Kris Lewis was born in the year 1978 and grew up in Ocean County, NJ with a Latvian heritage. His father and sister taught him how to draw. Growing up in a family of fisherman, boaters, and surfers he spent most of his free time near the ocean and in Barnegat Bay. One of the most important things in his life are his friends and family.
Lewis studied illustration at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Though he studied illustration, many of his paintings show deep understanding of traditional portraiture. This is a result of "an intense, traditional program in the fundamentals of drawing and painting which [the students] were expected to master before branching off into [their] own unique styles." Mark Tocchet, Paul King, Tim O’Brien, and Brian Biggs were some of his instructors.
Lewis is considered a pop surrealist or american contemporary realist using oil paints as his main medium. Much of his work is based off of his Latvian culture. A reoccurring theme in his paintings is power, which is very important to Latvian people. Many of the women he paints have very similar faces and elongated necks to create an image of strength and confidence. This is not because of the similarity of his models, he says, but his stylization. He also leaves the expressions of his models up for interpretation.
Influence of Heritage
Lewis' Latvian heritage plays a big part in his paintings. In an interview, he states that "Latvians are incredibly strong, proud people, very hard workers – and I tend to reflect those characteristics in my subjects." He elongates the neck of many female models he uses to portray this strength and confidence. Another way he incorporates his culture in his wok are the subtle symbols such as lightning and thunder which are symbols of power.
Artists that inspire Lewis include Alphonse Bouguereau Andrew Wyeth, Hans Holbein, Albrecht Durer, Hieronymus Bosch, Gustav Klimt, and Jules-Bastien LePage. Aside from art, he finds inspiration in "personal relationships, the play between connection and disconnect to [his] environment, and [his] love of nature."
His work has appeared in Juxtapoz, Hi-Fructose, Modern Painters, and American Art Collector. Kris Lewis has been featured in the books Suggestivism, Copro/Nason: A Catalogue Raisonne and Two Faced: The Changing Face of Portraiture, and did album art for will.i.am.