*This article originally appeared in RVA Mag #36, on the streets now at all your favorite spots.
“The first time I feel like I really internalized what art was…” with that, Chris Visions begins the story of his first art teacher — his mother — sketching out a rose. The setting of the story was Visions’ grandmother’s kitchen, where Al Green filled the room. With couple of connecting lines showing him the magic of art, that was the day when Visions began to understand the fundamentals of illustrating objects in the natural world.
Now, it’s 2019. Visions and I are drinking orange juice in his private studio. We cover a wide range of subjects over the course of our four-hour conversation while he shows me his collection of journals and sketches. Having recently gained some fame in the world of graphic novel illustration, one thing is obvious: even if the world hasn’t completely realized it yet, Visions has the talent to place him alongside the giants in his field — Paul Pope, David Mazzuchelli, Jim Steranko, and other names that ring out in the world of comics.
And yet, somehow, he’s the most humble person in Virginia. He’s not one of those stereotypical, presumptuous art snobs you see lampooned so frequently. No, Visions is the kind of person who sees Kill Bill and Stanley Kubrick at the Byrd Theatre and gets Chinese food from China Panda on Sheppard Street. He likes Breaking Bad and Omar from The Wire. He loves his cats and a big cup of hot tea. In short, Visions is an artist people can relate to, and he creates art that is accessible to everyone.
Arguably, Visions is among the best cartoonists in America, and has one of the greatest imaginations in the galaxy. His style is a revolt against conventions. Every illustration he creates is fresh, unique, and powerful. Each piece he paints contains commentary on contemporary issues, while holding its pleasing aesthetic and avant-garde.
Visions is educated on his predecessors and their legacy in the art world. By mastering the techniques and methods of Sergio Toppi and Aaron Douglas, Visions has the insight and toolbox to create artistic narratives entirely unique to the 21st century. One example of his insight is his representation of Walter White, the lead character from Breaking Bad. Through his use of color and perspective, Visions shows the moral and ethical decay of the family man-turned-meth cook. What took five seasons to depict in televised form, Visions makes clear in the space of two illustrations.
The central elements of his work are the concepts of freedom to express oneself — the need for the human spirit to feel beauty, and the driving force of empathy in art. In that way, his work lies somewhere near the intersection of Richard Wright and Norman Rockwell. One masterpiece in Visions’ portfolio is a purple and black illustration of Amy Winehouse, blurring colors and showing the body’s movement to depict a supple, but symbolic, representation of the departed singer.
The future is bright for this young artist. His work on the Marvel comic Spider-Gwen, which provided some source material for popular animated Marvel movie Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, gained Visions a lot of attention in the world of comics.
A little over a year ago, he underwent a corneal transplant, correcting damage to one of his eyes from a progressive disease that’s been with him since childhood. He was able to afford the surgery thanks to donations from fans, raising the necessary funds in less than 12 hours through a massively-successful social media campaign.
These days, he continues to sketch, maintaining a daily practice that he sees important for any aspiring artist. “I always get excited to see people are sketching,” he says. “It means they’re thinking.”
As 2019 gets rolling, Chris Visions continues to think, sketch, and create. Fueled by a love of music, laughter, and life, it’s only a matter of time before he brings his next masterpiece to the world.
Written by Matthew McDaniels and Marilyn Drew Necci