TEDxUCLA 2012: Open

Watching paint dry


About Chris

Chris Rutterford is a painter with a fast growing reputation in the UK. He was widely published as an illustrator in London magazines but hankered after more challenging briefs. In the last few years he’s moved back to Scotland and has focused on producing dynamic and epic figurative oil murals with a strong Scottish identity.


Chris: What I want to talk about today is a very simple idea: that painting and the act of creation is fundamentally interesting to people and that it can be a satellite product in its own right.

Chris: I keep saying to people that Michelangelo, when he painted the Sistine Chapel, it was amazing. But if you’d have been there when he was doing it, it would have been even better.

Chris: I first put this idea into practice in 2010 at a big solo show. And what I did was I had a 14-foot-tall historical painting that had been lurking for two years, and I just wasn’t able to finish it and get enough sense of community into the crowd scene. So I thought when I had the show, I’d use this opportunity and mate the painting, the hook for the show, laid it on the floor, and told people “Come on down and I’ll paint you into the army, in the show.” And I managed to get quite a lot of press and and it worked really well. They put on fake beards and waved plastic swords and a month later the painting was finished.

Chris: Six months later, off the back of that, I got an excellent commission, a 70-foot-long Tam O’Shanter mural for a pub in Glasgow. This time ’round I didn’t think it was practical to have a live painting, so what I did was I cast members of the bar as witches and warlocks and I had a life-sized horse, and to get the similar pressures on myself as a live painting I put a camera in my studio and time lapsed myself whilst I did it. So I got a document of the process. Four months later I had 50 foot of the mural complete and I did the last 20 foot in another show live.

Chris: Since then, I’ve built a camera into my normal working practice and I’ve been trying to get myself in situations where I can paint live as much as possible. It’s a case of squeeze the tube and see what comes out.

Chris: So what we’re gonna do now is show you the last film that we made live in a church hall in Edinburgh about a month ago.

Scott: Okay, so we’re going to take a little risk here and see if we can get Chris up on Skype. I don’t know what time it is in Scotland, but I don’t think it’s the time it is here today.

Scott: Chris, can you hear us? I don’t think we can hear you, Chris. Okay I will just, since I’m Scottish, too, I will tell you what Chris is saying because I can mime it. Chris is telling you that he’s excited to get started on this process. He hasn’t created it yet. He’s decided that headphones help.

Scott: So what Chris is going to do is give us a thumbs up, turn to the canvas, and he’s going to start creating his TEDxUCLA talk. We’ll be visiting with him again towards the end of the conference. He’ll be actually doing a time lapse of what he’s been doing throughout the day and we’ll play it and hopefully actually get some audio.

Scott: So we are going to try to get him up on Skype and he is going to play through Skype a time lapse of his visual TED talk that he’s been doing while we’ve been in the room today. So, Chris, can you hear us?

Chris: I can hear you. Can you hear me?

Scott: Wonderful.

Chris: Happy day!

Scott: So tell us tell us what you’ve done and show us, show us what you’ve been working on.

Chris: Well, I just kind of got on with it seeing as we weren’t talking really. So here we go. So there you go.

Scott: Thank you, Chris. Do you have any parting comments for the TEDx crowd here?

Chris: Well, hopefully that worked for you. It’s been emotional for me. Thanks very much for having me. Next time you want visual aids, you know where to come.

Scott: Thank you, Chris.