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Creation Story: Chris Milk Hulburt

Painter, puppeteer

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How to describe the work: Resembling a blend of early 20th-century Austrian painter Egon Schiele and contemporary illustrator Joe Sorren, Hulburt's figurative paintings are at once fanciful, humorous and dark. He describes his subject matter as being drawn from "a never-ending series of mental snapshots. Isolated chunks of paintings I've seen, the children's books I grew up with, little things that catch my eye-corner day to day."

Why he paints on wood: Hulburt's day job has played a big part in the materials he chooses. "In my early twenties, I was making money painting houses, amassing piles of house paint and wood scraps. I've found nothing that I like to paint on better than wood — its grain, its rigidity." Typically, he begins his paintings by coating the panel with a layer of flat latex paint, though his faux-finisher wife has introduced him to oil-glazing and the use of gold leaf. "Like a baby, I'm a sucker for shine. If it glitters, I want it."

How many images he works on at one time: As many paintings as he can fit on his easels. "Always at least two ... but as many as twenty." Brush in hand, rapidly switching from picture to picture, Hulburt finds this prolific aspect of his work essential to his creative process. The more he paints, the more he wants to paint. "It gets to the point where the ability to produce simply pours out."

On the conspicuously silent Huckiddy Puppet Theatre: "We're on hiatus right now. Now it's just me and my guitar, playing crybaby ballads in my little studio."

The story on his unusual middle name: The name "Milk" comes from his great-great uncle Quincy Milika, a gunsmith and painter. Though there are no known pictures of Milika, Hulburt likes to think that he bears a resemblance to the relative minus the "dusty stovetop hat, which apparently he was never seen without."

On the necessity of the day job: "I still paint a few houses. I wouldn't if I didn't have to. I try to look at it as practice. After all, it's how I learned to hold a brush, to paint a straight line." Hulburt maintains that he's painting more paintings now than buildings, though it's easy to sense a longing for the day when he can focus exclusively on the art. Considering the success of his April 15 opening reception at Schindler (nearly all the paintings sold), that day may not be far off. — Jason Coates



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