Once Chamindra de Silva is a self-taught, realistic wildlife artist with a great passion for wildlife conservation. Nature is the muse behind his creativity and his immense love for nature since childhood led him to become a wildlife artist in adult life.
This is an exclusive interview done with Chamindra de Silva by Aartzy about his vibrant, artistic journey:
How long have you been painting?
I have been painting professionally science 2017. Although I have been drawing ever since I can remember and my mother greatly encouraged me and though, and I have worked with crayons and watercolors during my school days, I could never use those mediums to express what I really wanted to express. Being frustrated I grew to dislike colors altogether and was discouraged and intimidated by the lack of skill and quality in my work. So, with that insecurity in me, I limited myself to pencil and paper work which I have been truly good at. A few years back, I was inspired to try my hand at painting once more. That's how my journey began and since then, there has been no turning back.
Who are your greatest influencers?
I would say my greatest influencers are my parents, especially, my father. I deeply admire him for living the exemplary life of a passionate and loving human being. I learnt to respect, love and protect all life, which triggered the flow in me to start painting for a greater cause like conservation and protection. In the world of art, I was inspired by a realistic artist named Andrew Tischler. His quality of art is something that I strive to achieve in my paintings. A few of the other modern-day artists that I admire are Robert Bateman, David Shepherd and the many famous classical, realist artists of the past.
Did you have a formal education or are you self-taught?
I have no formal academic background in the field of fine arts but using the modern-day online library I keep learning and expanding my knowledge of fine arts. Being inspired, I learnt the technique for the oil medium, which triggered my first painting I have been painting ever since and creating my own unique style of painting. I am also venturing into other mediums to expand my experience and knowledge and to search for what works best for me. From an early age, the pencil or graphite drawings has been sharpened to an un-orthodox style and technique which is unique to me. I strive to achieve a detailed naturalistic style in all my paintings.
How did you become so passionate about wildlife and wildlife painting?
The love for wildlife grew in me from a very early age. I remember so vividly the countless days I spent helping my grandmother in the garden and this instilled a bond with nature. Intrigued by plant and insect life, I used to draw them as a hobby. In my teenage years even going to the extent of drawing wildlife as gifts for my family members who encouraged me greatly in my drawing and painting. So, at the crossroads of deciding a genre for my artistic career it was natural for me to focus on this subject.
You are a professional non-liner video editor with nearly two decades of experience in the field. What made you to diversify your career into painting too?
I used to work as a non-liner video editor for over two decades amongst some of the reputed stations in Sri Lanka and overseas. The highlight of my postproduction career is working with the Discovery channel. It has been an un-orthodox experience similar to my experience with fine art gaining experience on the job. My love for visual creativity drove me to the path of an digital post production artist working on all aspects may it be animating, compositing, 2D and 3D designing not forgetting the audio medium too. As a digital media artist, it was my dream to direct and produce 3D movies. With the arrival of my daughter in 2007, all those dreams took a backseat as I decided to give up my fulltime postproduction career and go freelancing to take care of my daughter.
As predicted, the sailing was not easy as the freelance culture in Sri Lanka was not such a popular practise at that time especially in my field of work. So, I wanted to venture into other avenues of making a livelihood. At this point, I stumbled on some paintings done by an artist in New Zealand which inspired me to try out my talents in painting. He had a few short videos describing his easy, simple method of oil painting. I purchased a small set of oil paints and using some raw cloth I conjured up a couple of boxed canvases. Also, I custom built a table easel which I use up to this day, merging it with an old, wooden set of drawers. After which I set out to make my dream of creating a change for the endangered wildlife a reality. Shuffling through reference material to paint.
I stumbled on this amazing Gorilla eyes, which spoke to me loudly. The suffering, pain and anger in those eyes tugged at my heart strings very strongly. With no hesitation, I took the biggest canvas I had made and started on my first oil painting. What it turned out to be in a couple of months just blew my mind and those of my family and friends too. I just couldn't believe that for all these years I had it in me unknowingly. I was ecstatic and disappointed at the same time. Ecstatic for finding the pot of gold in the form of talent to paint and disappointed in being so naive to think that I couldn't paint for so many years. Since then I have never looked back, I expanded my knowledge and did various experiments in many other mediums such as Tempera, Gouache, Water colour and Acrylics. As an artist it is very important to keep evolving and fine-tuning and improving one's self.
