Victor Czerkas (a student of Nicolai Fechin)
Victor Czerkas was born in Sioux City,
Iowa to parents who had emigrated from a small Russian village,
near the Polish border, that has long since been obliterated by
war. The onset of the Depression in 1930 obligated Victor, at age
sixteen, to quit school and begin working for a commercial design
company lettering posters and signs for local theaters and businesses.
He continued to work in this field throughout the 1930’s supporting
himself and, eventually a wife. He had a dream – of course – to
go to Hollywood. In Victor’s case, however, he wanted to work in
the film industry as an artist, not an actor. He and his wife finally
headed west and arrived in San Diego just before Pearl Harbor. He
put his graphic artistic skills to work making and lettering signs
for Consolidated Aircraft. During the war he had his first real
opportunity to study fine art, under Monty Lewis (founder of the
Coronado School of Fine Art) who was also working for Consolidated.
After the War Victor finally made
it to Hollywood, but not yet to the movies. He once again found
steady work as a graphic artist and continued his fine art studies
by attending evening classes at the Chouinard Art Institute where
he studied under Lawrence Murphy, Herbert Jepsen and Ben Messick.
Victor has stated that he has vivid recollections of Murphy’s composition
class, where the instructor told the students to compose a still
life from their own creative thought rather than from any model
provided to them.
A second considerable influence was
Nicolai Fechin, with whom Victor studied in Los Angeles in the late
1940’s. Fechin’s dynamic use of color, as well as his impressionistic
style, particularly impressed Victor. It was Fechin who introduced
Victor to Taos and encouraged him to paint the Indians and the Pueblos
of the Southwest.
In the early 1950’s, Victor’s dream
of working in the movie industry was realized and both movie and
television studios subsequently benefited from his talents. Starting
in the late 1960’s, however, and continuing until his retirement
just a few years ago; he tried to put more and more time into his
own painting. His choice of subjects was always strictly personal,
painting the subjects of interest to him at any particular time.
He has painted all over the western U.S. and Canada. His paintings
are done outside almost exclusively "on site" but "recomposed" following
the techniques of Lawrence Murphy.
As Victor stated: "Although I
work on location, I still am using Murphy’s principle. I wouldn’t
take a scene that is in front of me and make a photo-like reproduction
of it. I can look at it and start painting a creation of my own.
And here is where true composition starts. You can take any scene,
but … you have to imagine it – recompose it, really – to give it
movement, as well as to balance color and composition. That is what
makes a creative painting. I could copy it like a photograph, but
that is not what I want. There would be no feeling to such
a painting." 1
Victor Czerka’s "feel" for the pueblo
at Taos is a marvelous statement of his artistic sensitivity, training,
and of his ability. We have two truly enjoyable works:
"At the Drying Rack" (Taos Pueblo), o/c, 20" x 24", $ 8,750
"At the Ovens" (Taos Pueblo), o/c, 16" x 20", $ 6,000
1 David Thompson, Southwest Art, June, 1976
" Victor Czerkas – An Independent, Honest Artist", p. 47
Additional works available, please enquire