1) I was first introduced to your art with the work you did on the music videos for Tool, what was the process like working with those guys? Do you still keep in contact with those guys or do you expect to ever work with them again?
The Tool projects were some of the most creatively fulfilling and rewarding of my career. Also the most exhausting! Everybody worked extra hard on the Tool videos because we knew they would ultimately be really good. I am friends with Adam and I have met the other guys a few times. I still speak with Adam. He’s my friend.
2) In your Book Black Magick you mention how dissatisfied you were with the movie industry and how politics often got in the way of creativity. You mention the transition from working in movies to being your own fine artist as a particularly stressful or busy time in your life. However now it seems like there are so many avenues for artists to monetize their work and have the ability to live off of their art now, do you think you would have worked in the film business at all if these options were available to you when you started out?
Well, at the time I got in the business I was totally into it so I probably still would have gone into it. However, if I knew what I now know about the industry, as well as having the online resources to make a living, I would have gone straight into fine art, no doubt about it. But I learned a lot in the film business that I was able to apply to my artwork so I am ultimately a better artist for it.
3) Do you feel it is easier to make a living off of fine art now with options like your big cartel shop and conventions like comic con or is it still a struggle to make a living off of doing something creatie? What would you advise to people who want to have a creative career?
Not having a stead paycheck will always be a struggle but I think it’s easier now with social media and the internet. Without it, I’m not sure how I would sell my work. I would only encourage those creative individuals who are willing to do whatever it takes to make a living at it. That includes working 12 hour days and usually 7 days a week. Everything else has to take a back seat to your art career, at least at the beginning. I would not recommend it to anybody who is lazy. It’s possible to do but takes a LOT of work to maintain. I would also suggest transitioning out of your current job rather than just jumping in cold. I continued to work in FX for about 7 years while I started my fine art career.
4) After Tool worked with you, they collaborated with another artist for their next album Lateralus, Alex Grey. I always thought your art and Alex Grey's art were very similar almost like you two are two different sides of the same coin, your art is dark and brutal but I get this sense behind it that you are a very spiritual person. Do you meditate or have any kind of spiritual practice in your life? Alex Grey mentions LSD as being a big influence on his art, have you ever had any experiences with psychedelics and have those experiences influenced your art?
I agree. Our work is more similar than it is different. I have meditated most of my life and have had a number of life changing experiences with psychedelics. So Alex and I are definitely on the same page! It’s funny- and more of a testament to Alex more than anything else- when I first met him and showed him my work (when I was just barely starting in fine art) he told me “Oh, you’ll make it!”. He recognized what I was trying to say (probably before I even knew) with my artwork right away. My documentary “Chet Zar: I Like To Paint Monsters” has a great interview with Alex. The psychedelic experience is also covered in the doc, as well as my many ’supernatural’ experiences..
5) Do you consider yourself to be a religious person?
No, but I do feel certain that there is much more than this. I believe in ‘God’, whatever that term even means. The short answer would be “not religious but spiritual” but that’s such a cliche...
6) I noticed that you have a lot of really talented friends like Gabe Leonard and Alex Grey, do you ever collaborate with these artists on any projects?
Alex and I collaborated on Tool’s “Vicarious” video and that was great fun. I don’t do a. Lot of collaborations otherwise. I’m too busy keeping the machine (my art business) going. I hope to eventually get to a point when this is possible, though.
7) What movies and books are you checking out now?
I don’t have much time for reading (although I LOVE to read) but I have been on a documentary kick for years now. It’s just about all I watch. I have a TV by may easels I put documentaries on so I have something to listen to. I have pretty much seen them all. I think the last good one I watched was called “My Scientology Movie”. It was good.
8) You mentioned in an interview with SullenTV that you were once a musician and that you would try your hand at pretty much anything, do you plan on putting any music online sometime? Have you ever tried your hand at writing a book with the monsters you paint as characters in a narrative novel?
I recently got back into music and have been playing and recording music again. I really missed it. But again, I don’t really have time for it. I was recently able to use something I recorded for the intro music for a new podcast I started with friend and director of “Chet Zar: I Like To Paint Monsters”. It’s called The Dark Art Society Podcast.
Definitely have been thinking about a novelization but first I have to finish Dy5topia Field guide. It’s another project I am working on with Mike- mythologizing the world I have been creating in my paintings.
9) What does your day to day look like? Do you have time for other things outside of making your art?
No, not really. My life is consumed by it. Luckily I have a very supportive and understanding wife! I pretty much get up and once I am awake, I start working.
10) What inspired you to make the version of American Gothic that you did, what was it that inspired you about the original Grant Wood painting?
That was the idea of a client who I did the commission for. I probably would not have done it on my own but it was a great idea and is now one of my most popular images, That once was a real bitch to paint for some reason.
11) Who are some old master artists that have influenced you?
How old is old? If you are talking ooooold masters I would say that Bosch was a big influence. Velasquez was incredible as were the old flemish masters. But most of my influences are more ‘modern'- Frazetta, Beksinski, Giger, etc.
12) Would you like to shout out to any artists? Who are you a fan of these days?
So many that I hate to choose just a few cuz I know I will forget some. I will say that the newest artist I have been digging is Emil Melmoth from Mexico. Mind blowing Dark Art sculptures!
13) Lastly, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. What is the best way for people to keep up with what your doing these days?
Thank you. You can follow me on Instagram @chetzar. Also, my website is chetzar.com but it’s not very up to date. My web store is chetzar.bigcartel.com and that has new pieces going up pretty often, as well as lots of prints and other merchandise. Also, check out my new podcast, The Dark Art Society Podcast at https://soundcloud.com/darkartsociety.
If you like the interviews and content I publish on this site and you plan on picking up some of Chet Zar's work please check out my Amazon affiliate links to his excellent art book Black Magick and his documentary I like to Paint Monsters below and thank you for your support! Leave a comment for any artists you would like to see interviewed next!
Chet Zar: I like to Paint Monsters
Black Magick: The Art of Chet Zar