Steve Chmilar of Sidney, here outside his home and studio on Beaufort Road, is one of more than 25 artists participating in 2019 Artsea Fall Studio Tour. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Saanich Peninsula artists open their studio doors to public

ArtSea Fall Studio Tour gives residents a chance to visit and learn more about the creative process

Artists across the Saanich Peninsula are once again opening their studio doors this weekend.

Wendy Picken, studio tour committee lead, says the ArtSea Fall Studio Tour gives residents a chance to visit and learn more about the creative process from local painters, sculptors, jewellers, weavers, potters and carvers and other artists living in Sidney, Central and North Saanich.

“With many new artists involved, as well as long-time favorites, art lovers will be able to enjoy a wide variety of genres through paintings, metal and fabric sculptures, glass and stoneware, and much more,” she said.

First-time participant Steve Chmilar is among the more than 25 local artists participating in the tour, which runs both Oct. 26 and 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more info, see here.

“It’s really the most intimate art fair in some ways, because people are actually walking into your studio rather than a studio that you set up and display your finish work,” he said. “They get to see things that are unfinished.”

While it is hard to predict the tour’s impact on Chmilar’s creative process, art fairs have made his entire career.

“It’s the one place where artists can get feedback from hundreds, if not thousands of people all at one time,” he said. “So it’s actually the real field test. For me personally, I’m not really too concerned about getting feedback on my work necessarily. I’m just interested in the meeting the community, in meeting local people and kind of announcing my presence. I have only been here for a year and I haven’t done anything like this yet. So it will be really to nice meet other people, who are interested in the art or other artists as well.

RELATED: ArtSea Spring studio tour set to be bigger and better than ever

Born in Alberta, Chmilar arrived in Sidney after living in Calgary, British Columbia’s interior, Oak Bay, and most recently Toronto, where he lived for six years before returning to Greater Victoria last year. “I always planned on coming back,” he said. “It wasn’t a permanent thing.”

This of course raises an interesting question: why forego artistic and commercial opportunities offered by Toronto for Sidney?

While those opportunities inspired Chmilar’s move to Toronto in the first place, success for visual artists increasingly depends on having an online presence, as he found out when an Australian gallery with more than 200,000 followers on Instagram displayed one of his pieces, leading to sales in New York and Vancouver.

“You don’t really need to be there [in a big city like Toronto], and actually I have found it to be a bit of hindrance,” he said. “The bigger the city, the more demand and the more expensive it is to have space. So I had to work in a really small, confined little space. I build models and things like that, as well as paint, so space is nice for me. For me, 99 per cent of the calendar year is spent working rather than showing, and I have gotten more exposure through the right of kind of Instagram post than I have for living in Toronto.”

Sidney certainly offers Chmilar more space than he would have had in Toronto. Living on Sidney’s Beaufort Road, he and his partner Ingrid Hansen, who has deep ties in Victoria’s theatre community, reside in an old heritage home overlooking Roberts Bay, where the only audible interruptions are the rattle of chainsaws from tree maintenance crews working nearby and the screeching of eagles in treetops.

“We knew that we would eventually get something, but this place was incredible, because there is a lot of space,” said Chmilar. “We are pinching ourselves all the time, when we look out the window.”

For more on the tour visit artsea.ca.


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