Challenging Perceptions Through Art
Toronto-based painter and illustrator, Chris Austin, has made a name for himself with his distinctive style and unique subject matter. Specializing in gouache, Austin's paintings transport viewers to richly detailed and lifelike environments, such as dense woodland and urban areas, where Great White sharks and Orcas seemingly float and drift through the scenery.
Inspired by the natural beauty of North America, particularly the Pacific Northwest, Austin's paintings exude an incredible attention to detail and an understanding of light and shadow that creates vivid and highly realistic settings. However, it is not just the environments that capture the viewer's attention. Austin's paintings also challenge the perception of sharks as mindless killing machines, a perception that has been perpetuated by media over the years.
"Sharks are powerful animals that sit at the top of their food chain but they are not mindless killers," says Austin. By placing these massive sharks in serene and calming environments, such as towering pine forests or bustling city streets, Austin's paintings alter the viewer's subconscious perception of these creatures. When placed in their natural habitat, such as the open ocean, sharks are in their element and dominate the food chain. However, when out of our comfort zone, such as on dry land, these creatures can seem all the more menacing. By placing them in a setting where humans are comfortable, the threat perceived is fundamentally changed.
Another prevalent feature of Austin's paintings is the inclusion of a child in a raincoat, mostly seen facing away. This genderless image allows the viewer to place themselves in the position of the child, further adding to the atmosphere of breaking down the perceptions of sharks as killers. The child's presence in the paintings brings a sense of serenity, and the shark almost seems to be in the position of an imaginary friend, accompanying the child into wild settings as a protector.
As Austin explains, "In our world of climate change and destruction of the natural environments, these apex predators are being driven out of their natural way of life with the loss of prey and habitat. We need to be protecting these animals so that they are still around for our children in the future." His paintings give an eerie impression of a child's imagination, walking in the still wild areas of the world and dreaming of the animals that no longer exist.
Chris Austin's paintings are truly beautiful and intricate, transporting the viewer into wild green spaces. Through his art, he not only showcases his incredible talent as a painter, but also challenges the viewer's perceptions and raises awareness about the importance of protecting these powerful animals for future generations.
Keep working, even if it’s no good. Eventually, it’ll come through hard work and perseverance. Never work for a dollar figure, you will always find a way to make money. However, your creative energy may not always.
Photographize granted permission to feature photos by Chris Austin