Koi are widely viewed as symbols of luck, courage and love. For artist Terry Gilecki, they are the foundation for his artistic voice, inspired by the serene beauty of these majestic fish.
Terry received his commercial art license at age 18 and created billboards for advertisers for many years. He has also made murals, one of which reached nearly 12,000 feet. "When you are up against a wall and you are painting a picture out of your mind, you have to change your whole perspective and your whole way of thinking," Terry says. "Experiences like that really build a foundation for any artist to move ahead, be a little bold and try thingsthey wouldn't have tried otherwise. You come up with those happy mistakes. Artists need to get out and try and then gain the reward."
Terry always found time to paint for his own pleasure (sometimes painting on the side of vans), but he was never confident enough to show his work professionally. However, in 1995, the artist's perspective changed thanks to the ever-inspiring koi. "You have to have some sort of a style," Terr says. "Finding what suits you is the hardest part, and when the koi thing happened to me, that was my turning point. I didn't expect it to last long, but it seems to keep feeding me all these great new ideas and concepts." The koi initially inspired Terry when he was researching information for a Japanese-inspired mural. "From that point on it has been an exploration for me into the culture," Terru says. "It's kind of a Zen or Buddhist thing. It transcends. It casts a serenity and calmness on people who are around."
Terry's art, complex in the metallic textures and airbrushing techniques he uses, offers more surprises when the viewer looks more closely. In a piece titled "Three Part Harmony," delicate koi circle around one another. The red, orange and white scales covering their bodies separate them from the green lily pads and rocks beneath. But on closer inspection, the viewer realizes the rocks form shapes - small faces that appear in the water. By intertwining human faces with koi, the viewer senses the eternal connection between the worlds to which each belongs.
Terry begins each artwork by applying materials that he molds to create a textured surface and unique characteristics for each koi. Terry uses acrylic paints and utilizes techniques such as airbrushing in order to achieve his desired effect. The metallic and translucent colors he uses give the water an oily, shimmering appearance.
Terry focuses on the levels of the painting as seen from the world above the pond, below the water's surface and beneath the pond itself. Small reflections on the water or in a raindrop balancing on a lily pad contain an entirely new image within them. Everything is connected in his paintings, and it's worth the time to discover the hidden aesthetic pleasures Terry includes.
Terry is happy to work quietly in his studio, and he continues to focus on the beauty in simple, outdoor elements that have a profound effect on viewers. "It's not just about being a pretty picture," he says. "It actually makes you feel something. That inspires me." Today, Terry lives and works at his home and studio with his wife Jo-Anne and family located on beautiful Vancouver Island. His work is widely exhibited throughout the U.S. and Canada and is collected around the world.