Take a journey with Fine Art Today into the “secret places” painted by artist Chris Strunk.
Like many artists, whether historical or contemporary, painter Chris Strunk is often struck by particular locations and scenes he happens upon during his day-to-day experiences. Strunk is constantly snapping photos, using the technology as a way to sketch and quickly capture a variety of views that speak to him. However, rather than copying the photos, Strunk uses his mechanical images to create something organic, arranging sets of photos as a reference before considering his composition. Once he begins, he will work then step away, never working without clarity and intention. “I have learned to feel my way through paintings in this way,” the artist states. “Waiting for clarity is not necessarily thinking — clarity happens for everyone if they can train themselves to wait. Eventually the subject and the work on the canvas become so compelling that I couldn’t stop even if I tried.”

Chris Strunk, “Saugatuck Evening,” 2015, oil on canvas, 39 x 52 in. (c) Chris Strunk 2015

Strunk also draws visual inspiration from his robust book collection. The artist states, “I keep my art library handy and am routinely looking at the work of artists that inspire me. There are always books on the studio floor to be perused during painting sessions. Some of the books are a constant source. For example, at the moment there are monographs on Edward Hopper, George Bellows, and Ivan Shishkin. There is also a history of Italian 19th-century painting and a history of American tonalism, one of my favorites.”

Chris Strunk, “Cosby, TN in Winter,” 2014, oil on canvas, 36 x 60 in. (c) Chris Strunk 2015

The artist writes, “Everyone has secret places where they can go and be whole. My paintings are often of these locations.” For several years, Strunk has been exploring — both physically and artistically — the dunes on Lake Michigan, near his home in Holland, Michigan. His secret places involve wandering off the beaten trail, exploring locations on his own. “On the easel right now is a view through the trees on top of one of the biggest dunes,” says Strunk. “The woods up there have a different magic. At one of the higher points is a secret place where one can see Lake Michigan in the distance; it’s an epic view. For me, the walks have become part of the process and I take my time in reverence.”
Stylistically, Strunk’s work is a melding of representation and abstraction. Within the artist’s oeuvre one will find works in both categories, but his landscapes have a special, almost impressionistic, allure. “The Approaching Storm” from 2014 is especially beautiful. Standing along the shores of Lake Michigan, the viewer gazes across rumbling surf as dramatic, imposing clouds appear to be closing in from the horizon. Strunk’s application of oil lends itself to the scene, which we can imagine is in constant flux and movement. Further, the palette displays a rich arrangement of blues, yellows, whites, greens, and, perhaps, hints of orange.

Chris Strunk, “Cardiff by the Sea,” 2013, oil on canvas, 40 x 27 in. (c) Chris Strunk 2015

The viewer is left longing to find Strunk’s secret place in “Saugatuck Evening” from 2015. From an elevated vantage point, the viewer looks out over the fading sunset across Lake Michigan. A beautiful array of patterned dabbles of pink, purple, and orange fragment a blue sky. In the foreground, a few trees and grasses balance the palette and contrast against the sky.
Work by Strunk can be found at several galleries around the country, including Water Street Gallery, Terra Gallery, and The Fine Art Gallery of Bronxville.
To learn more, visit Chris Strunk.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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