Some years ago while living in Tucson, artist Chris Huang became close friends with a woodworker. When the woodworker was finished with certain projects, he would discard the leftover wood into a giveaway pile and offer it up to anyone who wanted or needed it. On each visit to his friend, Huang would take a few pieces of wood for his artwork, calling it his first free medium.
“Taking the wood started off as a necessity, because I had no means to frame my work,” Huang says. Eventually the material became his drawing board and he starting sketching on the wood with colored pencil and ink.
Originally from Michigan, 39-year-old Huang traces his earliest artistic influences to what he had seen in comic books. He says that since all of his artwork is technically drawing, he learned a lot of the concepts of composition when he was a child. His style evolved as he grew into a teenager and discovered music and rock posters from the 1960s and 1970s, leading him to begin incorporating the era’s psychedelic shapes into his work. Both Huang and his work evolved and adapted in his move to Arizona.
“Since I was living in Tucson, there was obviously a lot of Southwestern influences,” Huang says. “I also began loving and being influenced by Diego Rivera and his wife, Frida Kahlo, as well as by Georgia O’Keeffe.”
Huang left Tucson for Boulder in 2005 with his wife to settle down and raise a family. They now have two sons.
When Huang looks at his artwork now, he says he sees influences of where he’s been, where he grew up, and other styles he’s picked up along the way, including Native American and other indigenous art. Being Chinese, Huang says his heritage is evident and understandable in his work.
One of Huang’s favorite things to draw is the mandala, a Sanskrit word loosely-translated to mean a circle and representing the universe. Huang’s portfolio includes dozens of mandalas, either on their own or incorporated into another creation.
“I’m very drawn to mandalas because I see them as being infinite,” Huang says. “They represent cycles of life, and there’s no real beginning or end. I always try to express that concept, even though it’s often not always easy to explain.”
Although Huang has been drawing since childhood, he prefers wood to paper or any other type of canvas. Even when he sells replicated prints of his work on his website, he says wood has always been and will always be his preferred medium, and so each project begins there.
“I’ve grown to love wood because there’s just something about it that really speaks to me,” Huang says, adding that he really enjoys following the grains in the wood.
In reflecting on his work, Huang says his favorite pieces are always those he is working on at the time. Although if he had to choose work he’s most proud of, he says it would probably be a series he did that was focused on underground, featuring hearts and roots that brought together living things above and below the ground. The series, called Connections, included some of his favorite pieces and his most-used theme — the connection between humans and the earth.
“I love some of the early stuff I did,” Huang says. “There was one series that showed underground images and demonstrated the connection of plants and trees and expressed the whole theme of my work. Several pieces that I did in this series were significant for me to make.”
Huang’s work is split down the middle with commissioned pieces he makes for friends and customers, and those he makes for himself. He adds that he’s never at a shortage for ideas of what he plans to create, and he is enjoying the opportunity to collaborate and trade ideas with fellow artists. In the past, Huang has worked with friends to create wooden furniture, and currently he is working on multiple new projects.
“I just did some work with a friend where I used ink to draw on wooden bows he had created,” Huang says. “I have some woodburning coming up, and I’m excited because it’s something I’ve never done before. I’m looking forward to seeing how it comes out.”
Huang recently invested a lot of time in building a new website to showcase his portfolio and sell his work. Although his artwork is not currently showing in any galleries, his work can be found on the walls of The Farm Recreational Marijuana Dispensary in Boulder. Additionally, he holds a pop-up show about once a year at Rising Tide Tattoo Emporium.
He can also be found in North Boulder at Juniper Books, where he spends his time buried in custom book collections, planning out what wood piece he’ll create next.