How did being a graphic designer and video editor help you as a painter? Did you feel like you had a head start?
Of course. I learnt a lot during my postproduction career on framing, colour, visual storytelling and so on. With Fine art, it is much more than that. A fine artist is the creator and the narrator in which you create a rollercoaster of emotions and feelings in the viewer. That is what a great masterpiece could achieve. All that in a single painting, that is the ultimate challenge. So, it is new waters to navigate and master, but I am confident that on my current path I will achieve my goals.
Could you walk us through your process? Percentage wise, how much time do you spend preparing for the painting and how much time on the actual painting itself? Is preparation an important part of your process?
Preparation depends on the nature of the painting and it is not compulsory. Sometimes I do a rough thumbnail sketch to plan out the scene. As the painting process is a form of evolving I am not strictly bound by the rough sketch but with the progress of the painting I would change and modify according to the narrative. My process on canvas starts off with breaking up the canvas and working on the one third rule. That gives me a visual indication of the framing of my scene. Then I start staining the canvas to get rid of the stark white, keeping in mind the result of colour temperature. Then I add blocks of colour adhering to the colour values and tonal temperatures. This process is fairly easy and takes around 30 per cent of the total painting time.
The next step is sculpting and modifying. Consisting of fine-tuning the elements on canvas, achieving the effects and narration I require paying close attention to the mid tonal values and brush work. This process would consume another 30 per cent of the total painting duration. Finally, the detailing, 'the icing on the cake" which just brings the whole painting to life. All the detailing elements, highlighting them. The work at this stage requires the smallest brush range.
You seem to be consistently engaging in new artistic adventures. How is artistic exploration important to you as an artist and to your process? How do you then decide what to incorporate into your style and what to leave as pure fun?
As far as art as a subject matter, currently I am in a place in which I'm striving to help conservation and educate about Sri Lankan endemic wildlife. I pay more attention to wildlife and nature scenes which are in danger of disappearing. I have started several series of paintings promoting rare and indigenous wildlife and nature. Evolution with time is crucial for an artist in order to achieve the best. Being a realistic painter inspired by nature and its beings, it's my utmost duty to safeguard and protect it through my work.
Was there a particular moment where you could tell that your skills had just crossed over into being a very good painter instead of a pretty good painter? What did you do to make that leap?
As I mentioned, facing my fears and believing in me and my abilities was the change and turning point in my career. My first oil painting was proof to me of the fact along with the many positive feedback that I received from my family, friends and many professional artists, that I hit the goldmine. It's been a couple of years since I first started but with every painting I am improving my skills and knowledge and will continue to do so.
You've accomplished much in the last few years including working with the Discovery channel. How do you push yourself? Do you set goals for yourself? And if so, what are those goals? Do you think setting goals is important for an artist in his/her artistic journey? If so why?
Of course, goals are very important. As I believe a clear direction and purpose to the work or profession is the key to success for any professional. Progress can only be achieved through goals. As an artist I have many goals. Within the three years of my very short time period as an artist, in this year two of my paintings were selected for two different exhibitions held in the US after a thorough curation process. This has given me confidence in my work. This is just the beginning and the tip of the iceberg of my aspiration in arts - that is to mark my name as a world-class wildlife artist one day.
Helping wildlife conservation projects is also another goal that I have set in my artistic journey. Apart from that, I want to try out other painting genres and do sculpting too. With time I hope to share my knowledge with the next generation who admire wildlife painting and therefore, I hope to open an art school and that is mainly to help conserve and protect the wildlife all across the world and encourage and educate people in that aspect.
How is your experience working with Aartzy? Do you think it's a useful platform for artists?
As a professional artist, marketing your product is important for success. In the past, it was a gruelling task to reach the target audience mainly through art exhibitions which is highly expensive. In this modern era taking advantage of the internet to market or promote your work would be the most effective marketing tool available. That is the advantage of Aartzy, and their impressive services provided for the benefit of the artists and their work as an online gallery. Showcasing your work through them would instantly increase your target audience or potential clients by many aspects. I'm an Artist who always likes to think outside the box. We need to expand our reach and take advantage of the modern tools available to us.
Janaka at Aartzy has been a refreshing source of encouragement and inspiration. I am glad to be working together with Aartzy and I hope we will build a long-term working relationship further, grooming and nurturing one another steadily.
Now you also can view and pruchase from Chamindra's collection via https://www.aartzy.com/artist/chamindra-de-silva