Paul Van Ginkel is a Canadian representational painter specializing in western and dance themes. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Paul studied at the Alberta College of Art in Calgary before earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from Syracuse University in New York. After initially working as an illustrator for six years, Paul decided to become a full-time artist in 1990. Part of Paul's growth as an artist has come from travelling to different places such as New York City, Santa Fe, Venice, Andalusia and more. He continues to travel the globe in search of new artistic stimulation while expanding his vast archive of photographic reference material.
What made you decide to become an artist?
"I only found out about the Alberta College of Art (in Calgary) in 1978 when I was in my last year of high school. I applied, was accepted, and the rest, as they say, is history."
You have a wide repertoire of subjects and mediums you have tackled. Can you walk us through your creative process?
"My primary objective as a painter is to learn, grow, improve and earn a decent living at it. An artist(in any discipline also has the opportunity and privilege to document not only their life's journey but their specific interests through their work. There are many subjects I have a deep passion for that I'm able to explore through my oil paintings. The eclectic variety of these subjects also inspires different techniques and styles that enhance my ability to say what I want about the subject. Most subjects inspire ongoing series, and I often think about a painting for many years."
Are there any artists or art movements that have had a significant impact on your work?
"Despite being aware and inspired by certain contemporary painters, my favorite painter is American John Singer Sargent but I also love masters like Diego Velázquez and Caravaggio."
While you have painted various subjects, you are very well known for your work around American/Canadian subjects. What is it about these subjects that fascinates you?
"Perhaps by virtue of being a Canadian, I'm drawn to the history of our country, primarily our First Nations and western life and lifestyle. In addition to the compelling and beautiful aesthetic of these subjects, I find the importance and fascination of our past is worth exploring, interpreting and documenting through my work."
What emotions or message do you aim to convey through your art, and how do you hope your audience will respond to it?
"I want my art to do more than simply decorate a wall or space. I aim to have my work engage and engulf the space and thus inspire and stimulate reaction, thought and conversation."
How has your art evolved over the years, and what do you see in the future of your artistic journey? Are there any themes or subjects that you are currently exploring?
"I left art college in 1983 after accepting a job as an editorial illustrator for the Calgary Herald newspaper. I then resigned effective January 1, 1990, to pursue my dream of being a full-time painter. So far, in 33 years I have created 2,038 pieces (averaging over a piece a week). In analyzing my vast and diverse body of work, clearly, I have gone through many transformations of subjects and styles with honesty and passion. Going forward, I anticipate continuing to explore my favorite themes; however, with greater courage, creativity and success."
As we are living in fraught times – wars, pandemics and climatic events. How have you been affected as an artist by some of these changes?
"Being relatively safe and free in an extremely volatile world inspires me to remain mindful and focused on how blessed, fortunate and privileged I am. Despite the profound emotional impact of ongoing global developments, challenges and sadness, I also feel a sense of responsibility to channel and leverage my emotions and concerns into stronger and more relevant work. I'm able to channel stress into motivation rather than immobilization."
What advice would you give to aspiring artists looking to make a mark in the art world?
"Coincidentally, I just gave a lecture on The Business of Art. One of my first points was choosing to be on the right channel in being positive, optimistic, grateful and ambitious. Most important is the quality of the work; however, by establishing at least a minimal business acumen, you will simply increase your chances of not only surviving but thriving in this very challenging career. My definition of success in the arts is not being rich and famous, it's being a professional artist until my last breath."
By: Vikram Naik