Marty Machacek has been painting his twisted visions for 10 years. You can see what he's been doing and how he does it at the Community Arts Council Gallery at Cedar Hill Rec Centre.
You might recognize Machacek's stunning image of the writhing Blue Bridge from a recent cover of Focus Magazine, or have seen his paintings over the years at the Blue Fox CafÃ©.
You may have met him on the causeway in front of the Empress during the past four years. Once you see his paintings, you won't forget them.
Machacek is an accomplished professional at architectural illustration but likes to take his renderings of famous local landmarks and stretch them, twist them and present them with an intensified perspective.
The distortion certainly grabs your attention and makes you reconsider the buildings he depicts. Many assume that he reworks photographic images on the computer, but in fact, only his skill with pen and brush allows him to handcraft these visions.
Born in Prague, in the Czech Republic, Machacek has been drawing "since I could hold a pencil," he told me.
As a lad, he was entranced by knights and armour, and attributes his interest in architecture to the surroundings he grew up in. At eight, he fled with his parents from the republic's takeover by the Soviet Union and, in short order, found himself in Edmonton.
It was midwinter, and his new classmates called him a "communist," but somehow he survived.
The immigrant need to make a living steered him to commercial art studies, but his love was black-and-white drawing, particularly perspective studies. Through his teachers, he got work with architectural firms, translating blueprints into three-dimensional paintings, the first image the client sees. That field was hard to break into, and was also being overtaken by computer generated imagery.
At that time Machacek, always sports-minded, got into cycling and triathalon seriously. On a trip back to Prague, he was recruited to a cycling team and for the next 10 years spent eight months of the year training in the Czech Republic and the other four working for a sign company in Calgary.
"All my training rides were to castles and chateaux," he said. At his destinations, he sat down and drew them. Back in Alberta, he drew broken buildings, old architecture about to be demolished.
Essentially at loose ends, Machacek came to Victoria to look after a friend's dog.
"I really like Victoria," he said. "I don't want to leave. It's so European, on a small level. It's just perfect for me."
After spending the first year drawing Fisherman's Wharf, he set up shop on the causeway and there has found success.
During the five-month season, he rides over every day with his bicycle trailer and puts out cards, block-mounted prints, giclee prints and posters. Working in partnership with his wife, Dana, he works and visits with people from mid-morning until "we're too tired or there's nobody else there."
Sometimes, the cruise ships keep them busy until late in the evening. Contrary to the image of buskers and panhandlers, Machacek says it's "really, really good." He noted the international exposure and the opportunities that arise. "I've had some pretty incredible projects and quite a bit of work on commission."
And no gallery representation? "For every painting I sell in a gallery, I sell 10 in a cafÃ© or restaurant," he said. At the moment, his work is on show at the cafÃ© of the Royal British Columbia Museum, and at Willie's Bakery on Johnson Street.
He saves up the commissioned work for the winter when he is not on the causeway.
"This year, I am going to limit myself to 10 commissions," he said, to allow for more time for his own work.
"I'm so ambitious," Machacek said. "I have hundreds of paintings waiting to be painted." He showed me his sketchbook, bursting with photos, sketches and colour studies.
These materials are of considerable interest to visitors to the CAC show. And you'll see his swooping Craigdarroch Castle, his sea plane on wiggly pontoons like some weird insect, and the rippling frontage of the Oak Bay Fire Hall, all painted in rich colours by a masterful artist.
"It's this world we're familiar with seen in a different way," Machacek said.
His unique vision may change the way you see.
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