Mark Kowalchuk

Mark Kowalchuk

I think I realized that my job in life was to make art when I was in Grade 4. Actually I know it was Grade 4 and I remember the exact moment. We all had a cheesy art task to paint some still life fruit with tempra paints…everyone’s work looked like they had done it with the wrong hand but mine was surprisingly accurate (for a Grade 4). My teacher came up to me and said, “I know what you will be when you grow up.” He was right.

I don’t know if people love doing something because they develop a love out of repetition or it goes hand in hand with an ability they’ve been given, but art has been pretty much my whole life. After high school, I needed to make a decision on how I was going to make a living. I decided to blindly enroll in fine art school where I majored in oil painting, life drawing and print. After my three year degree a lot of my artist friends went on to teacher’s college to become an art teacher, but that didn’t much interest me. Growing up in a family of teachers I wasn’t into the thought. So I decided to become a commercial artist and enrolled in a three year graphic design program.

My day job is still currently graphic design, which allows me to fund all of my art endeavors. As far as side projects go I do artwork for Clyde Snowboards, Love Skateboards, Sandbox helmets and this year I launched my own skateboard company, Artschool skateboards with my friend Jeff Talbot. I started doing graphics for a lot of companies strictly via networking. Some people are intimidated to put themselves out there and be forward with searching, finding and asking if companies need artists. Contacting people and showing them my portfolio is all it’s been about for me. Over time your name as an artist builds and clients start coming to you. That’s exactly how it worked for me. It takes time, but anything worth doing takes time.

I am 100 percent inspired by other artists. It seems like I am fueled by what other art is out there - art that I have never thought of doing myself. There are lots of talented artists in the world and I think that’s why I keep trying to redefine my style so that I explore the different possibilities of what it means to be an artist. Having an ability to draw is easy…a lot of people can do that. The real difficulty is coming up with the concepts and different executions of that ability. I spent my first couple of years as an artist doing portraits and landscapes and realized there’s a lot more to art than what you can see.

I would say about 90 percent of my artworks are completely freestyled. I do almost everything in straight paint or ink…so erasing is not a factor. The beauty of this is that the work just unfolds in front of your eyes and you tend not to over think things. Sometimes living in the moment of creating a work prevents it from being too contrived. However, sometimes doing commercial work that is planned out is necessary.

It can be a full plate but I find time to run about three or four art shows a year, along with contributing to other art shows. No reasons to complain though. While being an artist isn’t the highest paid job, it’s definitely enjoyable in my eyes. Producing art is actually very relaxing. When I paint with my headphones on, all the stress in the world can melt away and time is irrelevant. The bonus is if the actual work turns out to be something substantial and worth keeping. If not, you just scrape your canvas down and start over. Enjoy and repeat.

The last couple of years I’ve been signing my artwork under the Artschool name, just for the simple reason that I don’t want my identity to become popular. I’m more concerned with people enjoying the work that I put out rather than become some icon like Andy Warhol. It’s hard to say what works I will be doing in five years, I’ll just keep drawing and painting and see what happens. Whatever unfolds it will be enjoyable regardless.