Portrait of an Artist: Paul Chizik

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Following in the footsteps of the renaissance masters, Paul Chizik's classical—almost poetic—painting style seems somewhat at odds with the fiery perspectives he shares.

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His East Vancouver home is modest in furnishings, but abundant in its representations of European culture. Upon entering his studio, overlooking 33rd Avenue, I encounter several grand oil paintings featuring detailed scenes of London and Venice, and walls lined with a plethora of smaller pieces, from portraits to landscapes.

The grand feature pieces take Chizik months, sometimes half a year or longer, to complete. In his modest studio space, he relies on a reverse magnifier glass to visualize their appearance in their future European banquet halls and mansions.

Boy in White.
Paul Chizik

Where many artists choose a path of experimentation and the abstracted representation of ideas, Chizik is fuelled to achieve mastery of his craft. And while he's the first to critique the state of art today, he's markedly humble when discussing the art he aspires towards.

“If you go to the National Gallery of London or the Doge Palace in Venice, you walk out feeling ashamed of yourself, because you feel that skill wise and work wise you've done nothing—skill-wise you feel like a chimp,” he says.

He reminisces about the 19th Century, when training to be an artist lasted 10 years and when the masses could read art much better than today. Today, he says, the fast pace of life and all the competing influences, such as television and social media, results in “an age where we're bombarded with mediocrity.”

“You want the work to stop the viewer, to take their breath away.  Just like if you pay to go to the theatre, they should be entertained. If they gasp, then you know you're doing what you meant to do,” he says.

Chizik's bottom line is that there's a standard in art, but he acknowledges that this standard has led to many disagreements where he teaches at Langara College.

A Global Citizen

Red, White on Blue #2.
Paul Chizik

Despite being born and living in Canada, Chizik is distinctly global in his approach to life and work.

“In this world, you can live anywhere. What you need to do is broad-base yourself. If you think regionally, you're in trouble,” says the man who practices Chinese martial arts when he's not painting.

Chizik trained in the U.S., in the fine-arts program at the University of Western Washington, which led him to study under figurative painter Tom Sherwood in Bellingham.

Eventually, he made my way to Florence, Italy, where he appreciated not just the change in pace, but the opportunity to study and replicable master works.

Today, Chizik has carved out a lifestyle that includes a lot of travel to Europe, especially to London where he's represented by Belgravia Gallery.

While Chizik also sells in the U.S., Canada is not his target market; the average Canadian doesn't have the background to read art, nor do they want to meet his price point, which can be in the tens of thousands depending on the piece.

“The art market is very speculative, and is not always based on sound advice in terms of skill level. When people buy a car, they find out as much they can as a car before making the purchase. They often don't do the same with art,” he says.

Regardless of the art market, Chizik is going to keep doing what he's doing, seven days a week and up to 18 hours a day: “It is a calling, like a Priesthood. It's something I need to do.”

Find out more about Paul at paulchizik.com. Or, check out his students' showcase at the Croatian Cultural Centre, on now until September 15.

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