Christopher Pike began a thread on Phish.net a few years ago offering his painting skills to create pieces of art based on interpretations of Phans favorite shows, or personal show experiences. Soon thereafter, there was a long line generating for everyone who wanted their experiences laid down on canvas. He just donated one of his painting to the Barefoot Bob Memorial, showing his compassion for this community. I recently sat down with him to pick his brain about his work. His name is Chris Pike, better known as Captain Pookie.
Chris Stowell: How long have you been painting?
Captain Pookie: I started painting 13 years ago. I had just moved home to Watkins Glen after spending a portion of the ’90’s in Asheville. The change on environment was a little shocking and I found myself bored and a little blue. I was at the store one day and bought a canvas and some cheap acrylic paints on a lark. I was probably stoned at the time.
CS: Wow, it’s amazing what a change in environment can do. Are there any other mediums you work with, either with paint, or without?
CP: For sure. I’ve always had creative outlets since my earliest memories. I was raised in an environment that was very supportive of expression of creativity. I can play 5 different instruments and have played in bands regularly since the eight grade. I’ve always written fictitious stories – that’s probably what I’ve done the longest. My first novel was published in 2005. Really, there isn’t any medium I won’t tackle, but music, writing and painting get all of my time.
CS: Your book is still on my reading list. Alright, time to get a little Phishy, then we will get back to your works of art. When did you start listening to Phish, and what was your first show?
CP: Well, the first time that I HEARD Phish was sometime in 1995. I was hanging out at my best friends house and A Live One had just been released and he was playing it. I remember really liking Bouncing’ and Stash, but for whatever reason… perhaps for no reason at all I never got that into them at that time. Which is a drag because my friends were going to so many great Phish events like Clifford Ball, lots of 95, 96 and 97 shows. I turned down a ticket to the Fleezer show for Christ’s sake. My head was just in a different musical space at the time, which I don’t regret at all because what I was onto was very fulfilling and uplifting to me. So Really, I’m a 3.0 noob. My first show was Fenway in April 09.
CS: Alright, back to your painting. What made you decide to start doing Phish inspired paintings? Other than your love for the band, of course
CP: I’ve always reacted to music, and emotional stimuli in general, in two very specific ways. One is that I will fell a sensation that my body is changing shape. It manifests mostly in my face. It’s like an invisible force is pulling gently on my flesh and my insides. I also see color patterns…like I really SEE them. I’ve never been one to close my eyes at any bands performance, but if the band gets going at a good clip, or falls into some deep mind groove my vision tends to blur and I just sort of find myself in this dimension of puddles of colors that are reacting to the sounds being made. I think it may be my mind’s response to the elation the music brings me. Anyway, eventually I started painting approximations of what I would see while listening to music at home.
CS: It’s clear how much the music influences your work in that sense. So I’ve noticed that there are a few themes incorporated in to your work. What are they and what do they represent? The eye in specific.
CP: Yeah, the eye. Eyes have always made appearances in my work. And I’m not sure I’ve ever thought, “I shall paint an eye here for this reason.” I don’t necessarily lump myself into the surrealist movement, but the surrealists have a conceptual tool they use called Automatism, or Automatic Drawing where they draw unconsciously, doing their best to just allow their hand to create something where the next movement is informed only by the one before it, as opposed to getting one pre-determined image onto paper. It’s similar to how I paint. I usually only ever start with one shape or a flow of one particular color and then each step is created in light of the previous with no conscious reason. I think I might be hesitant to pry apart my psyche and find reasons why certain symbols are there. I’d rather just feel any emotion that an artistic piece emits as opposed to analyzing it.
CS: I totally understand not prying apart your psyche. That was way more in depth than I expected. Thank you so much for opening up about that. When a client approaches you to do a painting for them, what kind of questions do you ask them, or do you just ask for a show they are inspired by?
CP: Well it starts with them wanting me to paint a specific show that means something to them, whether it was their first show or whether there is an intense emotional memory tied to it. I like for them to give me as much back-story as they are willing to so I can get an idea of the emotional and mental space they were in that day. I’ve done some painting for people that had very heavy reasons behind them. Certainly several for people who have lost loved ones or close friends and they want me to memorialize a show they were at with that person. It’s pretty heavy when people open parts of themselves that deep and raw for me to see. It’s really daunting to feel like I need to do something like that visual justice. It can be emotionally overwhelming a lot of times and a few times I’ve gotten teary-eyed having their story in my mind of just a gorgeous summer day and these kids driving across the country having belly laughs with their friends that they love with all their hearts and for one tragic reason or another they lose those friends and have these beautiful memories that they entrust me to do justice to. Then I listen to the show and try to “to tap in” as honestly as I can while painting it.
CS: These paintings hold so much value to their owners, that’s for sure. So where can people go to get their own painting?
CP: They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me at Captain Pookie on Phish.net I’m always interested in painting. Thanks for being interested!