Artist John Chehak paints colorful acrylic landscapes in a refreshing signature style. See more of his portfolio by visiting his website.
I have been a professional artist for only twenty years; hence, I often use the description “contemporary” in my biographies. Just to be clear—I’m old—the paintings are young.
Although I always had a knack for drawing, sketching and painting, I lacked the confidence that anyone would purchase my art. It was a nice hobby, but not a profession.
Early in my life, I was determined to become a pharmacist and work within the legal boundaries of drug dispensing. I graduated from the University of Iowa in 1973 with a degree in Pharmacy, and worked in my family’s small ethical chain of drug stores for ten years. I was busy being married, working, raising two daughters and occasionally dabbling in painting. The art results were boring, at least to me—barns and still lifes.
Forging ahead twenty-five years, after some significant milestones, various health care and computer jobs, a divorce, grown children and still chasing rainbows, I remarried. It was an inspirational intersection of where I was going and where I had been.
Out of nowhere, I had a great desire to us acrylic paints and develop a style, create my own color palettes and play with subject matter, then see if anyone liked what I had done. The results were interesting, but at first they were drab, dark and almost colorless.
It was a great boost to my confidence to appear in numerous galleries and make a few sales. It wasn’t until I forced myself to use unusually bright and uncomfortably bold colors did I start to create a unique perspective and concise focus.
The first thing I realized was that I had to stop being a perfectionist. One man’s Picasso is another man’s trash. Obviously, we are all individuals with independent likes and dislikes, which are neither right or wrong. To this day I am amazed when I sell a painting I didn’t originally like and didn’t think would sell. I had to stop being overly judgmental of my work.
I discovered that I really enjoy acrylic painting on archival paper, then matting and framing the finished work. Many people, after seeing the original paintings under glass, think they are prints or reproductions. The typical size is 23 inches by 23 inches. My paintings on canvas are usually 3 feet by 3 feet. I focus on using vibrant colors and palette knife work.
The next step was to understand the art fair festival scene, associated costs and how to best take my work to the masses. I did my research. It’s expensive, but I bought a tent and display racks, made my own travel packaging and decided to apply to a number of juried shows within a 250-mile radius of my home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This included the Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City and St. Louis regions. My wife and I have been participating in summer shows for almost nine years and have sold close to 600 original paintings.
We’ve met hundreds, if not thousands of people. It sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I now paint all year long and at any given time have 30-50 paintings in inventory.
I’m very proud to have been selected as the poster artist for both the 2018 St. Louis Art Fair and the 2020 57th Street Art Fair in Chicago. I very much appreciate the acknowledgement of my work by show promoters and patrons who keep me going. When I’m not painting, I seem to always be managing my website. And yes, I still remind myself not to be too judgmental.