Monday, December 18, 2017
Books

What's Christopher Still reading?

Nightstand

Christopher Still

Still, a member of the Florida Artist Hall of Fame, is renowned for his paintings depicting the state's history and environment, with several of his works gracing the chamber of the Florida House of Representatives. Still, 54, is a graduate of Dunedin High who received a full scholarship to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and continued his studies with courses in human anatomy at Jefferson Medical School and an apprenticeship in traditional techniques in Florence, Italy. The artist talked with the Tampa Bay Times on Nov. 10 by phone, from his studio in Tarpon Springs.

What's on your nightstand?

I have what I can only describe as an old antique cigar smoking chest. There's a compartment in it, and I have a stack. My recent one is Alligators in B-Flat by Jeff Klinkenberg. I like to read one story right before I fall asleep, but I really don't read it in chronological order. I'm a Florida Cracker child who deeply loves Florida. I think Florida is supremely beautiful without any alteration. I love Florida nature. I love Florida places. I read Jeff Klinkenberg and I hear the voices of people I want to meet. Jeff to me is like Florida's Smithsonian, capturing folklore and fact together. I also am reading Michael Francis' St. Augustine: America's First City. It is the 450th commemorative of the city. He amazes me in his championing of Florida. I find Michael Francis brings the past to life. It feels effortless. I also have an art book, too. Japaneseme. It shows the influence in Japanese art on the turn-of-the-century artists. It's a book of patterns and painting.

Why that book now?

I've been revisiting a lot of the ways that Floridians have made a living over the years, visiting shrimp boats, strawberry fields, orange groves. I started following the lives of some of these people, including shrimpers who in many cases risk their lives just to bring in bait shrimp, and as I painted the shrimp, I started to gold leaf the shrimp. It stimulated my memory of Japanese screens because in Philadelphia there was a time I studied Japanese architecture.

When you were a student, was there a book that you held onto through those years?

Probably Gabriel García Márquez's 100 Years of Solitude. He was very visual to me to read.

That's funny. You answered with a novel. I posed the question thinking of art books.

To me, quite honestly this might be a departure, but to me I read the surfaces of paintings. It's the same as with great literature. I get thrilled when I am reading something and someone is able to take me to a place I wasn't expecting to go, and they are able to craft words to make me feel that. For me personally, I feel that with sophisticated passages of color and transparency and paint texture. For me, my library really was all the great museums of the world. I walk in a museum just like I read. I could go into the Louvre and sail through it, moving fast sometimes because I don't want to exhaust myself on things that are not really what I want to study, and then I'll hit upon (the painting), whatever it might be, and I'll look at the surface. I'll look at the composition and I'll feel no barrier of time between what the person was doing and me, and I'll soak it up and try to learn from it. It can be as exciting as a certain color coming through the paint and a splash of blue on top of it. That's reading paintings.

Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.

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