The Ritz-Carlton Club of Lake Tahoe awards painting commission to Truckee artist | SierraSun.com

The Ritz-Carlton Club of Lake Tahoe awards painting commission to Truckee artist

Wendy Lautnerarts andamp; entertainment editor

Wendy Lautner, arts andamp; entertainment editorChris Crossen at home in his Sierra Meadows studio.

In 2001, Truckee resident Chris Crossen had just finished his Masters of Business from UC Berkeley. Having secured a job while still in school, it looked like he was going to graduate with job security. And then, the dot com bubble burst, plunging many Bay Area businesses into a recession. Crossens job was rescinded; and thats when he picked up his paintbrush.

It was great to have a chunk of time where I could just mess around, Crossen said of the unexpected transition between school and the full-time position hed been anticipating. I think thats when you do the most interesting things when youre just messing around you can just be free.

While Crossen wasnt exactly without artistic influence (his brother, aunt and father are all artists or have been at one time), he had no formal artistic training.Ive always doodled and sketched, he said.

And then one day in 2002, while mixing colors in his sketchbook, Crossen accidentally created his own unique style an abstract representation of place and light conveyed by simple squares painted side by side and one on top of the other in interesting geometrical formations.

Ive always gravitated towards the minimalist and Im intrigued by patterns, Crossen said of the unique square patterns he paints with water colors. I love the natural process. When I mix up my paints, I know generally what theyre going to do, but not exactly, and that is exciting to me.

The evolution of Crossens style and paintings is often fueled by the uncertainty of the paints he uses. On one of many trips to Costa Rica to visit his brother, Crossen noticed the high humidity had a profound affect on the paint drying time, causing the squares to blur together. Thus, a new style was born.

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You just work and work and work and then you hit something thats interesting, he said. Its all just a great experiment.The business of becoming an artist is possibly the greatest experiment of all. Encouraged by his friends and family to sell his pieces, Crossen painted greeting cards and worked hard to sell them in desirable bookstores in San Francisco. Then, he started contacting galleries and employed the networking skills he learned in business school to develop key contacts in the art world.

The result is a healthy list of exhibitions, commissions and accolades, including a nomination for the SECA Award from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and, most recently, a commission from the Ritz Carlton of Lake Tahoe to submit two pieces for its art collection inside the hotel to open in the fall of 2009.One piece will consist of three paintings, side by side, to give the feel of the gradation of ridges you see as you look out on the mountains around Lake Tahoe, he said of his idea for one of the Ritz works.All of Crossens pieces intend to capture the color and light of a place, most often places hes been. Works inspired by Tibet involve a lot of reds and blues, pieces from Costa Rica and days at the beach (Crossens an avid surfer) tend to have heavy gold, green and blue influences. Crossen had the opportunity to travel to Prince William Sound after the tragic oil spill of 1989. The painting inspired by the polluted Sound mixes tar-black squares with lighter blues and greens.Im always trying to capture the mood and feel of a particular place, he said. I love making every painting, theyre all really special to me. Theyre like meditations in a way.