The limitless talent of Chris Otley
Three years ago, while visiting London, England, my girlfriend and I decided to attend a studio visit that was organized by a local museum. This was a great opportunity to see an artists studio first hand and learn about the English art scene. Thus, we met up with a group of people in East London and visited the studio of a minimalist/reductive artist named Richard Galpin, who had recently created a commission that was featured on the High Line in Manhattan. After a highly entertaining and insightful tour of his workspace, the group descended upon the local pub to chat and get to know one another. It was then that I had a chance meeting with an artist named Chris Otley.
Hailing from the windswept moors of Northern England, not too far from the Scottish border, Chris grew up around animals of all sorts. Taking an early interest in the flora and fauna of his upbringing, he naturally gravitated towards the wildlife of the region, studying the anatomy of the creatures and deciphering it through his artwork. His proficiency with graphite opened up the opportunity for him to attend University at the Courtauld Institute in London, pursuing a degree in Art History. It was there that he thrived, developing his skill set and eventually seeking a postgrad degree in art. During that period, he took the time to travel the world, discovering a variety of new species along the way. Mirroring the early explorers of the past, Chris took an interest in cartography, a passion that he would begin to implement into his own work. These influences helped him to refine his artistry and embark on a new path of interpreting the world around him.
With his limitless talent, and a passion for his craft, he eventually chose to give back to the community and pursue a career in teaching, having the opportunity to head the Art Department of a well known, highly acclaimed institution located in Oxford, England. Balancing his time between teaching and drawing, he found a way to mutually dedicate himself to his two loves in life. While time constraints means that his artwork and commissions have to be completed during the weekend and holidays, Chris is still able to keep an extensive sketch book and focus on his large scale drawings when time permits. His integrity as an artist shines through at all times, something that both his students and fans can fully appreciate.
Sitting with Chris at the pub that day in 2012 and hearing his story, it reinforced my notion that art is all around us, everywhere we look. It was right then and there that I knew that he was someone I absolutely needed to work with. His ability to depict the natural world in a stunning and lifelike way blew my mind, I couldn't believe that the imagery I was looking at was created with a pencil on paper. Over the years, our conversations flourished and it was in late 2014 that I finally had the opportunity to show his work to an American audience. His illustrations were greatly received by the public, as visitors from all over witnessed first hand the exceptional talent that Chris brings to the table. This artist has an amazing career ahead of him and it's exciting to see the places he will go.