Chris Flodberg rises early, enjoys a leisurely coffee, then walks five feet to his studio to begin a day of work that will likely last until the light begins to fade. His studio reflects the interests of a simple man intent upon accomplishing one goal: to make a great a painting.

“If it’s beautifully painted, a beautiful image, a beautiful composition with harmonious colours and it does everything well … that’s what I try to do. Of course you don’t always achieve it, but you try.”

Mostly known for his rigorous, theoretical approach to painting that takes influence from the Old Masters, such as Jan Van Eyck. Flodberg is one of Canada’s most celebrated and popular working artists.  His most recent portraits, while modern in concept and subjects, bear strong resemblances to the works of 16th century Dutch artists.

As varied as his output has been over the past decade, Flodberg has displayed a certain consistency of quality. His work is featured in many public and private collections including the Glenbow Museum and Archives, The University of Calgary, and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Photo by Jennie Price.

He references their methods, techniques, subject matter and compositions all while creating a certain intensity and harmony of colour and tone characteristic of our era now.

“I’m always thinking about how my paintings could be ‘better’ even though my definition of better is constantly changing. Trying and learning new things keeps it fun and interesting, it’s just my nature I guess,” he says.

These techniques and ideas that would have seemed the antithesis of contemporary art not so long ago are today, the subject of Flodberg’s paintings. He’s come to realize, as all great artists have realized, that the past can, too, provide the best teachers and the best incentives for the present and coming future.

His most recent, a portrait of his mother measuring at 17 inches wide and 21 inches tall, is painted using a millimetre/centimetre  measurement guide, “you don’t realize how much is exactly involved until you take a minute and look at them closely,” he says.

In 2017, Douglas & McIntyre published a book with five essays written by art historian Monique Westra that brought together 160 of Flodberg’s paintings spanning over the course of two decades. Photo by Jennie Price.

The decoration of her dress is overloaded in its ornamentation; silver spoons, battery-powered candles and scotch tape can be found around the collar.

Flodberg uses a mannequin dressed up in Value Village fabrics, utilitarian tools from Home Depot, or anything else that grabs his eye.

“I have a pretty good idea who I’ll be painting, so I pick the costume to suit the person, then I just mostly reference the mannequin which kind of informs the painting, and then I just go with my instincts.”

Working on one at a time, eight hours a day and five days a week, it can take Flodberg anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to produce a finish product.

Flodberg’s theoretical approach to painting stems in part from his affinities to the earlier movements of the Dutch Golden Age. He references their methods, techniques, outlandish costumes and compositions all while creating a certain intensity and harmony characteristic to the temper of our times. Photo by Jennie Price.

“I bought the mannequin so I could have unlimited time to dress it up and look at it while painting,” he says.

While Old Master Paintings are now almost exclusively the domain of wealthy museums, Flodberg’s contemporary paintings are still accessible to a modest budget fetching anywhere from $6,400 to $18,000 and available at Masters Gallery in Calgary, Alta.

jprice@cjournal.ca

Editors note: Prices were added to the last paragrapgh along with links at the end of the story to find Flodberg’s paintings.

Editor: Kate Paton | cpaton@cjournal.ca