Christopher M. Sullivan works on a new painting in his studio gallery in Angel Fire, New Mexico, surrounded by his painting supplies and other finished pieces.

About Christopher M. Sullivan

Angel Fire, NM Artist

Whether it’s through writing, painting, music, cooking, sewing, I believe that people create art in order to find a way to not feel alone. Painting is my way of reaching others, who, like me, are searching for something they can’t quite put their finger on. 

Artist's Statement

As a child

When I was young, I drew landscapes, stills, portraits–a lot of people, places, and things. Then, when I was in the seventh grade, I had an amazing art teacher, Ms. Laura Rackham, who taught me lessons from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. I started to explore depth and shading, finding my own artistic voice and discovering that I didn’t have to just paint “things.” I could paint joy, pain, excitement, confusion, love. That book–and my incredible art teacher–changed my life.

Christopher M. Sullivan in his home art studio with his dog, Charley
Christopher M. Sullivan standing in his studio at his drafting table with his painting supplies
My family

My family has always supported my creativity, nurturing my artistic instincts. When I was a kid, I would draw on scraps of leftover supplies, and my mother and godmother would collect and cherish my little artworks. My dad even converted his own landscape architecture drafting table into a creating platform that I still use today. I left my family (and my art) for a while to head out into the world adventuring, and when I found my way back to painting, my dad had held onto that table for me.

The Expression of Art

Art is about expression for me–about giving form to the beauty and the challenges that we face throughout our lives. And over the past several years, it has become a pathway to mental and physical wellness for me.

In 2014, I was in an auto accident that left me with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a seizure disorder, and severe chronic pain. It’s honestly something that I was afraid to talk about for a long time and that kept me from creating art for a while. Eventually, though, I rediscovered that I could use painting as an outlet to communicate my feelings without being limited by vocabulary.

My recovery process has been long and arduous. I had to learn new skills and find equipment that allowed me to paint, even with my limited mobility. While I was working with a trainer to regain the use of my right arm, I started teaching myself to paint with my left arm. I found a counterbalanced easel that allowed me to paint, even with my shoulder injury.

Christopher M. Sullivan painting in his Angel Fire art studio. Painting in image is titled
Christopher M. Sullivan stands on top of a mountain at Angel Fire Ski Resort with his skis that have been wrapped with his painting

For me, art and recovery are inextricably intertwined and a lot of my pain and triumphs are represented in my paintings.

In fact, a print version of Endeavor, the painting that I worked on during some of the most difficult parts of my rehabilitation, ended up hanging in my favorite Anytime Fitness location in Florida–the place where I worked so hard with my trainer to regain my mobility.

When I reached a place in my recovery where I could ski again (a lifelong passion that I thought I would never be able to do again), I had Endeavor printed onto my skis, to serve as a reminder of all of the hard work that got me where I am today.

The funny thing about Endeavor: the original version, that I had painted in Florida, eventually was bought by someone who is in Angel Fire. 

Just like me, Endeavor eventually found its way home to Angel Fire.

Building the Story

To me, art is so much more than something you hang behind the sofa. It’s something you feel, have attachment to, affection for, something that moves you–and having it in your home helps you to know that you are not alone. 

When I’m creating, I’m almost always working through something that I don’t entirely understand yet. The act of creation helps me process my own emotions, and hopefully, in the end, helps someone else. My goal is to lift people up by stimulating their own healing, comforting them and bringing growth and acceptance.

When I sit down to paint, I’m building a story, and this is reflected in my technique. I underpaint all of my canvases in black and build backward, allowing the intensity of colors (and the emotions behind them) to emerge and illuminate. Each piece begins with several layers of texture, the building blocks of my vocabulary, color and depth.

Christopher M. Sullivan demonstrates how he begins each of his art pieces by painting the canvas entirely in black and building backwards to add color.
Portrait of Christopher M. Sullivan posing in front of his artwork with two paint brushes in his hands.
Life in Angel Fire

Living in Angel Fire full-time is an incredible blessing. I have a bit of a traveler’s soul, but there is truly nowhere else I’d rather be. I am constantly inspired by the intense beauty that surrounds me and the unique people I meet here. Angel Fire is my little slice of heaven on earth–and I think anyone who has lived or visited here feels the same way.

Angel Fire has definitely shaped my recent artwork. I’ve noticed over the years that my color palette seems to change based on my surroundings, even if it’s not a conscious choice. Since I’ve lived in Angel Fire, the paint colors I pick up have been more intense, more piercing, more ephemeral. Somehow, before I knew what was happening, the colors, the light, the Angel Fire skies found their way into my paintings. I’m excited to see which emotions–which pieces of my soul–Angel Fire helps me discover next.