Chili Thom makes waves

Local artist explores different environments around the world

When people strolled through the exhibits at State of the ART during the 2015 World Ski and Snowboard Festival, they might hvae recognized something different about local artist Chili Thom’s paintings.

The mountainscapes and snow-laden trees, which have become a fixture in Thom’s portfolio, were nowhere to be seen. In their place were a series of giant, green, crashing waves that would seemingly engulf any would-be surfer.

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The series of paintings were inspired by Thom’s recent trip to Ireland, where he spent seven weeks on the Dingle Peninsula in County Clare.

“When I was over there in Ireland, I was on the ocean watching these massive storms coming through so it was on my mind all the time, so that’s what I painted,” said Thom. “It’s funny because I came back and started another wave painting once I got home and I’ve kind of lost motivation to finish it because I’m not staring at the waves anymore.”

Thom painted three pieces during his last trip to Ireland: “A Beautiful Monster,” “Full Irish” and “A Sheepish Swell.” The larger canvases took approximately 70 hours each to paint, but Thom was able to work more efficiently after he had painted the first smaller piece.

“If I’m doing multiple pieces like that, the first one was like ‘OK, I think I’ve got the flow and I’ve figured out the colours that are representative of the area,’” said Thom. “Just the whole process of where I start and where I fractalize the painting and the steps that I take, I figured out some shortcuts so by the time I did the last one it took me about 20 hours less because I had the process dialed.”

Thom now looks for more inspiration from his travels after years of painting the landscapes and images around his home here in the Sea to Sky. The Irish wave paintings were extremely well received by fans both in Whistler and online, so he’s already planning his next big art trip to Madagascar next summer.

“Each time I go away I get inspired and I see nature in a different way in all the different environments,” he said. “There’s certain places I want to go because I really want to paint those areas. It’s really been getting the travel bug going for me to check out some new things. There’s a national park (in Madagascar) called Tsingy, which has this amazing limestone canyon with razor-sharp pinnacles going up and white-faced monkeys running around the trees in the valley. I look at it and I want to go there so bad.”

Thom is approached by many charities and non-profits that request art donation for fundraising, but given the natural inspiration of his work he has now focused his altruism on supporting environmental causes. An example is “A Sound We Want,” which was commissioned as a mural in downtown Squamish in silent protest of Woodfibre LNG returning to Howe Sound.

“Nature needs to be preserved and our government and our corporations are destroying it at an insanely fast pace,” said Thom. “At least my artwork will be archived to say, ‘Hey, the planet used to look like this.’”

To view more of Thom’s work head to

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