C.J. Ranes {E} Artist Feature

by Christina Diaz

Medium: Oils

“Wake, Work, Paint, Sleep.”
Born and bred in Lockport, Louisiana, fine artist Christopher Jude Ranes spends the hours at his 9-5 job day dreaming about when he can go home and paint. He admits that some days are harder than others.

Currently residing in Virginia Beach, Virginia Christopher really started to take his art more seriously, specifically painting, in late 2009. Prior to that his work was abstract, colorful and somewhat functional. Christopher even dabbled in music for a bit but then decided to give it all of it up to seriously focus on realism. Christopher couldn’t be happier with this decision.

For the last 8 months or so, C.J. has been solely producing work for his very first solo show at Studio Evolve Tattoo in Virginia Beach. The show opened on August 4th and will hang through October. Also due out in October is the book ‘Antennae of Inspiration: the Insect Art Project’ from Out of Step books, one of C.J.’s pieces graces the pages of the new book. If it’s anything like their Eight Arms of Inspiration book, it’s sure to be a stellar collection.

Fun fact about Christopher: He has 6 fingers on his left hand.

Keep reading to know more about this 11 fingered artist extraordinaire.

{E}: Were you artistic as a child?
CJR: Yeah, I kinda was, never serious though. I remember I used to draw Van Halen pictures for my aunt, haha. You know, the VH symbol with the wing, stripe thingys on it? I’d draw the whole band on stage. I think I even drew one (brace yourself for the creativity of a child) of a Van with hail falling on it. Get it? Van….Hailin’. Perhaps I should’ve kept that one to myself. Anyways, Once I got a little older I started drawing images from magazines like, Thrasher, Mad, Cracked, etc. A lot of skulls, aliens, and little weird creatures.

Thinking back on it now I’m realizing I was always very into rushing it though. Hurry, hurry and get on to the next. Wish I’d been more patient. Hmm…kids.

{E}: Describe the process you go through to create a piece. 
CJR: Most of the time I just look at images until something grabs me. It could be an image I’ve considered or looked at a hundred times before but it just never “clicked” until now, ya know.

As far as the creation goes, I mostly work on panel now. I thought I’d miss the canvas bounce but the smoothness of a panel trumps that easily. I usually gesso it using a drywall taping knife. Once that dries I’ll tone it with a mix of burnt Sienna and turp, wipe it with a rag and then start my sketch, also with burnt sienna and a #5 filbert. From there I start blocking in values, sometimes with local colors and sometimes not. Just depends on my mood I guess. Once I’m happy with the shape and block-in then I’ll start rendering. Please note that the “once I’m happy with” section of the previous sentence almost never means that it’s correct and I should move on, it just means I love the rendering process and can’t wait to start it. This costs me a lot of time, but it’s time I love spending. The only other thing I can think to mention is, I normally work really thin using either turp or Liquin original for medium.

{E}: Are you self-taught or did you attend a trade school?
CJR: Self-taught in that I didn’t attend an actual art school, but I have friends who teach me things and who have also been patient with my lack of proper techniques and limited knowledge of art and it’s history. I also study instructional dvd’s by different artists. I really like the dvd’s because they offer a variety of styles and techniques that I adopt and then adapt. I’m still very young as a painter and trying to work out my style. Recently I signed up for a 6 week figure drawing class taught by my friend Ken Garcia Olaes, but to answer the original question, no formal training.

{E}: Tell me about your art. How would you describe it?
CJR: Mostly cloudy through the morning commute, clearing to partly cloudy around noon, maybe some light drizzle, and a 75% chance of thunderstorms throughout the evening. Just kidding. It’s a kind of realism. I love realism. I’d say it’s my attempt to capture the light on, and temperature of an object. I hope that doesn’t sound crazy.

{E}: What inspires you?
CJR: Art and artists. Light and Shadow. Music and nature. All that shit. What inspires me the most is being around other artists and just talking about art, sharing techniques, and looking at other peoples work. I love to see brushstrokes and all the little subtle colors here and there. I don’t think most people realize how much blue and green there is in the skin tones on paintings. Looking at them up close shows you this, and it’s things like that that light the fire in me, make me work harder, learn more, and progress. Just thinking about it right now has me all giddy.

{E}: Whom are some of your favorite artists and why? How have they influenced your work? 
CJR: From the past I’d say my favorites are Caravaggio, Georges de La Tour, Peter Paul Rubens and Gerrit van Honthorst to only name a few. I love their use of Chiaroscuro. It just pulls me in. Besides, I’ve always been more drawn to darker imagery. Then there’s Mr. William A. Bouguereau. I don’t even know where to begin explaining the mastery that he achieved and the impression that his piece “the Remorse of Orestes” left on me as I gazed at it (with my mouth open and probably drooling) from 6 feet away. Of course there are many more from back then but I’ll take the easy way out and say that the Baroque period was my favorite period and I want to work that in as I develop my own style.

As far as the contemporary realists go I’d say David Kassan, Teresa Oaxaca, Jeff Gogue, Casey Baugh, Jeremy Geddes, Terry Strickland, Josh Suda, Jenna Anderson and Jeremy Lipking, are the first ones to come to mind but there are soooo many more. I’ll give that to Instagram. Instagram has turned me on to so much mind boggling art that I could go on for days reeling off names of new artists I love.  I will say this though, Henrik Uldalen, you sir, are a master of mood and I’m ridiculously in love with your tones.

Something I feel that falls under this question, only a few people know about me is almost every night I fall asleep watching either David Kassan’s “drawing closer to life” or Jeremy Lipking’s “the portrait sketch” dvd hoping that knowledge will seep into my subconscious and manifest itself in my work eventually. Everyone’s got to have some “Dumbo feathers” I guess.

{E}: What are some of your favorite art tools and why?
CJR: Nothing out of the ordinary, really. I do prefer to use mongoose and/or sable brushes. A few months back I did my first commission piece and with the cash I splurged on some top of the line Rosemary & co. brushes. One of the best art decisions I’ve EVER made. Sure any artist can paint a masterpiece with a q-tip if they wanted to but having good brushes really makes a difference. To me anyway.

Also, I paint from a 22” LCD monitor (which I plan to upgrade to a larger LED when I can), and take a ton of progress shots with my phone as I work. Some artists do the mirror trick and things of that nature, but snapping a phone pic can really give you a quick and very different perspective that doesn’t require you to leave the easel. It really shows you your errors. I find that pretty valuable.

Lastly, I wrote reminders all over my easel so I see them every time I look at it. They say things like “back away,” “temperature,” “squint,” “measure,” and “think.”

{E}: Tell me about your first ink experience.
CJR: My first ink experience was very much average. Like most people I rushed into a studio, took the first artist available and did it. Don’t get me wrong, I do not regret it in the least. It is still the centerpiece of my sleeve but it’s been built upon by the super talented Andy Chambers at Studio Evolve Tattoo. That dude is a fucking beast. The whole sleeve is inspired by the band “The Sleepytime Gorilla Museum.” Lots of insects and fall leaves and stuff all surrounding the bands logo (my first tattoo) which he made look etched into a piece of tree bark. Super sick.

FACT: It was a painting of Andy’s that first inspired me to start attempting realism and really focusing on art.

View more of Chris’ work on his site christopherjuderanes.com
and be sure to follow him on Instagram @c_j_ranes

C.J. Ranes {E} Artist Feature