by Susan McGrath
James Chesnick has gone from painting the walls of Stroudsburg gallery, Soho in the Berg, to having his own paintings exhibited there. In everything he does, he sees the world with an artist’s eye, whether it is as he looks through the lens of his camera, while he is bringing a canvas to life, or even as he takes paintbrush to drywall.
A house painter by necessity, the talented photographer and painter is a native of Carbondale, Pennsylvania but spent his childhood at the Jersey Shore. He recalls a favorite aunt giving him an easel as a small child. That may have been the beginning.
His interest in art flourished later as a college student at Stockton State College, where he took classes in photography and art.
After his studies, Chesnick began working in New York with fashion photographer Joe Battista, whom he calls his mentor. “He taught me so much,” reflects Chesnick. “With portraits, it’s all about the lighting and the contrasts, and making people feel comfortable.”
Portrait photography remains a favorite of Chesnick’s, with over thirty years experience in the studio. But his love of hiking and the outdoors led him to embrace landscape photography. “I love to explore,” says Chesnick, “and always have my camera on me wherever I go.” But his artistry doesn’t end with the click of the shutter: Chesnick loves to experiment with post-production and especially enjoys enhancing his works with Photoshop. That has led to some spectacular shots in his portfolio that can be seen in the gallery, as well.
Five years ago, Chesnick turned his creative focus from the viewfinder to the paint pallette. Chesnick’s paintings are abstract mixed-media creations, often with a water feel. But you won’t see a painting signed James Chesnick. “Carzwell is my grandmother’s maiden name. I was very close to her. I wanted to keep my painting separate from my photography business,” explains Chesnick, “so I use her name on my paintings.”
What does he use to paint the colorful, textured works? “Spackle blades, pieces of wood, anything I have lying around I use as tools,” laughs Chesnick. The results are compelling paintings, some with tissue paper beneath the paint, all with a sense of life and movement.
Chesnick gives credit to local artist Patricia Griffin for “helping me develop my own style.” His other influences? “I am constantly inspired by new artists,” says Chesnick, “but a certain color combination – or basically anything that may catch my eye inspires me.” These days, Chesnick paints whenever he can, producing about fifty works thus far. You can currently view his collection at Soho in the Berg in Stroudsburg, as well as on his website, carzwellco.com and fineartamerica/jameschesnick.
With his star on the rise and an ever-evolving talent, we’re guessing that Chesnick won’t be painting houses for long.
James Chesnick is a member of the Pocono Arts Council, the Events Photographer for Pocono Community Theatre, and fashion photographer for Shoppes on Main.