By age ten, Chris began to explore his creative side as he dabbled in drawing. Soon, his impressive talents emerged and, even as a young boy, his artwork often led others to take notice. Forgoing formal art education, he instead developed his own personal style independently. After becoming incarcerated, Chris soon found his voice through his artwork, and imprinted his unique style into each of his creations. With limited access to the vast array of mediums most artists use, Chris has often improvised–even going so far as to use the dye from colored candies to achieve his desired effects. This gallery contains the remaining pieces of over sixteen years’ worth of his personal work.
One of the few good things to come from the two years he spent in the county jail awaiting trial was, believe it or not, boredom. To stave off boredom he drew. A LOT. With a stub of pencil shorter than a thumb. The ink pens sold on the canteen were erasable, so the ink gummed up and wasn’t good for drawing. Eventually he came into possession of decent writing pens (can’t disclose how…) and learned to draw with pens. The oil based pen drawings are more like paintings than drawings; his technique of applying the oil ink in layers leaves a quality sheen similar to oil paintings. It took nearly a decade to become accomplished in the oil based pen medium.
It was much harder to get drawing materials once Chris got to Parchman. Unit 32 Supermax Administration enacted a “no colors” policy in the 90s because of money order counterfeiting by artistic criminals. Pencils were outlawed, and the pens sold on canteen were just ink tubes encased in clear rubber called “security pens” or “flex pens”. Pens that were hard to write with were certainly not ideal for drawing.
Pencils and pens not sold on canteen had to be hidden. Prisoners who were caught with them were issued Rules Violation Reports. The mail inspectors were notorious for issuing RVR’s for pieces of mail they found containing color drawings or writing.
In 2010 the Supermax was shut down and Chris was transferred to Unit 29. Parchman canteen began sponsoring art contests with the Education Department and eventually started selling colored markers. This change negated the “no colors” policy for Ad Seg prisoners, making it legal to possess color pencils, pens, markers and mail out some really good artwork.
Sick of black and white drawings, Chris longed to be able to paint. Markers are the closest thing to paint he’ll likely ever get in Parchman, and he was appreciative.
Most marker drawings are crosshatch style or simple cartoon sketches; not his style. After a few months of scribbling, scrubbing out dozens of marker “paintings” he developed a technique of blending and layering that resembles painting in every aspect.
He prefers to jam rock music while working. Countless works have been done on canteen days, with broken up Nutty Bars or several packs of cookies on hand to fuel animated sketching intermixed with pacing the cell, playing air guitar, eating more snacks and trying to avoid getting chocolate on the drawing.
Drawing an image from your mind can be incredibly difficult even for the most talented of artists. Chris began as a “copycat” artist, sketching (not tracing) others’ works. The ability to draw from the mind developed after years of customers, in prison and in the free world, commissioned art that forced Chris to use his mind to be truly creative.
"In prison, art is therapeutic; the longer a drawing takes to complete - the more creative thinking involved - the greater the overall mental benefit." - C. Roy
"Great art requires more than skill and your time. It requires your heart." - C. Roy
"For me, the longer, more detailed, more headache-inducing a drawing is, the bigger the sense of accomplishment I experience." - C. Roy
Get inspired! Read more about Chris' ongoing creative journey in the features below...
Chris was busy crafting Holiday cheer for friends, family, and even to decorate the prison. Check out the latest pieces in his growing collection here
Rise Tattoo Magazine
The September 2017 – Issue #47 of France’s Rise Tattoo Magazine features “a sensitive article on the condition of Chris Roy, a prisoner in high security in the United States…”
New Feature Coming Soon.