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The art of making art



Chili Thom’s reputation growing

Chili Thom’s palette continues to expand.

The Pemberton artist, born in Chilliwack, B.C., has been pursuing life as a painter full time for the past year, and a slew of sales indicate there will be work for a long time to come.

"You have to know where you want to go, and figure out where you want to go and what you want to achieve," Thom says.

With his story to air next January as part of the Whistler Stories television series, and a number of Toronto and California connections in the works, Thom’s reputation as an artist is growing.

At the moment he continues to sell the last of his stock. He recently sold the painting No Shallow Diving, a 14 X 18 inch acrylic set on Vancouver Island, for an undisclosed sum to a Seattle buyer.

"It’s getting so busy, it’s hard to keep up!" laughs Thom, who is currently completing two commissions for a Vancouver buyer who has a new log home in Whistler.

One painting, to which he added the finishing touches on Tuesday, looks from Function Junction towards West Bowl. A second will feature a view of Powder Mountain.

Like many other "overnight success" in the arts world, Thom’s success is built upon years of hard work.

For four years he painted in his spare time while working full time at Whistler’s Sushi Village. Landscape scenes are a common theme.

"There’s something really peaceful about water, and I like working that out on a larger scale," he says.

Swimming in the Green River brings in hues of olives and beiges, whose curving strips of colour have a ’60s feel. The perspective of the painting, which appears to be from underwater looking up, brings realism to the way the sunlight refracts in water.

With a modernist look and feel, Thom’s oval shapes and flowing blocks of colour swatches convey a country scene.

Again he captures the light source in If Light Could Bend, showing snow-laden trees that look like cotton if it only grew in shades of blue. Meanwhile psychedelic light patterns in shades of yellows mix with pastel clouds behind branches, whose rising swirls indicate a storm or sun rising.

As an outdoor guide, all the landscapes he could want are on his back doorstep.

"Every time I go out on a trip I get new ideas. The next one is to the Broken Islands with a group of friends, where I’ll update some photos too."

He will sometimes use a photo to assist with mountain lines, or the arc of a tree.

After completing a few paintings during Christmas 1998, when he had some old canvas lying around, Thom started painting whenever he had the time, energy, and the chance.

A one year stint in fine arts at UBC left him unsatisfied, so he decided the great outdoors was just as good a lesson in colour.

"I like the way Lawren Harris and Tom Thomson are very simplified, and I learned simplification techniques from them," he says.

As part of his artist statement posted on the Internet, he writes: "I like taking inspiration from my job as an outdoor wilderness guide, I began to incorporate the amazing landscapes of British Columbia into my paintings."

And Thom’s advice to emerging artists?

"Have a really good portfolio, and call ahead."