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San Clemente Journal

Portrait of a Pop Painter - Carson Grier

Aug 01, 2008 03:50PM ● By Don Kindred

by Bill Thomas

Can an artist make a living avoiding canvas surfaces, instead using stainless steel, circular saw blades, guitars, skateboards, surfboards, sunglasses, ladies’ purses, and athletic shoes to exhibit his acrylic medium? 

Meet San Clemente local Carson Grier, who has been painting and drawing, “…as long as I can remember. I was always working on arts and crafts instead of being in front of the television. I would paint and draw with my artist mom.” 

In his youth, he enjoyed both sports and painting famous athletes like Michael Jordan, paintings that his mother framed and entered in local art contests. He won several of them. 
Carson doesn’t have the usual formal art education background. He confessed, “Art is my passion; my art inspiration and knowledge comes primarily from books and art magazines. Art is something you’re born with. Either you have it, or you don’t. I don’t think a person wakes up one day and says, ‘I’m gonna be an artist.’ It’s much deeper than that. I’d paint whether or not I was getting paid.” 

His biggest influence was Andy Warhol. “I’ve been inspired by his work and his subjects,” Carson confides, “I love pop culture; it’s in everybody’s daily lives - music, movies, sports. I figured a way to modernize his style with my own. I’ve definitely revolutionized it to the modern day and put my name on something very unique and marketable. 

Nowadays, other pop artists are doing exactly what he was doing, mass producing art with half the artist’s talent and time. I steered away from that so I create all my paintings by hand and on custom fabricated grinded stainless steel or other material instead of traditional canvas. I sell them as originals giving the buyer a true ‘one-of-a-kind.’ ”

Carson primarily works with acrylics on stainless steel or archival paper and pen in an art form called Micrography, a classical method began in ancient Israel. In Micrography, images are created through the use of tightly written words. “There are no lines, and it’s hand written,” Carson clarifies. “For example, I can reproduce pictures of musicians by using their lyrics or a scene from a movie.” He’s painted recreations of presidents’ familiar faces with their famous quotes. He also captured the world trade center image utilizing all the names of victims and heroes who lost their lives on 9/11. Such artistic endeavors can take between 100 to 400 hours to complete.  His works hang on the walls of such famous musicians as Snoop Dogg, Tommy Lee, Joss Stone, Alice Cooper, Steve Miller, and the Johnny Cash family. 

“I’ve also sold paintings to pro athletes, including Hall of Fame Football player Jim Brown, Mark McGuire, Bobby Kielty (Boston Red Sox), and Kyle Lohse (pitcher Cincinnati Reds pitcher), as well as movie stars Halle Berry and Johnny Depp,” he stated proudly. 

Carson’s works first appeared in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Las Vegas, New York, Miami, and throughout Orange County. Now, they’re jumping up all over the country. Currently, all of his 400 plus paintings have been sold, and he states, “I don’t even own any of my own work. The last two years, I’ve mostly been doing original work by commission, and I’ve really enjoyed that. I’d much rather create paintings special to my buyers and let them be a part of the project rather than figuring out what to paint and find a buyer for it. Clients ask me to do a lot of things I wouldn’t normally do, but they have great ideas. When clients commission me, I provide rough samples for them so they can get a visual of what the painting is going to look like. Then, they can choose the colors that best fit their tastes. I also offer them a time-lapsed video of the painting process from beginning to end. I edit the video with the music of the musician I’m painting. I started doing that for an exhibit I had at the Fender Guitar Museum; people really got a kick out of that, so I continue to offer videos to clients along with my paintings.” 

Charges for Carson’s work vary depending on details within the image he’s asked to paint and the number of colors desired. A small piece could cost $500, a larger one up to $5,000, depending on size, colors, and detail. The unique Micrography images he devised begin at $1,000 and can go up to $10,000. On average, it takes him about two weeks to complete a painting, again depending on the complexity of the order. Some may take a full month to finish, and Micrography projects could require three or more months. 

His image of Ronald Reagan using words from his famous speech asking Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall is featured in the Ronald Reagan Art Collection at the President’s Library in Simi Valley, California. Carson added, “I created a guitar for Steve Miller’s Band to contribute to the Fender Guitar museum, signed by Steve. It sold for $180,000, - a new donation record. The funds went to the “Kids Rock For Free” program to keep youth involved in music. The previous record was an autographed Rolling Stones guitar that sold for $100,000.” 

Articles about artist Grier have appeared in such publications as Stuff Magazine, Rolling Stone Magazine, US Weekly, and Playboy, among many other publications. “The biggest recognition I’ve had, however, is just the everyday reaction and love for my work. People seem blown away by my unique style and have never seen anything like it before. That means the world to me and keeps me painting everyday,” Carson admits. Asked about his own favorite work, he described a painting he developed with the image of singer Johnny Cash for an exhibit at Fender Guitars. “I painted it on stainless steel using 300 carats of real crushed diamonds. It looked so amazing because it really shimmered and had a really cool contrast against the grinded metal. That was the first of many more diamond paintings I have in the works,” he said. 

His future plans include collaboration with major companies in merchandising art, putting his own rare art style on their products. He said, “Right now, I’m working exclusively with C1rca Footwear here in San Clemente on a new painting project. I’ll have a Carson Pop Art series of C1rca shoes launching in 09,’ so stay tuned for those. 

“I’ve been collaborating with pro skateboarder Adrian Lopez to paint his athletic shoes, and I’m also working with Jee Vice, a women’s sunglass company. I’ve also been hand-painting limited edition pop art sunglasses, which you can already find in major boutiques in Southern California, and in Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom’s. You might even be seeing Lindsey Lohan wearing a pair in a gossip magazine soon. I am also trying my work on women’s handbags and purses and even high heels. I want to find the right companies to collaborate with. One day, perhaps, I’ll even release prints of my work, and, hopefully, open up my own gallery/store selling Carson Pop Art merchandise and continuing to build my celebrity clientele,” he stated with a gleam in his eye.