Wild life artist | Sunday Observer

Wild life artist

28 August, 2022

Chamindra de Silva is a self-taught, aspiring, realistic wildlife artist with a great passion for wildlife conservation. Nature is his muse behind his creativity and his immense love and affection for the nature since childhood later drew him to become an aspiring wildlife artist.

This is an interview done with Chamindra de Silva by the Sunday Observer about his vibrant artistic journey:

Q. How long have you been painting?

A. I have been painting professionally science 2017. Although I have been drawing ever since I can remember and my mother greatly encouraged. Though I have worked with crayons and water colours during my school days, I could never use those mediums to express what I really wanted express. Being frustrated I grew to dislike colours altogether and was intimidated by the lack of skill and quality of my work. So with that insecurity in me, I limited to my pencil and paper work which I have been truly good at. A few years back I was inspired to try out my hand in painting ones more. That’s how my journey begun and since then, there’s no turn back.

Q. Who are your greatest influences?

A. I would say my greatest influencers are my parents especially my father whom I deeply admire, for living an exemplary life of a passionate and loving human being. I learnt to respect, love and protect every life, which triggered the flare 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. Few of the other modern-day artists that I admire are Robert Bateman, David Shepherd and the many famous classical realist artists in the past.

Q. Did you have a formal education or are you self taught?

A. 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 in the subject of fine arts. Being inspired I learnt the technique for oil medium, which triggered my first painting and been painting ever since and creating my own unique style of painting. Also venturing into other mediums to expand my experience and knowledge to search what works best for me. Since an early age the pencil or graphite drawings has been sharpen an un-orthodox style and technique which is unique to me. I strive to achieve a detail naturalistic style in all my paintings.

Q. What is your obsession behind wildlife? Why do you paint wildlife?

A. 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, instilled a bond with nature. Intrigued by the 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. So at the crossroads of deciding a genre for my artistic career it was natural for me to focus on this subject. I strongly believe that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love nature and its being.

Q. 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?

A. 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 post production career is working with the Discovery channel. It has been an un-orthodox experience similar to my fine art, with gaining experience on the job.

My love for visual creativity drove me in the path of 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 post production career and go freelancing to take care of my daughter. As predicted sailing was not easy as the freelance culture in Sri Lanka was not so popular at that time and practiced especially in my field of work. So I wanted to venture into other avenues in lieu of making a livelihood.

At this point I stumbled on some paintings done by an artist in New Zealand which inspired me igniting to try out my talents in painting. He had a few short videos describing his easy simple method of oil painting. So I purchased a small set of oil paints and using some raw cloth I conjured a couple of boxed canvas. Also I custom built a table easel which I use up to this day, merging it with an old wooden drawers set. After which I set out to concurmy dream of creating a change for the endangered wildlife.

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 spoke to me loudly. With no hesitation I took the biggest canvas I had made and started on my first oil painting. What turned out to be in a couple of months just blew my mind and my family and friends too. I just couldn't believe that for all the 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 I couldn't paint for so many years. Since then I have never looked back, I expand my knowledge and did various experiments in many other mediums such as Tempra, Gouache, Water colour and Acrylics. As an artist it is very important to keep evolving and fine-tuning and improving on one's self.

Q. How did being a graphic designer and video editor help you as a painter? Did you feel like you had a head start?

A. Of course I learnt a lot during my post production 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 that you create a rollercoaster of emotions and feelings in the viewer. That is what a great masterpiece could archive. All that in a single painting, that is the ultimate challenge. So it is new waters to master but I am confident in my current path I will archive my goals.

Q. Could you walk us through your process? Percentage wise, how much time do you spend preparing for the painting and how much time is the actual painting itself? Is preparation an important part of your process?

A. Preparation depends on the nature of the painting and it is not a 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 accordingly 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 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 percent 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 required. Paying close attention to the mid tonal values and brush work. This process would consume another 30 percent of the total painting duration. Finally the detailing, "the icing on the cake" just brings the whole painting to life. All the detail elements, highlighting them. The work on this stage requires the smallest brush range.

Q. You seem to be consistently trying new artistic adventures. How is artistic exploration important to you as an artist and your process? How do you then decide what to pull into your style and what to leave as pure fun?

A. As far as art as a subject matter, currently I am in a place which I'm striving to help conservation and educate about Sri Lankan endemic wildlife. I pay more attention on 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 to achieve the best. Being a realistic painter inspired by the nature and its beings, it’s my utmost duty to safeguard and protect it through my work.

Q. 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?

A. 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 evident to me, 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.

Q. You’ve accomplished a lot in the past few years including working with the Discovery channel. How do you strive to push yourself? Do you set goals for yourself? And if so, what do those goals look like? Do you think setting goals is important for his/her artistic journey? If so why?

A. 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 professionals. Progress can only achieve 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 duration 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 project 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 wildlife all across the world and encourage and educate people in that aspect.