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Meet Reed Chappell of Chappell Studios Art in Tempe near ASU

Today we’d like to introduce you to Reed Chappell.

Reed, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started drawing when I was 3 because of my father’s encouragement. My father, Ellis, was a commercial illustrator at the time and would do drawings of superheroes but leave them half finished and tell me to draw the rest of the drawings myself. This got me hooked. I diligently continued drawing any spare second I had until getting a scholarship to go to the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan in the early 90’s. While there, I studied the works of John Singer Sargent, Haddon Sundblom, and Burton Silverman and began a lifelong dedication to traditional oil portraiture.

I started Chappell Studios Art with my father in the mid-nineties. I’ve always been the head artist here, but in the beginning, my dad would paint backgrounds and clothing and I would focus on faces and hands. I’ve since taken over all jobs and have done so since the early 2000s, as my father is now retired. I’ve had the pleasure of doing portraits of the Neville brothers, Steven Seagal, Gregory Peck, and Allison Janney’s dogs, as well as portraits commissioned by Universities of retiring faculty and many, many portraits of individuals and families.

I currently split my time between Tempe and New Orleans, depending on which commissions I get during the year. I love Phoenix and its mountains and desert and am amazed by their beauty and uniqueness every time I return.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Art has always come easy for me and being a portrait artist has always been a good fit for me. In my personal life, however, I started having problems with anxiety and panic attacks in my early 20s which were very intense and difficult to get through. It never affected my work, but this went on for several years and took a lot of work to get past. This was a major part of my life when it was happening, but eventually, the panic attacks tapered off and it’s very rare that I have any problems with any of that anymore. These days, I’m doing TM (Transcendental Meditation) and exercising regularly which does a pretty damn good job keeping me peaceful and happy. I’m very grateful to be where I am today.

Chappell Studios Art – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Over the years, I’ve had the honor to paint several paintings of people who’ve passed away – postmortem portraits. I really enjoy doing these, because I hope I can help people hold onto the memories of their friends and loved ones who have gone. In these cases, I feel particularly dedicated to creating the perfect portrait for them.

As far as what I specialize in – I’m quite good at removing 10-20 lbs. (or more) and making my clients look 10-20 years younger as well. These are the most common requests, but it is vitally important to do them well without diminishing my clients’ accuracy of likeness. For this type of modification in a portrait, you have to be good at drawing the head your imagination, you have to be good at shading from your imagination. You have to be good at portraiture and the abstract art of finding the precise angles and proportions that make a portrait look like your subject, and you have to be good at drawing from life or from photos. Getting it exact is a challenge which I truly love doing! Pretty much any modification is a challenge I enjoy taking on. One portrait I got, years ago, was to do a painting from a tattered, tiny photo. This was the only photo this lady had of her son – and it was in bright sunlight, so he was squinting hard! I had to do preliminary pencil drawings of how this lady’s son would look with the muscles around his eyes relaxed before I could even start the painting. This was very tricky to get this based on so little information, but I figured it out, she was happy with it, and I really enjoyed the whole process!

As far as what sets me apart from others, I would say would be my versatility. I have the grounded foundation in photorealism and illustration to be able to modify and fully realize a portrait from the ground up, and I have the experience to be able to paint art that is not only representational but cultured as well.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I’m a perfectionist, so every portrait makes me proud. If a portrait I’m doing doesn’t make me feel that way, I work on it until it is worthy. The celebrity portraits have been thrilling and I really enjoyed being commissioned by Tulane to paint their retiring Emeritus Regents Professor and Chairman of Surgery, Dr. Robert Hewitt. I’d love to do some more of those.


  • Oil Portraits (one person) – $2,000 to $5,000
  • Charcoal Portraits (one person) – $400 to $800
  • Single Pet Portrait (oil) – $400 to $600
  • Single Pet Portrait (charcoal) – $250 to $500

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Allyson Ross Worsham

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