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Rising Stars: Meet Chris Dudley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Dudley. 

Hi Chris, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
My fascination with drawing started very early, even before entering school. Later, while attending Madison Park Elementary, a drawing of mine was selected to be displayed at an exhibition for school-age kids. This was held at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Upon visiting the exhibition, I noticed the artwork was arranged by grade level. While it was amazing seeing my little drawing displayed, I was very young (2nd or 3rd grade), so I saw work that far exceed my ability. 

Rather than being discouraged, this opened my eyes to what was possible. More practice allowed me to reach a decent level but I desired to improve further. After much independent studying, practice, and suffering through a LOT of bad drawings, things started to “click”. It got easier. 

I became enamored with realism drawing, especially the human face and figure. I reasoned, that if can draw a person and have it recognizable by them or loved ones, I could learn to draw almost anything. Prior to this, I started a T-shirt and graphics design business (Dudley Graphics) at the age of 19. Years later, when I had evidence that my drawing ability had sufficiently improved, I totally switched gears to a more drawing-focused business and changed the name to Chris Dudley Art. 

I spent about 10-15 years doing commission portraits and eventually started entering and being accepted into Juried Exhibitions. An injury (Full Ruptured Achillies aka totally snapped) which had me laid up for quite a while, led to my getting into illustration, particularly children’s books. Illustration work has virtually taken over CDA. While we still service clients with graphic design work and portraiture, the bulk of our time is devoted to illustration. It has been this way for the last 8 years and doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. 

With the growth of Chris Dudley Art, I have had to assemble a small team to handle basically everything else, so I can focus on art and creativity. At some point, you just can’t do it all! My eldest daughter, Alayah Dudley, has been very instrumental in orchestrating the administrative side. 

It has been a fun journey of over 25 years, thus far! 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Nope, it hasn’t always been easy! 

Learning to draw was HARD, enjoyable but HARD! Plus, your vision improves faster than your ability, which is extremely frustrating. Basically, you visually understand your work looks like “trash” before you learn WHY it does, let alone how to fix it. Frustration at its best!

Most non-artists believed artists are born with the ability. I’ve always found it interesting that this is most often only applied to the arts (visual, performing, music, etc…). These are endeavors that one must do without incentive, in order to get good enough to be incentivized. Basically, a willingness to spend time being mediocre and somehow enjoy the process. 

While one may have pre-existing (or developed) traits that make things more favorable to learning and understanding how to draw, no one is born with the ability! No one! No more than anyone is born knowing how to read, write, do math calculations, cook, play an instrument, etc… If everyone was forced to learn how to draw for 13 years (like with the 3 R’s) everyone would be, at least, decent at drawing. 

The next challenge was to learn where your art “lives”. Upon realizing that art touches everything, this opened my eyes to where art is needed, even required. Nearly every man-made item was drawn first. Clothes, cell phones, shoes, buildings, etc… all have to be drawn first. Art goes well beyond pretty pieces of wall decor. 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I specialize in drawing, particularly illustration. I still enjoy realism as well. Though some see these as miles apart, I continue to learn from both disciplines. I also paint and dabble in all things art! 

I am most proud of not giving up on learning to draw. I’m still learning! 

Every artist has a unique perspective that only they can bring to a piece of art. I am not that old, but consistently drawing for 87% of my life, gives me a slight edge. That being, I can use mental energy on solving clients’ visual problems, not trying to figure out how to draw. The drawing part has gotten a lot easier. Muscle memory and a healthy (mental) visual library both come with the “mileage” of observation and pushing the pencil. 

Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Most people realize that a singer does something “different” when they go from talking to singing, and so do artists! 

We don’t draw the same way we write. You have to do something “different”! 

Learn to draw, you won’t regret it! 

Contact Info:

Image Credits

Layla Dudley

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