Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Purple Shirt, a White Beard, a Life Change: An Interview with Cristina Surplus

Cristina Surplus.  Such an evocative name.  A warehouse bulging with paintings and painting supplies, masterpieces slightly outside of the building as even the windows give way.  What is all this?  Surplus, of course.  

Cristina's Web site, "Inspired by David", gives full credit to her friend and mentor, David Hickman, for her artistic development and career choice. And she showcases the work of artists she admires.  Cristina's generosity knows no bounds. Surplus.  

My favorite works remain the first works of Cristina's I saw, her New York series.  Color so bold it takes your breath away.  In fact, one might say there is a surplus of color.

Let's chat.
The West Village (New York Series)
by Cristina Surplus


Q1. What is your first memory of art?

A1. I was very, very young (maybe 6?) when I started drawing in a sketch
pad [Editor's note:  When I was 6, the first of many art teachers was looking at me with disgust as if I deliberately drew "incorrectly".  They couldn't kill my love for art, though.  Even if I never tried to draw my shoe again.]. My older sister, Michelle, was taking art classes and I would mimic her by looking at an inanimate object and then copying it the best I could.
The Butterfly
by Christina Surplus
Q2. What is the first work of art you created?

A2. Well, if you mean the first work that I would let others see, then that
would be a Henri Matisse that I copied and painted on a large canvas. It
hung in our rental right after we got married. People would walk in and say,
“Wow! Did you paint that?” I would always say, “Yes, I did!”

But, then I would feel guilty and tell them I copied it from one of the most
influential painters of all time. Sadly, that usually left them less impressed. [Brilliant.  What better way to understand art than to recreate the best? I'm not disappointed at this confession.  I'm impressed.] It wasn’t long after that I realized original work is the way to go. [That works, too.]

E. 47th and Lex (New York Series)
by Cristina Surplus
Q3. Was there a point in your life when you decided to try art, or were you always an artist?

A3. I was always a closet artist. I sketched, doodled, colored, and painted
starting at a very young age. However, it wasn’t until I met David Hickman
in my mid-20’s that I really started taking it seriously.

Flower Burst
by Cristina Surplus
Q4. Would you tell us about David Hickman and his influence on your life?

A4. We were renting a very funky house in a very funky neighborhood in
Houston. Directly behind us, lived a kind-eyed, tall man with a striking white
beard. I noticed early on that every time I saw him, he was wearing a
purple shirt. One day, I decided to stop and ask him about his fascinating
clothing choice. He told me he was an artist and that purple was his
“signature color.” He invited me into his house and I remember having a true
visceral reaction to his paintings. They were huge and bright and made me feel excited and alive. The shapes he created ranged from sharp or jagged,
to fluid and feminine. I was awe-struck at his talent.

Then, he asked me two very simple questions. 

“Do you paint?”  I answered, “Yes, but it’s been a long time and I’m not very good.”

His next question changed the course of my life from that moment on. He
asked me, “Why do you think you’re not very good?”

I realized right then and there that I was the only one placing judgment on
my work. Something shifted within me and I decided to get out of my own
way. I literally went home that day and started painting large scale pieces.
He mentored me, guided me, and inspired me. But most of all, he
encouraged me to believe in myself.
Soho (New York Series)
by Cristina Surplus
Q5. Are there specific triggers that cause you to race to a blank canvas/
paper or do you impose a certain discipline on yourself?

A5. I can only create what inspires me at my very core. I got that from Mr.
Hickman. I know as soon as it happens because I feel it in my body. It’s an
energy like no other for me.

by Cristina Surplus
Q6. What inspired your incredible New York architecture series?

A6. The energy I mentioned above is what I feel when I enter Manhattan. I
can tell you that as soon as the cab comes out from under the tunnel and I
see those magnificent buildings, my heart starts racing and I let go of any
stress or negativity I may have been carrying. I live in Southern California,
but I have New York City all around me at all times through my work.

The Essex (New York Series)
by Cristina Surplus
Q7. When you are working on a piece, is there a point at which you realize you have a masterpiece taking shape on the canvas/paper?

A7. I definitely know whether a piece is working or not. Mostly, this is based
on the color palate. The downside of working with large scale canvas, is that
when I don’t like the colors I’ve picked, I have a lot of ground to cover up.
But, when the colors are working and I feel the good energy flowing, I’m
pretty darn happy.
Taos (Santa Fe Series)
by Cristina Surplus
Q8. Are there any artists you find particularly inspiring?

A8. I am truly inspired by all artists because I know what it takes to put your
work out there. It’s a vulnerability that at some point everybody has to deal
with in one way or another.

Guess Where (New York Series)
by Cristina Surplus
Q9. Are there any non-artists you find particularly inspiring?

A9. Everybody is an artist. [Ummm . . . there's about 37 art teachers in New Jersey who would disagree with that theory based solely on the outline of my shoe.] Seriously, at all times every single person in this world is creating something. I don’t hold art to something physical or only with color. I believe an accountant is an artist - he/she just uses numbers to create.
Adobe Door (Santa Fe Series)
by Cristina Surplus
Q10. Please answer a question I didn’t ask.

A10. Hmmm. “What is hard about being an artist?”

The loneliness gets to me at times. Painting away in my studio is very solitary; I often crave camaraderie with others.

Upper East Side (New York Series)
by Cristina Surplus
Q11. Where can we see (and purchase) your work?

A11. On my Web site:

Autumn in the City (New York Series)
by Cristina Surplus

Thanks for stopping by, Cristina, and making us believe we can reach our inner artist. There’s always a beagle to pet and a cup of hot tea at the ready in Lakewood. Don’t be a stranger.


  1. Amazing piece of art. these paintings seems so real and very finally made. Thumbs up to the work and efforts that gives these a real and fascinating look.

  2. Christina Surplus is indeed one of the fine artist who know her work very well. All those paintings made by her are such a masterpiece. I am glad that you have interviewed her.

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