Artist Feature: Q + A With Chet Malinow

Artist Feature: Q + A With Chet Malinow

We’re back with another artist feature- this time with Portland local artist Chet Malinow! His work has already made its mark on the Portland art scene, where you can find his murals on streets and in buildings, and even buy a custom bike that features his designs. He’s been painting murals for over 10 years, but each project he works on brings a new surprise. Like that one time he painted a mural in a hotel in bar included, respirator not included. Read on for the full feature…

First off, can you tell us a little bit about your path to becoming the artist you are today? Were you always interested in working creatively?

I grew up in a very creative environment. My mom has been a professional artist since she was in college and my dad is a musician/ceramicist. Studio practice has been ingrained into my lifestyle since day one. My parent’s house was created around multiple studios so it was the norm to spend all day on projects. 

I enjoyed making art as a kid but I never thought of it as a career. I went to college in Montana as a business major and quickly found out that was not for me. So I dropped out of college for a semester to regather my thoughts in Portland. Then I decided to go back to school at the University of Oregon to get my BFA in Fine Arts. I started to make works via commission outside of class while I was in school, which showed me that a creative career was possible. I would sell paintings before I was even finished with them through word of mouth and Instagram. During that time I also dabbled with graffiti for a while as well of which was a nice introduction to painting for fun and not just profit.

Murals have also been a huge part of my career as an artist. I have painted murals for over ten years now, and they’ve been a key factor in pursuing a creative career. Most of my work is in Portland, but I have a mural in Eugene and one at a random hotel in Cambodia. That was crazy. Having an open bar while painting a mural and no respirator is a difficult scenario to say the least. 


We love the quote you have on your website, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.” What’s your approach to the creative process? How do you deal with those times when the creative juices aren’t flowing?

I like this quote because it’s true- the more time I spend in my studio, the more work will be created. Sometimes when I’m not motivated to work on a project, just sitting at my desk doodling or making stickers can help the creative juices flow, and it’ll just spread from there.

A lot of times I will get overwhelmed by how many projects I am working on at once, or the fact that I’m my own boss and if something goes wrong it’s all on me. When I get too deep in my thoughts, I find that stepping away and going on a walk or bike ride really helps. It’s a weird battle between forcing myself to be at my desk and giving myself time to get some fresh air. I work at home which is difficult for some, but I really enjoy it. The fact that I can work out in the morning, make some coffee and then go upstairs to my studio makes work easier to get started on. I’m also a musician, so when I’m feeling stuck in the studio I will go have a cup of coffee or a beer and play piano for a bit.

How did you meet the crew at Rustek? 

I met Miles (Rustek Co-Founder) one night at the Dandy Warhol Auditorium. He was sitting at the bar and inevitably we started to talk about skating, snowboarding, and art. We exchanged business cards and continued to chat on Instagram for a while. I can’t remember what exactly sparked the collaboration, but we both really liked each other’s style and medium of choice. I was very intrigued by how the Hume brothers were creating their phone cases and skate decks, so eventually I visited their workshop and was extremely stoked about working with them and what we could create!

A large amount of your work is creating large scale art like murals. Can take us through your process for creating such large works of art?

Murals are always a crazy process to figure out how to paint them. Whenever I get a mural job essentially I am convincing someone that I know how to do something that I don’t. I never know how to paint what I am proposing! That’s the fun part and the terrifying part. Each mural is always so different. The surface of the wall, building restrictions, material cost, time frames, contracts, and now covid...there’s always something new! 

I always start out with a sketch of the idea to propose the project to the client. If the client is interested in my style or my previous work, we’ll go through a series of sketches to agree on the final design. A lot of trust is required to allow an artist to paint a large wall of a building, so it takes a lot of convincing and time before the actual project begins.

After the design and colors are selected, I get to work. Usually at night when the business is unoccupied. I like being in the building alone, have no distractions, and just getting to zone out. Sometimes the clients want to change minute things but usually, it’s a smooth process from there on out.


On the flip side, how did your process change when you started collaborating with Rustek on small items like phone cases?

It was fairly similar, just on a much smaller scale. I started out with a few sketches for the phone cases and we went from there. Miles and Clayton really liked a previous painting I had recently finished, so the sketches were based on that, which made things much smoother.

One of our goals at Rustek is to make things with sustainable, natural products whenever possible, but we have to be upfront about the fact that not everything we do is great for the environment. How do you deal with issues of sustainability with the products you use in your art?

I think I am pretty conscious about not wasting paint and recycling whatever I can. I hate using excessive amounts of tape or vinyl for stencils. So whenever possible, I will carefully take the tape off to reuse it or recycle the vinyl scraps for packaging tape. I use a lot of paint thinner in my studio, but I recycle that and never throw it away. I also create a lot of my art with water-based paint so that I can safely wash my brushes in the sink and use less chemicals in the process. At this point, I’m focused on recycling all that I can and wasting as little as possible from the start.

What’s your favorite aspect of the Portland art scene?

I really like how intertwined it is with biking, skating, skiing, and snowboarding. Recently I have started working with a few bike companies that are all about supporting local artists and incorporating art into their products, which is pretty unique and really shows the flavor of the scene here.

What’s been your favorite project to date?

Working with was really fun and challenging. I painted two murals and three logos for them. There were a lot of firsts and a lot of unknowns with their project, but I was so stoked on the outcome. I also was able to work with my brother on it and his technical knowledge is endless and always so helpful. The conference room mural is to date my favorite mural I have painted. I had full creative control over what I wanted to paint and after about a month of sketching, the client was really stoked on the direction I ended up with and gave me the green light. It was awesome to work on something that was entirely born from my creativity and make it come to life for their business!

Finally, what’s your favorite artist for background music when you’re creating?

I really go all over the place with music. Recently I have been into Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Kadavar, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. Other times I will be into Joao Gilberto, Little Dragon, Big KRIT, Grimes, Tame Impala, Gus Dapperton, Blood Orange, Earthgang, SIR, A$AP, Mac Miller. Those are a few artists I have been jamming to. 

Check out our collaboration series!


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