You are currently viewing Word of Mouth: Nashville Conversations— Chip Boles, Illustrator

Why illustration?

In college I realized I was most connected to drawing—specifically making 2-D surfaces look 3-D.

You eventually transitioned from paper and pencil into mural work. 

Yes, which was a happy accident. I was invited to work on 22 murals at a Kentucky middle school, which was the catalyst that made me want to pursue art full-time. However, around the same time I also came to the conclusion that a freelancer’s job is to find work. The actual projects are almost like a vacation.

I’ve never enjoyed prostituting myself out either.

{Laughs} My high school art school said once, “If you’re gonna be a hooker, at least be a high dollar one.” As an artist you have to be your own agent.

There’s this mystique surrounding how artists keep the lights on.

And there shouldn’t be. I paint sets for The Nashville Children’s Theatre, murals for the TV show Nashville and do odd freelance jobs, which I get through my website and mostly word-of-mouth. It’s always about landing that next big gig. Now I’m thinking about all of the self-promotion I should be doing. Crap.

Do you struggle with talking about your highly unusual, and impressive, skill set?

More than anything else. Sitting down and making work isn’t the problem. Self-promotion is like studying the biology of a creature I don’t understand. I need to make cold calls part of my everyday routine. Just like meditation, I have to let go of the outcome.

How does meditation influence your work?

Similar to a jazz musician, it’s allowed me to let go of my rational mind. I’m originally from Gallatin, Tennessee and moved away from the South for ten years. From 2007-2011 I lived in Japan and taught English and before that I lived at a Zen Center in California. I wanted to be in a place where meditation was a priority.

What do people find most appealing about your work?

First and foremost, it’s accessible, realistic and speaks in a language that people are used to. My work now is a grownup version of what did as a kid with my #2 pencil. I draw outer space and monster people. (Laughs)

That’s the parallel with meditation. Parring it down keeps things simple. 

I get overwhelmed easily. Creativity flows better when it’s just me, a piece of paper and a pencil.

Me too. Do you ever have a hard time working and living in the same space? I have a hard time shutting my brain off. 

Yes. I’m still figuring out how to strike a balance between my work and personal time. Freelancing is isolating.

I know it.  When did you first realize that you were great at drawing? 

I started off tracing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and on the 51st time, realized that I could replicate it myself. Art was my way of connecting with pretty girls and the other kids. I’m a classic, introverted only child.

Same! I live in Lilyland 90% of the time. 

(Laughs) Me too. So much that it took me a long time to realize other people don’t do that. But how would you know? It’s funny, your apartment is just like mine— half coffee shop-half playpen. We’re big kids.

How do you stay childlike?

I give myself permission to get lost in the things that I love —what adults call the flow state.

You don’t overcomplicate it. How did you find your chosen subject matter?

It’s like going to the store and getting the right size for your body. This art fits me because it’s what I’ve always liked to look at. Realism feels like home to me. It wasn’t a choice but rather resigning myself to it.

What do you love about art?

It’s a pleasurable act that is rewarding because I see myself progressing everyday. Art is one of the only things that is simultaneously priceless and worthless at the same time. I need to do it otherwise I’d just sit around.

Check out Chip Boles work here. 

Imagery by Steven Knapp. 


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