Exploring the Art of Clay Breiland

By Lindsay Campbell

Clay Breiland says art has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. Family members have told him he was immersed at a very early age, etching out his own creations around the same time he learned how to take his own steps. “I suppose drawing was play to me, as much as action figures or video games,” he says.

The 32-year-old began producing pieces almost exclusively in graphite and coloured pencil, but says his work took a notable switch to watercolour painting about four years ago. “I enjoy the fluidity of the gesture… and the ability to play with the medium on the paper,” he says of watercolours. “With layering it can convey a luminosity, which brings human subjects to life.”

Breiland also uses chalk and oil pastels, which he believes bridge the gap between drawing and painting. His Instagram page shows many life-like portraits, landscapes and the occasional animal on display that incorporate these mediums. And while Breiland points to masters such as Salvador Dali, M.C. Escher, and Picasso as inspiration, he’s turned his current focus to the works of Young-sung Kim, Marcos Beccari, Joel Rea, Duane Keiser, and Michael Workman. 

“These days I’m really intrigued by ultra-high realism,” he explains, adding that he attempts to add impressionistic elements and interpretations in his own work.  “I’m searching for ways to get the most across—the greatest sense of realism, using the fewest gestures.” He also notes that the artistic talents of his mother and grandmother have strongly influenced his creative endeavours. Their approval, he says, has always mattered to him. 

Breiland, who primarily works as a concrete contractor, says he hopes that in the future he will eventually be able to have his art become a viable career. Artistically, he explains that he’d like to return to the days of his childhood when he was able to let his imagination run free without creative self-censorship.

But in whatever medium or time in his life his art was created, he says he wants his audience to see the same beauty that he’s trying to capture and recreate. “My only hope is that they might experience the same sense of peace and wonder that one experiences when they encounter beauty out in the world.”

Clay Breiland will showcase his art at the Holiday Craft Revival on November 24. To see more of his work, visit his Instagram page @claybreiland.