A&E » Arts

Northern inspiration



Thom making a go of it as an artist in Pemberton

Sometimes you have to be unconventional to be creative. It takes courage to escape the confines of traditional schooling and a 9-5 job, but that’s exactly what Chili Thom did. The Whistler artist now spends his days steeped in acrylic, focused on his passion and his career.

"I was studying fine arts at UBC and it was just a waste of time," Thom says frankly. "I didn’t gain anything except a lot of unused supplies. I felt there wasn’t a real concentration on the art. You’re forced to take a lot of extra programs that you have no real interest in. The art program itself, the three hours in studio, we’d get assigned a new project every week, but it would always be in a new medium. You never had time, amongst all the other classes you’re trying to keep up with, to actually sit down and learn how to do it."

Instead the Chilliwack-born Thom struck off in his own direction and, like many long-term Whistlerites, he became an accidental resident in the mountains. Artists, in particular, flock to the region for the landscape and inspiration. But Thom is quick to point out that for all the inspiration Mother Nature has to offer, the resort offers just as many distractions. It would be several years before Thom discovered his calling in acrylic paint.

"I’ve been coming to Whistler since I was a little kid, so I’ve seen it grow up. I travelled for a bit after UBC and then came up here to visit a friend. I realized I really didn’t want to go back to living in the city and everything just seemed to come together. I got the first job I applied for at Sushi Village. Two days later I found a place to live, which was also the first one I had checked out.

"Now, I’m living in Pemberton, but before I found it really hard. I’d get just little creative waves here and there, where I’d go for maybe 10 days of the month and paint for just a few hours. But I never felt that I was getting done what I wanted to get done. So I quit my job at Sushi Village (at the start of the summer) and lived like a bum and starved for about two and a half months until Artrageous. But being out here in Pemberton, I’ve been able to work on my art every day and always have new ideas."

Thom makes mention of the July 6 Artrageous, Whistler’s annual artist exhibition, where his first-ever showing garnered a lot of attention. He spent the evening continuously surrounded by curious onlookers, not to mention a few serious buyers, including one who took home Thom’s, Submersion Effect. The 33x90 inch acrylic on canvass largely typifies what is making the 25 year old a sought after artist. "Did you see the blue painting around the corner?" proved a popular phrase that evening. Submersion Effect’s vibrant blues and greens drew the initial "wows," but it was Thom’s clever brush strokes that tickled the eye, created the illusion of movement and depth and kept observers pinned to the spot for more than just a passing glance.