Anyone who’s been to the Moss St. Paint-In over the last three years will likely have taken notice of local artist Steve Chmilar working on one of his masterpieces. His modern take on Flemish-style oil painting lures the eye with intricate detail and holds the viewer’s attention with intriguing subject matter.
The 31-year-old painter and musician is completely self taught. His first completed painting, “Horn,” took more than 500 hours to complete. His second, “Tower,” took more than 700.
“It’s all in the detail,” says Chmilar. “The difference between a great painting and a masterpiece is in those tiny things. It’s a quality over quantity endeavour. I’ve tried to find shortcuts, and while I’ve discovered a number of methods, I’ve also discovered there’s no easy way to get there.”
Now that he has five finished pieces and a few more in the works, Chmilar is getting ready to make his debut in Art of the Delightfully Absurd, a group show of surrealist works in the historic Massey Gallery at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, alongside Horst Loewel, Brad Pasutti and Haren Vakil.
“I’ve been waiting the last three and a half years to start. This is the official beginning of my art career,” says Chmilar, who up until 2007 was focused on his career as a musician (he played in The Villains in Calgary, where the band won a national songwriting competition.)
After discovering the art of Flemish renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel, Chmilar decided to try his hand at replicating a section of one of his paintings.
“It turned out really well, so I decided to build a boat and sail,” says Chmilar.
“I take my art very seriously and I know it’s what I want to do for a living.”
With books and YouTube videos as his mentors, Chmilar spends endless hours perfecting his craft, starting first with a detailed sketch, which is where the majority of the creative process takes place.
“It’s like a dress rehearsal,” says Chmilar. “The more I develop the preliminary sketch, the easier it is to execute the painting.”
He transfers the sketch onto canvas free hand. The rest of the time, Chmilar works to perfect each painting, scraping things off and starting again when he’s not happy with the results. “What people see in the finished painting is not the first try,” he says.
“Since I was very young, I’ve always been very patient,” he says. “It’s not a problem for me to spend an entire evening working on the flesh tones of one face on the painting. It’s meditative, and it’s bliss to have the time to do what I want.”
See three of Chmilar’s finished originals and two preliminary sketches in the show. Chmilar and the other featured artists will be in attendance. M
Art of the Delightfully Absurd
Featuring Steve Chmilar, Horst Loewel, Brad Pasutti and Haren Vakil.
Opening Friday, Oct. 14.
Opening reception Saturday, Oct. 15, 2pm
Artists in attendance.
Massey Gallery, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (1040 Moss) Running until Nov. 13