Chasing Murals: an artist’s transition from animator to concept artist

There’s a good chance Ilya Viryachev wouldn’t be the artist he’s progressively become if his family hadn’t migrated to Vancouver, B.C. when he was 14.

With the completion of his most recent outdoor mural at Main and 16th behind Caffe Rustico, approval for another mural to go at Main and 8th, and an art show next month, he’s come along way from his life back in Kazakhstan.

Hailing from Almaty, Kazakhstan, what Viryachev describes as a “second world country,”  he said most jobs there fall under the trades and that getting work in the arts is more difficult. Although Viryachev’s interest in art began at an early age with the help of his mother who took him to art classes, the dream of fully pursuing his passion was put on hold until the move to Canada.

His eyes widen and his smile stretches from ear-to-ear as he reminisces his journey. “It’s pretty awesome I have the opportunity to do this here,” he says.

Not satisfied enough

A graduate of the Art Institute of Vancouver in 2011, Viryachev paid for his education working as a cook as a teenager, but quit the job halfway through art school. He then moved to teaching children how to paint one-to-two times per week at The Wiseman Academy of Art in Coquitlam before it shut down. Two weeks shy of graduating from the Art Institute, Viryachev landed his first gig working in a TV animation studio, though he stayed true to his roots by continuing to draw.

“The big draw in animation is to work in movies, whether they are full animation or live-action films,” he says.

After working in TV animation for two years, Viryachev quit to take a four month online course with several friends to help boost him into film animation.

“The reality of the film industry is there’s a lot of overtime,” he says, adding that the potential to work 10-to-12 hours a day would take away from his daily art fix.

Like an addiction, Viryachev says without that fix he wouldn’t be fulfilled; the long hours wouldn’t be worth giving up what truly fuels him regularly.

“Animation was satisfying in some sort of way, but it wasn’t enough,” he says.

Painting murals and making the transition to concept-artist

At his current job with Roadhouse Interactive, where he’s been since September 2013, Viryachev has been lucky to transition from working in the animation department to becoming a full-time concept artist. Since then, he’s created a family of murals across Vancouver, which continues to grow with the addition of a new one he’s set to start in November.

Viryachev describes the mural, which will be at Main and 8th, as an ode to Vancouver with magnolia flowers and two giraffes; an explosion of colours in contrast to the grey, drab alley it’ll be in.

Because the city has approved him for funding, he says over the next month he’ll be conducting workshops at the youth centre in Mt. Pleasant and will collaborate with some of the youth on the mural. While the design is done, he says there will be some adjustments to incorporate the collaborative efforts.

Viryachev describes the mural as “really big and really wide,” starting out short on one side and gradually getting taller. He says at its tallest point, it’ll be 16 and a half feet and 97 feet wide, giving him plenty of room to showcase his love for Vancouver.

As the days are getting shorter and the weather changing, Viryachev expresses some slight concerns in getting it done.

“We’ll see how much it rains,” he says with a nervous laugh.

Working full-time makes it challenging, so he says he’ll work on the mural during the evenings with the assistance of a projector, and also on weekends.

Up next on the agenda

And that’s not the only thing on Viryachev’s laundry list of projects: in addition to setting the wheels in motion for the new mural, he’ll be participating in an art show put on by TEDx in November at Rogers Arena, called When Left Alone. Before the event itself, a private art show will be held at a different location in Railtown for a week.

Approached by Andrew Young, the coordinator for the TEDx event, Viryachev said Young was interested in partnering up with him to be one of the three leading artists. Having worked together in the past, it was a no-brainer decision for Viryachev to work with someone he admires.

Viryachev is looking forward to the opportunity of having a wider audience view the eight or nine paintings he has being showcased.

“This is exciting because we’re going to get a different kind of people at our show,” he says proudly.

With a full plate of opportunities being fed to Viryachev, he’s come a long way from being that 14-year old teenager, new to Canada and uncertain of where his future would take him.

Viryachev says he’d like to try and work in the fine arts full time, but only if it were financially stable. He attributes the mentality to his parents because it’s something he learned from them growing up, fearing not being able to make rent.

But he isn’t without optimism.

“I would like to try and build an art community here,” he says hopefully. “The dream is to break into the fine arts community more and grow it from there.”

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