CJ Hendry: Lifelike Luxury
CJ Hendry may have spent high school art class “mucking around painting stuff and exploding things in the kiln”, but gazing at one of her colossal photorealist drawings, you’d never know it. The lifelike images of luxury goods, almost as covetable as the products themselves–and are said to be of interest to Kanye West–are made using pen and ink, yet look like photographs pulled from a glossy magazine. The drawings caught the eye of famed talent scout The Cool Hunter, who now represents Hendry exclusively. The alliance has worked out well, with one drawing selling for $50,000 within 15 minutes of being posted to the site.
Hendry’s connection to the photorealist style is more emotion-based than studied. She always enjoyed drawing and photorealism felt comfortable, even therapeutic. Following university, Hendry worked in architecture and finance and upon feeling hopeless, and disillusioned with both, she took up drawing as a hobby. Fairly disconnected to the art world, Hendry draws for herself, “I just do my own thing,” she says. Finding inspiration elsewhere, she is unfamiliar with the work of other artists. “There are probably many photorealists whose skills far outweigh my own,” she confesses. Her influences instead are entrepreneurs, celebrities and big brands, “I love how they control the market in their respective fields and consistently come up with mind-blowing ideas and concepts.”
Another influence is the luxury goods and fashion pieces that serve as subject matter. “There seems to be more of Chanel, McQueen, Givenchy and Saint Laurent in my wardrobe,” she says of a love of classics dating back to her first job in the Chanel store. This explains the prevalence of iconic items such as the Hermès shopping bag, the Chanel quilted purse and Louis Vuitton logo in her work. Hendry also enjoys the clean, simple lines of a skull, horse’s head or saddle or a gun. Her choice of what to draw is reflective of what she feels at the time, “Who knows what I will be drawing in the future. In 5 years I could be doing something totally different. I am pretty excited for the unknown.”
Her work ethic is strong and she spends 12-14 hours a day drawing. Admirers express amazement at how quickly she finishes pieces. “The truth is my brain is highly structured and I enjoy being efficient.” She explains. She never likes to spend too long on something, because she is already thinking of what to draw next, “There are so many ideas flying around my head so I want to work through each piece as quickly as possible so I can move onto a new idea.”
Nestled somewhere between art and fashion, it’s unsurprising Hendry has fast developed a devoted following. “It has been my goal right from day one to keep my art very relevant and devoid of gallery ideals.” She says. Taking advantage of the benefits of social media, Hendry exhibits her work via Instagram, where the sharing of links allows her work to spread. She is also able to interact with devotees directly. She benefits from the commentary provided by her followers, which functions as feedback and critique. Followers are also in for a treat when they see the work in person, which end ups being on a much larger scale than the Instagram thumbnail. Hendry wants viewers to feel totally consumed by an enormous sketch on the wall. “I have always done everything on a grand scale and I like the feeling this gives.” She says, “Bigger is ALWAYS better don’t let anyone tell you different.”