in
LG~ Good day Mr. Zar. When someone finds themselves at the top of their game, they sometimes say that they had visualized it all along, while some others may see their achievements as having come as more of a surprise. Did you envisioned yourself as a success in the field of art or did it come as more of a pleasant surprise?
CZ~ I was always good at art since I was a little kid. I was known in class as the artist kid, so it seemed like the art bug was in me from an early age.
I've definitely visualized it all along, literally. I have always been into meditation and Creative Visualization. It's a technique (recently made popular again) in 'The Secret', for creating your reality by using the power of your mind and imagining your life the way you would like it to be. My mom taught it to me when I was a kid and I have always used it with much success. When I was a teenager and I needed a hundred bucks for some art supplies or something, I would visualize it and more often than not, in some strange way in a couple of days I would get a hundred bucks. So when I decided to start trying to make a name for myself in fine art, I made a point to do some heavy visualizations every day. It might sound cheesy but the shit really works.
So I did visualize it and worked really hard painting, networking and promoting so it was definitely a conscious effort, but I was and am still surprised that people like my work as much as they do. It's comforting to know that I am not the only one out there who loves monsters.
LG~ Everyone seems to be aware of the fact that you've worked in film, and most are especially aware of the fact that you have worked in the realm of horror. What's less known perhaps is that you have made vast contributions to all sorts of films. Could you name a few and were most of these experiences enjoyable?
Hmmmm..."Three Kings", "Contact", "The Rock", "There's Something About Mary".....I have worked on plenty of non horror films. The experiences have all been really different. Some fun, some not fun. I do prefer working on films with an element of fantasy or surrealism to them. I'd rather sculpt a weird demon than a pair of wrinkly, saggy tits like I did for "There's Something About Mary".
LG~ Although that's kind of cool too. (lol) I'm aware through reading and watching that you have been affected and influenced by the works of the magnificent and universally appreciated H.R. Giger. I am however, much more taken by the fact that you felt a connection to apocalyptic surrealist Zdzislaw Beksinski. Tell us if you can, how you think he affected you as an artist and how his consequent and unfortunate murder impacted your thinking as an artist and person.
CZ~ I think Beksinski was a genius and one of the greatest painters of the 20th century. His work completely blew me away the first time I saw it. His paintings convey such beautiful atmosphere, very dream like. I think that is where I find myself being influenced the most- his atmosphere. The worlds that Beksinski painted just feel like home to me. I was surprised at how affected I was by his murder. When I first heard about it, I broke down crying. It was just so fucking tragic, for a brilliant painter to make it into his 70's, survive his wife's death and his son's suicide just to get murdered by some dumb kid. It also hit me hard because my mother in law was living with us at the time and she was sick and dying.
LG~ So you were in a predisposed weakened state, but also it's difficult I am sure, to know that this happened to someone to whom you held in such high regard. I can see a definite connection in yours and the art of Beksinski, and am drawn into the dichotomy of his monsters seeming to appear broken and victimized themselves. Do you think the fact that your creatures possess this human-like and overtly connectible quality, was born of the influence of Beksinski?
CZ~ Could be, but I don't think so. I have been drawing these kinds of characters all my life. But I do think that's one of the reasons I felt so attracted to his work. We sort of had that in common.
"Chamberlaine" design by Chet Zar from Hellboy 2 (deltoro films)
LG~ that makes perfect sense. It seems that you have delved into many areas of creativity which would include music, film, painting and more. Is there any one particular expression of creativity or medium that you enjoy the most, aside from the financial reward of one outweighing another?
CZ~I really love painting, but it's hard to choose a favorite. I also love songwriting and studio recording as well. But I feel like I am the most suited to painting right now. I have a lot of artistic things I enjoy doing and when I choose one, I just throw myself into it 100 percent. It's really a matter of choosing one and allowing yourself to get into it. When I was playing in a band, I never even considered being a painter. I was totally into it in the way that I am now totally into painting. Who knows what the future will bring?
LG~ Good luck with continuing also to make music. As a matter of sheer human interest, describe if you could what it was like for you working on Hellboy.
CZ~ It was really fun for me. Guillermo allowed me to really kind of do my own thing, he didn't art direct me much which is always nice. And it helps when you know the film you are working on is going to come out halfway decent. That is one of the things that I don't like about working on films- all too often you know that the film will end up sucking so it's really hard to give it your all. But I always try .
LG~ Given the era in which you grew up, I would assume that creatively participating in the remake of Planet of the Apes was a much anticipated project. What was the feeling in finding out that you would be contributing to the remake of such a historically significant and iconographically popular series of films?
