From the bad boy of the cinema to the painter of still lifes

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John Varriano, an instructor at New York’s Art Students League, stood behind Christian Slater’s easel, studying the lines the 51-year-old actor had sketched. “You got chops, man,” Varriano said. “You gotta keep training, man.”

One scorching June morning, Slater, spruce-up in a white denim jacket, black pants, and green sneakers, had arrived at the art school home in midtown Manhattan for a nature tutorial. dead. 1980s and 1990s movie star – Heathers, True Romance, Pump Up the Volume – Slater now wears glasses and his beard has turned gray. Behind those glasses, her eyes still have that characteristic twinkle – a flicker like a spotlight – that has made her crush material for misunderstood girls around the world. When he chatted with Varriano from New York in the 1970s or Matisse’s paper clippings, that daredevil smile also surfaced.

During his time in New York City, Slater roamed art school for occasional drawing lessons. He began to take a more serious interest in the visual arts a few years ago, at the suggestion of his wife, Brittany Lopez, who enrolled him in art classes (watercolors and pastels) at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, near their Miami home.

I’m in a place of so utter gratitude to have people interested in hiring me again

“I was in between jobs and my wife was like, ‘You have to do something,’” Slater said, his voice like finely crushed gravel. “And I loved it. It’s good. It’s definitely meditative and relaxing. He has to do something creative on a regular basis, he said, “otherwise I’m going to lose my mind.”

Actor Christian Slater in a painting class at the Arts Student League in New York. Photograph: Victor Llorente / The New York Times

Slater never quite lost his mind, between or during jobs, but he had a lousy decade or two, when the bad boy roles he reserved bled into his day to day life. “You travel on certain roads,” he said. “And you realize that maybe these aren’t the roads you want to keep on going.”

So Slater chose others. He got sober 16 years ago. (When Varriano offered beer, at 11 a.m., Slater politely declined, asking for water.) He divorced and remarried and became a father again. After years of playing whatever roles he could get (“I used to work a lot but spend a lot of time in places like Bulgaria,” he said), he’s now experiencing a kind of career rebirth, thanks to his Golden Globes victory. turn on Mr. Robot.

“I’m in a place of total gratitude to have people interested in hiring me again,” he said. For his latest project, he traded a bad boy role for a good guy in Dr Death, a limited Peacock series based on a true crime podcast. Slater plays Randall Kirby, a vascular surgeon who drives a sports car, loves opera, and wears flashy surgical bandages. When he discovers that a neurosurgeon, Christopher Duntsch (Joshua Jackson), has mutilated several patients, he fights to expose him.

“He’s definitely not the type of character I would typically play,” Slater said. “Like, generally, I’d be Dr Death, right?” I would be the killer. But Kirby, who is eccentric and ethical, is the type of character he gravitates to now.

Christian Slater and Joshua Jackson at the Tribeca Festival Premiere of 'Dr Death' in New York City.  Photograph: Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images for the Tribeca Festival

Christian Slater and Joshua Jackson at the Tribeca Festival Premiere of ‘Dr Death’ in New York City. Photograph: Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images for the Tribeca Festival

In the studio marked by the painting, Varriano presented various options for a still life. “Flowers maybe?” Slater said, gesturing to a bouquet. “Are you giving it a try?” After arranging the flowers on a block of wood, Varriano added a bust with curly hair to the board and handed Slater an assortment of charcoal sticks. “This charcoal is nice,” Slater said. – You see, said Varriano proudly. “He knows his stuff. With a plunging motion, Slater laid his first line. “That’s it,” Varriano said. “The first is always the most difficult. Well, actually the second, third, fourth, and fifth are just as difficult. He observed that Slater was drawing with his left hand (“A southpaw – I wouldn’t box him,” Varriano said) and gently encouraged him to rethink a few angles. Then he stepped back. “I don’t say a word,” Varriano said. “No, no, just ride, man. Just keep driving. Make believe that there is no one in the room.

Actor Christian Slater in a painting class at the Arts Student League in New York.  Photograph: Victor Llorente / The New York Times

Actor Christian Slater in a painting class at the Arts Student League in New York. Photograph: Victor Llorente / The New York Times

Slater laughed. “Draw like no one is looking at you,” he said, smearing a line with his middle finger. Slater sketched for about 10 minutes. He adjusted the angles of the block and made a first pass at the level of the spherical shape of the head. He then paused to show Varriano some of his early work. He took out his phone to show his version of Matisse’s La Baigneuse rendered in blue tape, then Michelangelo’s Pietà drawn in pencil, and a charcoal sketch of his wife. “She hates this one,” he said.

Varriano did not. “It’s really great,” he said. “I’m not saying that. I can understand why she wouldn’t like it. But then what? “The phone disappeared into a pocket and Slater returned his attention to the bust. The head began to take shape, the browbone, the nose, the ears, the curls. He drew with quick and precise lines, narrowing his eyes, chin thrust forward, a half-smile brushing his face.

“I wipe, draw and have fun,” he said, adding that he was renovating an apartment nearby, “so I can start coming more often”. Varriano approved. “You’re going to go down into the rabbit hole like the rest of us,” he said cheerfully. “You are going to waste your life.” Slater thought it was a good idea. The hour passed. Slater never reached the flowers. He seemed satisfied with what he had accomplished, although he had left his sketch hanging on the easel. Till next time. – New York Times


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