Among sculptures of bears and birds, and precise paintings of wild cats, rhinos, buffalo and other creatures great and small, it’s the one canvas at the 2011 London Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibition that really stands out.
Reminiscent of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, with its pointed teeth painted in Jaws-like precision, Ted Hayward’s life-size painting of a great white shark is scary; scary how real it looks, that is.
A former Vernon resident, who has just returned to live in the North Okanagan after residing in Taiwan for the past 10 years, Hayward is fascinated with the world’s disappearing landscapes, people and wildlife, hence this painting of the great white.
The shark is just one of many paintings, portraits, and prints that will be shown locally at Hayward’s Homecoming show, opening Saturday at Gallery Vertigo.
“I consider my art to be revolutionary,” said the Kelowna-born artist who moved to Vernon with his family when he was a youth. “One does not need a degree to interpret any of my paintings; whether it’s a full-sized great white shark, or a scene of hummingbirds. The theme of all my work has always been the representation of our natural heritage.”
That love for wildlife and art came early as Hayward, who was homeschooled, was always drawing and painting.
“I have fond memories of growing up here. My parents tried to put me in various schools around town, but the teachers always found me doodling on the backs of people,” he laughed.
It wasn’t until years later that Hayward went on to pursue art professionally.
“I headed in a lot of different career paths. I was told to pursue my dream; ‘choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’ is the old adage. My parents told me it was a great dream, but maybe I should pursue architecture.”
Five years ago, Hayward listened to his inner voice and started painting seriously while living in a remote Taiwanese village. He didn’t take classes or immerse himself with online study, but just started painting, using hobby paints, mostly acrylics, to create his works.
“I had enough time and was financially stable enough with the cost of living there. I thought why not pursue this, so I gave it a shot,” he said.
Like most emerging artists, his goal was to get his work shown in a major New York City art gallery.
It only took one year to reach that goal.
It all started when Hayward entered a project instigated by American punk-rock band Green Day.
The band was looking for artists to bring attention to environmental issues, so Hayward applied and managed to get one piece — a small landscape that shows part of a waterfall (a print of the landscape will be shown at Vertigo) — into the New York gallery hosting the project.
“(However,) they wouldn’t hang it because it didn’t fit the mainstream contemporary theme of the gallery,” said Hayward. “The painting was sitting there propped up in the corner.”
By fluke, or some divine intervention, a woman happened to walk by the gallery’s window and saw the painting sitting there.
“She liked it and got a hold of me,” said Hayward, adding the woman happened to be with New York’s Merton D. Simpson Gallery.
“I was lucky enough. From there I was able to get into more prestigious galleries,” he said.
Besides showing work in New York’s Soho Gallery for Digital Art and the Nabi Gallery, as well as L.A.’s Gina M. Woodruff Gallery, Hayward says he had a great experience showing his six-by-nine-foot canvas of the great white shark at the Mall Galleries in London for the 2011 Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibition.
“The great white shark for that show is the single, most popular painting I’ve done,” said Hayward. “When I was teaching in Taiwan, my students loved my painting of the shark.”
The shark also took the longest to research.
“A guy in the U.S. did a resin replica of the shark’s teeth – they were going to redo the Jaws movie, and I was able to find the artist’s replica of the shark’s mouth and teeth. That took the most amount of time to paint,” he said.
The Vertigo exhibition will be the first and last time Hayward shows the shark in Canada as it is about to head to a gallery in Long Beach, Calif.
And his journey into the art world has even more success stories.
Besides winning first place (acrylics) at the American Art Awards from 2009 to 2011, Hayward has also been published in a number of art journals and magazines, and was recently commissioned by recording artist Andre Nobels to contribute works for two of his albums.
He has also embraced the digital age.
Current projects include pioneering a radically-new digital interactive art form, multi-sensory moving art, in partnership with infoTAG Technologies of Austin, Texas.
He is also currently a freelance illustrator for Advocate Art of England, and for Muse Harbor Publishing in L.A.
But despite all the success, Hayward says he is most excited, and a tad nervous, about his Homecoming show at Vertigo. He has already taught a drop-in children’s art class at the artist-run gallery and plans to get more involved.
Besides the shark, the exhibition will mostly feature small wildlife works – chickadees and hummingbirds, as well as recent portraits.
“It’s great to have shows at international galleries, but I am most excited about this one because it’s my first solo show in Canada, and it’s happening where I am from,” he said, adding his father and two siblings, who live in Vernon, will be at the reception. “It’s absolutely fantastic to be back in Canada. It’s an artist’s paradise here in the North Okanagan-Shuswap, and so inspiring.”
Hayward’s Homecoming opens with a reception Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m. The show runs to Aug. 24. Gallery Vertigo is located at #1-3001 31st St. upstairs from Krause Jewellers.