CZ~ It was cool to know I would be working on that until I started seeing merchandising executives from McDonalds coming in the shop to see what we were doing. That was one of those films where you see the signs that it's not going to be a great film. But I did have fun on it.
In one way it's cool to work on these remakes of old films you grew up on- but it also kind of sucks because they almost never better than the original.
LG~ With all the talk of perceived disparity in the two worlds of East and West Coast scenes as they relate to art, music etc., what do you see as being primarily different about these two coexisting and sometimes interdependent worlds?
CZ~ Amongst the artists there is not much difference as far as I can see. Being an artist seems to be kind of like it's own race. Artists I have encountered all over the world seem to really be similar types of people. I don't know about the gallery scene since I am not very connected out there.
"THE DEVIL's CONSCIENCE" by Chet Zar (oil on canvas) 30 x 24in
LG~ It couldn't be clearer in merely looking around, at the influence you've had on art at such a young age. What is it like to view a world which seems to be dramatically absorbing so much of your apocalyptic yet comedic style? In other words, does it flatter or offend you to see such a vast sea of overt influence and impersonation of your work?
CZ~ It's very flattering to me. It's how we all start out as artists, imitating our influences so it's kind of like a natural progression. I think it's really cool to see somebody who is influenced by my work take it beyond what I was doing. My hope is that the young artists will keep developing their own style and only use their influences as a jumping off point.
LG~ It's been said in other ways, but viewing you with your stepfather James Zar leads one to believe in a sense of destiny. Before knowing he was your stepfather, there was a sort of knowing in me, like , Oh yes...I see. This was my initial thought on viewing the magnificent double portrait executed by your gifted father. The sameness of you both in art and essentially visual type is rather fascinating to me. I mean, there are some differences sure, but I remember thinking but of course, he is the product of this remarkably gifted fantasy artist James Zar...which is still indeed true. Finding out that he was your non biological father somehow shocked me but simultaneously enhanced the beautiful view. It speaks of the power of spiritual intention and environment or something does it not?
CZ~ It always did seem like a very spiritual thing to me. We hit it off right away, like we had always known each other or something and our tastes in art and movies were always very similar. He had a big influence on me but I was already headed in that direction before he came along I think, which makes it all the weirder.
LG~ That's so cool. So many people working in creative fields, be they successful or not, seem to steer away from wanting their children to enter that field. Do you have any aversion to the idea of your children becoming working artists?
CZ~ My kids have never been very interested in becoming visual artists, although my youngest is a really good drummer and he loves music. I always tell them that life is too short not to follow your passion in life, so as far as I am concerned they should do what they love to do.
LG~ Are there existing untapped arenas of creativity about which you fantasize? After your displaying much diversity in the way of expression, I just wondered if there was another hidden desire, be it directly related or not, or any other creative hobbies or dreams you would like to develop or pursue ?
CZ~ I used to love to make little films when I was a kid. I still fantasize about making a film someday, but it would be such an undertaking and you have to rely on other people, something that I try not to do very often. As I mentioned earlier, I also love music and recording. That is a definite possibility in the future. I just need to get to the point where I have some spare time, which I don't see happening for a couple of years.
LG~ When you say that you don't usually stop painting, do you mean that you paint daily or do you have a need for creative hiatus?
CZ~ I paint everyday unless I have some sort of side job I am working on. usually the side job involves some sort of painting though, even if it is digital concept work for films. So I am still getting my daily exercises in. Sometimes after a big solo show I need to take a few days off, but never much more than that. Painting is fun for me. It's what I would do as a hobby if I wasn't an artist, so I don't usually feel the need to stop unless I am way overworked and exhausted.
LG~ Are there any ritualistic or organizational circumstances or surroundings that must exist in order for you to enter your creative zone?
CZ~ I am pretty flexible that way. I don't really need much to get into the painting mood. Music or some kind of audio stimulation helps. That's about it. Sometimes I like to put a movie on in the background. Maybe a little incense.
LG ~ Tell us what's immediately ahead for you.
CZ ~ Immediately ahead for me is some makeup effects and puppets I am creating for a music video. I also have a small solo show coming up at Copro Gallery in October, then a big solo show in New York in April. There are also some individual pieces for some group shows I am in. I have plenty to keep me going for a while.
LG ~ Thanks ever so much for taking the time to open a window into your world , into which we gawking voyeurs could temporarily see.
CZ~ Thanks for having me.
"GHOUL" by Chet Zar (oil on panel) 18 x 24in copyright: Chet Zar