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In Memory | ‘That guy you see painting with a canvas and easel all over Capitol Hill’

(Image: Christopher Martin Hoff with permission to CHS)

We ran this interview with artist Christopher Martin Hoff in October, 2010. This weekend, those who knew him, those who knew his work and those who saw him in motion as the plein air artist set up with easel and paints across the city and all over Capitol Hill are remembering Hoff. The Stranger reports gallery owner David Martin said Hoff has died at home of natural causes. Artist Joey Veltkamp says there will be a memorial for Hoff on Monday, 10:30a at Gas Works Park.

Hoff was 36.

CHS Interviews: That guy you see painting with a canvas and easel all over Capitol Hill — October 22, 2010
By Anika Smith

Spend enough time on Capitol Hill and you’re bound to see him at work. Plein air artist Christopher Martin Hoff documents the changing spaces of urban landscapes, from the construction at the World Trade Center in New York to the radio towers on Capitol Hill. He’s been spotted painting on the Hill again and took some time out of dodging milk cartons and bungee-cording his easel secure in the back alleys of Capitol Hill to answer a few questions for CHS.

What is the name and focus of your current project?  Some of your past work has had literary connections — is there any such inspiration or idea behind what you’re painting now?  Since the last series of Seattle paintings I worked on was inspired by Moby Dick I decided that I’d create a body of work which looks at the built environment in “formal” terms; primarily what I’m thinking about here is ‘symmetry’ and ‘asymmetry’. The idea is still in a somewhat nascent phase but, like all of my work, it grows out of spending countless hours walking around and observing things that are incredibly ordinary. Lately what has interested me most are the spaces around and between buildings; alleyways, sidewalks, streets etc. I’ve also been fascinated by similarities between cracks in the street and the bus power-lines directly above. For me, they mirror one another in a really interesting way. Don’t worry though, I’m currently working through Don Quixote, so who knows what I might be enchanted with next?

Are you working on pieces throughout the area?  What draws you to the radio towers?  What are you doing in that Denny/Olive intersection? I try not to give out specific areas where I’m working but most of the work I’ve done lately is along Olive. I haven’t started another painting of the radio towers yet, hopefully I’ll come up with a challenging compositional idea that will allow me to tackle those again. I’m not sure what draws me to them exactly. I find them incredibly beautiful to look at and very interesting as an idea as well – the idea of communicating with others, something I think all art strives to do.

What is it like to paint plein air in such an urban environment?  Does Capitol Hill present any unique hazards (or stories)? There are always hazards working outside. The sunny weather we’ve had lately has caused me to stop working on my ‘cloudy-day paintings’ and pull out paintings I started early last summer. It can be a little confusing. In addition to weather I’ve found some other difficulties working in an alleyway off Olive. It’s a particularly trashy alley and there have been several days where the wind has been so strong that I had to bungee chord my easel to a brick wall to keep it from blowing over. Unfortunately for me however, on one day, the wind was so strong that it lifted pieces of trash thirty feet away from my easel and pelted me several times. I distinctly remember being hit by a Darigold 2% milk carton. Definitely took me off guard.

Where and when can we see your completed work? It will be in an exhibition at Linda Hodges Gallery in Pioneer Square sometime in the Fall of 2011. She’s represented me in Seattle for about 6 years now. 

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8 thoughts on “In Memory | ‘That guy you see painting with a canvas and easel all over Capitol Hill’

  1. I’ve seen this guy so many times, I’ve stopped to watch from a respectful distance, trying to be discrete. He was a wonderful artist, and a nice comment on our ‘hood. I’m so very sorry to hear this. Damn.

  2. I lived on the hill for four years and saw him at least twice a week. One particular day it was cold and I bought him coffee, and I kind of made a habit of it if I saw him because hey, why not. Was always sweet, greeted me and my son by name (if he wasn’t superengrossed in painting). I’m actually crying a bit reading of his passing.

  3. I loved his paintings. I walked by him every day for a couple of weeks while he painted those towers, totally focused on his work with the traffic zooming by.

  4. Such a talented and kind person. I’ve had to pleasure to meet CMH and actually own two of his paintings. This is a huge loss for Seattle, art, and humanity.