I recently showed my paintings and drawings in a large Toronto art fair called The Artist Project. My section was a 10’x10′ white walled booth – one of over 200, all under one roof. Throughout the three and a half day event, I passed out hundreds of business cards and got the chance to speak with the public as they cycled through my display.
The largest painting that I had to show ( A Parable of Sparks ) received the most attention of my ten total pieces. It’s popularity compared to my other work was no surprise as it was the busiest composition in my collection and was centered on the main wall facing the aisle. At some points during the exhibit, more people than my booth could fit were gathered around, pointing, talking, giggling and wondering about this piece. It was very satisfying to see how young and old alike reacted, in the similar way that people react to the paintings of Pieter Brueghel (1525-1569) when they visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna – or so I’ve seen in documentaries.
I will now recap the most common questions that I had heard from people at the art fair and answer them in a more detailed way than I could have in person. Here is a brief “self interview” question and answer.
Q: “Have you ever done illustration or animation before?”
A: Not commercially. I am fortunate to have an overflow of my own ideas and I feel that it would not be as enjoyable to paint and draw commissioned work. The bonus to working commercially would be a steadier income but so far I am able to survive creating exactly what I want, telling my own story. If the opportunity came about to create something that I could add directly to my body of work, I would consider it depending on the circumstances.
While my paintings do seem to resemble computer animation, I work in the old fashioned way with pencils and brushes, sketching and planning for many days before starting to mix oil paint. If I had been a painter long before computer animation, I am confident that my images would look the same as they do now. I think the resemblance is coincidental and not influential. When a similarity between my work and computer animation or claymation is mentioned, I take it as a compliment because the 3D into 2D illusion of light and shadow is what sophisticated computer programs excel at, and claymation uses real forms under actual light.
Q: “Where did you train?”
A: I started drawing when I was two years old. Sometime around 2006, I had begun to paint more earnestly than my adolescent abstract experiments with acrylic. By 2008 I had taught myself the basics of traditional oil painting and haven’t looked back. To this day I see every new piece as a fresh challenge from which I can learn and improve.
Q: “What is this painting about?”
A: Before I answer that, I would like to mention that there is a deeper meaning to this type of process separate from the content or story within the image. Realistic oil paintings take a great deal of time and working in a traditional way is a conscious juxtaposition from the aspects of modern culture that seem careless and inept. While there are many other mediums and forms of expression now available, painters such as myself stick to old conventions not from fear of the new – but in praise of permanence. In my opinion, there has never been a better age to make this type of art as our everyday surroundings provide a context in which the classical forms can stand apart.
The treatment of bright verses broken ideas can be seen through the different characters interactions. When there is a working light bulb, it is either about to be smashed, must be kept hidden or is coming from a far away place as represented by the tiny pigeon towing a bulb from the distance in the top right corner of the painting. Other elements such as a candle in an unplugged work light, a guitar in place of a table leg and a computer mouse used as a cats toy, elude to a misuse of communicative tools which would help to connect this family to new ideas. The fallen mailbox at left as well as the clipped wire pole (at background center) further represent the disconnect from outside information.
The phrase, “we are what we eat” is played upon where the broken bulbs have cycled from the garden to the dinner table; a metaphor for the mental diet. The parrot was commonly used in classical art to symbolize repeating without understanding. There are many other unconsciously placed elements in the composition such as the old man’s head centered around the fireplace and the child’s head centered around the television. Other details which complete the allegory may not be visible in the specific images displayed here.
Thank you for reading.
All Images Are © Steven Chmilar
Steven Chmilar Artist Bio
Steven Chmilar is an oil painter and singer-songwriter guitarist. He was born in Grande Prairie, Alberta on December 25, 1979. While living in Calgary from 2000 – 2008, he played music professionally and won a national songwriting contest in the spring of 2006 at CMW in Toronto. He lived in Victoria from 2008 until 2012 where he painted and performed as a solo musician.
A career shift to full-time visual artist was made after the success of his first show in November of 2011. Since moving to Toronto in the spring of 2012, Steven won “best in show” at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit and has continued selling his work independently.
Blog / Website: Steve Chmilar
Follow Steven Chmilar on: Facebook