Chris Terfloth’s Abstract Art





My inspiration is drawn (no pun intended) from many different sources.  I often incorporate my lifelong fascination with the beauty of patterns, colors and textures found in nature.   For example, both “Sandstone” and “Genesis” evolved from rock formations found in Yueliu National Park in Taiwan.   “Ripples” came from observing rain falling on the surface of a pond.  “Sylvan View” and “Midnight Bloom” sprang from boyhood memories of exploring the forest and rock hounding on the shores of the North Saskatchewan River.  The yellow and red colors in “Dancers” came from a rock I found while hunting in the Crazy Mountains.  Memories of my childhood, travels to Asia, Latin America and Europe, and life experiences all come together in visions that influence my creative process.


In my life, I have been a language teacher, a mortgage loan officer, a corporate trainer, an author, a baker, a bartender, a carpenter, a model, a motorcycle messenger and a truck driver.   Teaching Latin as well as Greek and Roman mythology, led to “Odyssey” and “Zeus.”  The Chinese characters included in the moon series came from my study and teaching of Mandarin.  From experiences I had as a driver in college, I painted “Commute” and “Crossroads.”    Even the frivolous can inspire.  For instance, the colors used in “Wind” were taken from a magazine ad for a blueberry smoothie.


When I get a block, I comb through art magazines and look through my idea journal.  I also study current artists and artistic pioneers.  My personal favorites are Wassily Kandinsky, William De Kooning, Jackson Pollack, Franz Marc and Joan Miró.



As recently as two years ago, I used to paint more detailed, realistic landscapes and animals.  Now, my work is emotional and intuitive; I show feelings through my paintings.   I sometimes get into a meditative trance and let my subconscious take over.   The challenge is to paint concepts like “energy,” “anticipation,” “passion” and “strength.” 


Another change for me is that I prefer to paint on the floor, not on an easel.  The horizontal surface allows more freedom of movement.   Rather than be limited by the vertical pull of gravity, I can determine the direction I want the paint to go.  I paint mostly with a “flow” style that allows colors to blend and mix through subtle manipulation of the canvas.  As colors work together, surprising blends come about, as in “Avalanche.”  


I plan my paintings from a color and texture perspective.  Paintings are not only for the eyes.  I want people to touch my work, to feel like they could “visit” a painting.  Contrasting light and dark hues help me achieve “depth” in my work.  Metallic colors reflect light and make my paintings more luminous.  For texture, I incorporate sand, crushed garnet, mica, and fused glass from my friend, glass artist Chuck Peck. 


I use the sgraffito technique to achieve texture by layering a second coat of paint over a base composition.  Other multi-layered pieces evolve when I paint over works I have rejected.  One of my early attempts at abstract was of the Bridger Mountains in Bozeman, Montana.   The painted over Bridgers became “Pulse,” a Jackson Pollack influenced piece representing the rhythm of life. 


Why I Love to Paint

I relish the freedom, risk and spontaneity of abstract expressionism.  My paintings are a way for this introvert to be an extrovert; I lose my shyness when I paint.  My style of painting keeps me young, like a kid allowed to color outside of the lines.  Abstract expressionism is a way of letting go, of recreating my youthful moments collecting rocks, traveling and looking at the energy in nature.    



The cycle of life, creation, mythology, philosophy and balance are common themes in my paintings.   For instance, “Genesis” and “Beginnings” represent life and birth.  Greek and Roman mythology can be seen in paintings like “Aphrodite” and “Icarus.”  From Chinese philosophy comes the influence of yin and yang, the battle to achieve balance in nature.  “Dimensions” and “Vesuvius” are examples that incorporate Taoism.  Whenever I include Chinese characters, the words have multiple meanings, such as those used in “Full Moon.”  


I am intrigued by the continuous, cyclical patterns of change in nature. “Sandstone” and “Pangaea” are two works representing nature’s transitions.  I like the dynamic power of nature and often incorporate storms, hurricanes and volcanoes.  I try to capture movement, as in “Tectonics” which freezes the moment of a volcanic eruption, or “Squall” which illustrates the approach of a rainstorm.  I also like to juxtapose a transition in nature with a human transition as in “Courtesan.”


Even though I use symbolism, metaphors, philosophy and mythology, I do not paint to be political.  I want to create something beautiful.  With abstract expressionism, no two people are going to have the same perspective on a painting.  I am almost reluctant to title and describe my work; I do not want to overly influence a viewer’s ideas about a piece.  I do, however, want a person to feel energized by certain pieces and relaxed by others.  Some paintings are meant for the party room, some for the bedroom and some for the corporate office.