I met Spencer this summer. He invited me over to his apartment, showed me his paintings and talked about cats and boys. I can’t remember meeting anyone so open-hearted and sincere recently. Especially someone from the art scene, an artist. I hope Spencer remains that way even when he becomes the super selling mega art star he deserves to be.
Spencer Chalk-Levy‘s work is a metaphor for melancholy. It carries it in a way you don’t see it expressed through objects, but through facial expressions, silhouettes and color. Looking at his artwork you find yourself thinking about the what-ifs, giving way to nostalgia for the long lost boyish years.
After graduating the School of Visual Arts in New York, Spencer finds esthetic connection working for the fashion industry but then decides to evolve artistically and embarks on a journey to Berlin. I find him in his apartment in Kreuzberg, which he is sharing with 2 girls, 2 cats, his paintings and quite soon – a baby. We talk about his artistic development and his newest creative endeavor called Boys With Beards – a coloring book of bearded boys he has met or imagined through the years.
WIN a signed BOYS WITH BEARDS coloring book courtesy of Grateful Grapefruit by leaving a comment below and sharing the interview on Twitter with hashtag #SCLBWB The winner will be announced coming Friday 23.11.2012
What brought you to Berlin? What made you leave NYC?
I was living in and around NYC my whole life and after art school was working at the Miu Miu store in SoHo. I saw my life path in front of me and I thought I was destined more than just selling bags. Originally I was going to move to Paris, but after lots of research and convincing from my brother (who also lives in Berlin) I decided on the city.
When did you decide to become an artist? Do you remember the exact moment?
Ever since I can remember I was doing art and drawing. I use to sit in front of the TV for hours and hours with a pile of my Dad’s computer paper and colored pencils and crayons. I think i first realized I was an artist in 2nd grade when a painting of a woman’s face I made went into the lobby of my Elementary School and stayed there for three years.
Describe your creative process. What inspires you, how do you paint?
Most of the time it starts out with an idea and a problem. Making the image is solving of the problem and sometimes it may take months, years or just 10 minutes to figure things out. I am inspired by unique people and famous stories from history. I don”t have a studio because when I did I found that I never went. So I paint in my room and surround myself with things that are part of me. Also I tend to change outfits several times in a 6 hour painting session.
Which artists inspire you?
My artwork is almost always figurative and is all about the subject(s) face and expressions. So any painters that can uniquely capture a moment and a spirit, someones soul. More specifically German artists such as Otto Dix, Christian Schad and Max Beckmann. Also French artists like Manet and Toulouse-Lautrec.
Your most recent project is a coloring book called Boys With Beards. How did you come up with the idea and who are the boys in it? Tell me more about the project.
It started out having the drawings and really liking the simple contours of the faces. One of them I ended up coloring in, the cover, but then something clicked and I thought maybe other people regardless of artistic ability would like to try coloring them in too. Then I got my ideas together, contacted AA Bronson for a forward and found an amazing printing company right here in Berlin. Although very slowly things happened kind of organically for me.
Isn’t the bearded boy idea too over explored? It’s been an ongoing trend in art and fashion for more than 2 years now.
2 years? More like 10. I think that Men with facial hair is one of those things that is not a trend but a cemented part of our popular culture. Its like when people say stripes are out this season…
What’s your day job now – how does it influence your work?
I work at high-end Brothel in Mitte. Not as a prostitute, as a bar tender. I am a pretty shitty bar tender but the bar manager is also a painter and met me at an opening and said I would be perfect for the job. Right now I am working on small monochrome drawings of things I see in the brothel.
You are about to become a father. How do you feel about that and what is the most important advice you want to give to the kid?
I am really excited to become a father! It’s hard to give advice to someone you don’t know, especially your unborn child. But if I had to I’d say, ” Always be yourself and always try to be honest. If you follow those two things then chances are the right people will always surround you.”
What are you doing after this interview?
I am finishing setting up for a wedding taking place at my house tomorrow. My Lesbian roommates are getting married and I am in charge of flowers and food and overall decor.