Voices

Portraits offer challenge to artist Paul Van Roy

Artist Paul Van Roy works on a piece as he poses for a photo on Wednesday at Shotgun Studio in Peaceful Valley near downtown Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Artist Paul Van Roy works on a piece as he poses for a photo on Wednesday at Shotgun Studio in Peaceful Valley near downtown Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Artist Paul Van Roy grew up in Omaha and started drawing in preschool.

In junior high and high school, he won many awards for his ability to artistically capture what he saw.

Now it seems that his paintbrush is merely an extension of his hand that is directly connected to his eyes, a fact that is evident in his finished works; masterfully crafted portraits filled with life and an array of human emotions, however subtle.

“Painting for me has more to do with a lack of impulse control. I see beauty in a face or in a particular quality of light and I feel compelled to paint it,” he said. “I see painting as a challenge. I’m always trying to bring to the canvas what I picture in my mind.”

After high school, Van Roy worked as a chef at a “tourist trap” near the entrance to Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park for a few years, then went to Chicago to study at the American Academy of Art where he earned an associate degree and worked in advertising and illustration for the next five years. He returned to Omaha and then headed to Spokane where his wife had family.

Dreading the “feast or famine” that artists often experience, Van Roy found work as a nurse’s assistant. He’s worked for 12 years at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and, with a steady income, he is free to paint as he pleases. His job offers him a glimpse into the true meaning of relationships, which aids him in his creative endeavors, he said.

“In the hospital setting you meet people from all imaginable backgrounds, often as they are going through a very intense experience in their lives when they need a lot of support. I get to see how important relationships are,” he said. “That’s what makes portrait painting unique from other types of art. People have such an amazing response to a portrait. You don’t often get tears and hugs from a person who purchases a painting of a landscape, but with a portrait that is nearly always the case. I know the person was deeply loved and honored and I feel honored to be a part of that expression of love.”

Through word-of-mouth, he has done many commissioned pieces. One, a series that pays tribute to a local golf pro who died six years ago, hangs at the Manito Golf and Country Club.

Last fall, he began setting up his easel at Shotgun Studio, 1625 W. Water Ave., in Peaceful Valley, paying a monthly fee to use the space with other artists. The group is looking for one or two more artists to join them. There, they paint, exhibit their work, and host live painting sessions (with models in various styles and states of dress) every other Saturday.

“I want to push the limits of what I can do and improve my skills,” he said. His work is stunning as is his ability to capture the human spirit in all its expressions.



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