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Realistic art inspires college students

Laura Barton

By Laura Barton, Tribune Staff

Stoney Creek artist Josh Tiessen stands with one of his hyper-realistic paintings, titled Harbinger, during his visit to Niagara College’s Welland campus on Wednesday. Laura Barton/Welland Tribune

Stoney Creek artist Josh Tiessen stands with one of his hyper-realistic paintings, titled Harbinger, during his visit to Niagara College’s Welland campus on Wednesday. Laura Barton/Welland Tribune

Art students at Niagara College’s Welland campus are getting a glimpse of what their future careers could look like.

Gail Taylor, who teaches the art and design foundations program, said she brings into her classroom different artists with different styles each week to speak with students.

“It’s really great for them to be able to ask the questions to an actual artist and see his work and get sort of the behind the scenes understanding,” she said.

This week, she brought in Stoney Creek painter Josh Tiessen. She came across him three years ago when looking for people to invite into her class and he’s been coming ever since.

She said he’s been very generous with his time and leaves an impression on her students.

Tiessen, now 21 years old, has been focusing on his painting seriously since he was about 11. He describes his work as “contemporary realism” because he includes natural elements juxtaposed to man-made objects and architecture in a realistic style.

Many of the students viewing his artwork in the main entryway of the college commented about how photograph-like his work is.

“It’s nice to see things that are more realistic too because a lot of stuff is a lot more cartoony style and animated, whereas this is like a photograph but it’s a painting, and you don’t see that as much anymore,” said Emily Gray, one of the students in the one-year program.

For classmate Katie Felker, seeing this level of artwork from someone only a few years older than her was amazing. She and Gray both agree that it’s nice to see what level their own work could reach if they stick with it.

Taylor said, “Everyone just leaves really, really excited about their prospects for themselves. Sort of if he can do it, I can do it.”

For Tiessen, that’s part of what he enjoys as well. Not only does he paint and have his own art studio, but he also lectures and shares his story about how he got to where he is. He likes to inspire others around him to keep at it.

Not only does he help students with the craft, but also with the marketing of their artwork.

“That’s often something that’s not talked about,” he said. “Artists don’t really know how to show their work and necessarily sell it.”

He had help from his mentors, including Robert Bateman, and took a class to learn what he needed to know about it.

Because of that, he has sold more than 80 of his original works and also has had his work on display many galleries across Canada and internationally.

He counts himself very fortunate that he’s been able to turn what he loves doing into a career.

“It’s nice that I’m not just painting in my studio, but I get to also inspire youth as well and to encourage them to find their passion.”

Tiessen founded the Arts for a Change Foundation, which he uses for charitable work he does with his art.

Taylor said she keeps inviting Tiessen back because “(he) proves to emerging artists that you can carve out a very successful career in the arts, which is just so exciting.”

Tiessen and his work can be found at www.joshtiessen.com.

lbarton@postmedia.com