I'm always on a painting trip," says Mike Svob. "It's my life."
The longtime White Rock artist is describing the range of scenes that inspired the work in his upcoming solo exhibit at the Adele Campbell gallery. "There are a few from Whistler, some from the Rockies, some from the interior of B.C. There might be one or two from Mexico. Basically, I'm inspired by the places I go. I paint things I see there. That's what you'll see in the show."
Titled Connections, the exhibit is based around a loose theme of how we interpret art. Or, as Svob explains, "It's partly the idea that when you're an artist what you do on the technical end of the craft is graphic art, painting. It has to do with the way we see colours, values, shapes. We connect them together in our brain."
For example, he adds, when we're looking at a painting of a dog we say we see a dog rather than the shape of a dog, even though it's technically the latter. "It's connections between people and what they're looking at and how it works," he adds. "It's also connections for me personally. I paint (subjects) the way I want to see them."
Svob might put an interpretive spin on his pieces, but he also suspects local viewers might recognize a few spots. Travelling up to Whistler "thousands" of times, some of the show's paintings depict scenes from Black Tusk, local lakes and mountain ranges. "Every (visit here) you see something differently," he says. "I'm always looking for new ideas, new ways to put things together."
Svob, who has been working as a fulltime painter (his mediums vary from acrylics to oils and watercolours) for the last three decades, served as president of the Federation of Canadian Artists and teaches painting workshops, is often drawn to colour and light, not just the landscape itself. "What I'm known for probably is I take things that you see and then I twist them and turn them around, mostly with colour," he says. "Colour is more about mood or emotion. You can move colour around a lot and have the same subject, but you can change emotion by changing colour."
He got a rare peak into his fellow artists' process recently as part of the Art for an Oil Free Coast trip up the B.C. coast to the Great Bear Rainforest. He was one of 50 Canadian artists to make the trek with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation as part of the organization's effort to stop supertankers from potentially travelling through the area carrying bitumen from Alberta's tar sands. (The resulting travelling exhibit made a stop in Whistler earlier this month.)
"It was fun," Svob says. "I've never done anything like that before... I'm not that political in nature in the sense that I don't run around protesting. I thought, 'I do care about this part of the world and this is probably the right thing to do.' Being a visual artist most of what you do is on your own. You don't get to spend a lot of time with other artists. Everyone feeds off each other."
That might be the case, but Svob says he is never at a loss for inspiration. "I'll never finish the paintings I have in my head," he says. "I never run out of ideas."