Lockhart Artist Spotlight: Christopher St. Leger
By Tam Francis
Christopher St. Leger is a visual artist who paints figures and landscapes. He and his family were drawn to Lockhart in the same way he believes many are: the allure of a smaller city and its scale of community. He also thought it a great place to set up a studio, which he did in the backyard barn of his first home here. Now, at Commerce Gallery, he is daily onsite in his studio and open regularly for visitors. “The downtown location has been a great resource for art discussions, meeting guest artists, and generally for experiencing artists who have navigated profitable careers out of visual art making.”
When Christopher first moved to Lockhart, he began painting pein-air (on site) around the town, either under a tree in somebody’s yard, or out of his hatchback. “It was a great way to familiarize himself with the colors and atmosphere of this place. Painting is what I do every day, like a job. I begin a painting and see it through to its end. Before, during, and after, I am searching “around” for what else might deserve exploring in paint. It’s a heavy reliance on my eyes, but painting is simply a field to which I feel strongly committed. Because I paint landscapes, figures, or buildings, what is it that I find so uniquely my own? Lockhart has been the subject of my paintings during these last few years.” Capturing and possibly glorifying Lockhart has been challenging of worthwhile for Chris.
Part of his journey involved a seminal experience with what appeared as an ordinary regional gallery, housing solo artist Ian Potts (UK 1936-2014) that changed his ideas and trajectory of his career. “I loved his work. More so, his work was for sale, ie not part of a private collection in a major art museum, which up until that point I’d not experienced much. His work was in watercolor but also strikingly contemporary. This fascinated me because the only art that I had experimented with, and that my BFA friends had been seemingly restricted to, had to be geared toward the explosive — sardonic, anti-decorative, constructs that strove to break any and every painterly tradition.”
Like Edward Hopper or Andrew Wyeth, Christopher has been drawn to his locale, intent upon painting his surroundings as they already are, allowing the commentary or narrative to develop in its own soft way. He puts forth a structure of constraints or limitations in the geography of his subject matter or his medium and color palette. “A theme might surface, eventually, of stubborn beauty and connectedness. Like how Mark Rothko worked in abstracts for most of his life before toying with rectangular masses of color. Rothko spent most of his years stirring complexity into his work, but his legacy will forever be the joy he developed later in his life in simply asking questions about mixing colors.”
Much of Christopher’s attention as a painter is on light, and always has been. “For years I practiced the craft of watercolor, of recreating light and atmosphere by working in thin layers of pigment on bright white paper. I later shifted to oil paint, which is bold and heavy, and capable of darker values. Lockhart has shifted from being my workplace to that of my subject matter and inspiration. I’m a family guy, and so much of my time is spent driving my kids to their activities. By shifting my painter’s eye to Lockhart, I find myself filled with more curiosity.”
Christopher can also be found volunteering in the community on the Planning and Zoning Committee, and he often donates prints and small originals for worthy charities and causes. We are blessed to count him among our Lockhart own. Stop by Commerce Gallery or visit him at www.ChristopherStLeger.com