Hello and welcome to my website, my name is Ray Vlcek. In case you were wondering, I pronounce my vowel deficient last name “Vel-check”. When my career as an artist was still in its infancy, during a gallery opening, a father and son approached me, pronouncing my last name as if the v l c was one fluid sound. To this day I have yet to reproduce his pronunciation. The father pointed at my name in sticky vinyl letters on the glass wall of the gallery and asked if I was the artist. I told him that I was. At the time, I was studying art at Northern Illinois University, and this was my senior show. The man began to get very excited as he spoke of how pleased they were to see my name prominently displayed. He then went on to tell me that he and his son were visiting the campus from Czechoslovakia and in Czechoslovakian, Vlcek translates to mean “little wolf”.
I am a native Chicagoan born and raised on the southwest side of Chicago under the flight path of the planes heading in and out of Midway airport. Currently, I reside on the near north side in the neighborhood of Ukrainian Village, where it is much quieter.
Art in one form or another has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of the Art Institute of Chicago and the sculptures tucked in the courtyards of the buildings downtown. I remember one morning, when I was five or six, walking with my mother along one of the canyon like streets of downtown Chicago, she points down into a sunken plaza at a man sticking little tiles onto a long wall. She says to me mater of factly, “That man is Marc Chagall.” No further explanation was given as to who Chagall was or what he was doing. It was just assumed that I already knew who he was and his significance. A couple of decades later, I came across the Four Seasons wall by Chagall and remembered that moment.
I cannot imagine life without art. I have been creating art in one form or another for my entire life. To me art is a lifestyle. I am currently working in oils and watercolor. I have become addicted to en plein air painting. The phrase en plein air was borrowed from the French and translates to “in the open air”. I find that the practice of painting landscapes and urban-scapes outside is a much richer experience when compared to being cloistered full-time in the confines of the studio working from photo references. While painting in the open air presents its own set of unique challenges, to me, the advantages far out way them. All of my senses become engaged when I am out painting. The sound of the waves crashing over the rocks or the traffic in the street. The smell of the water or the dumpster that I may be standing next to. The feel of the wind cooling me from the heat of the sun or drops of rain dripping off my rain suit and soaking through my shoes. Then there is the view, finding that perfect spot to set up and paint a scene is a reward in itself. The hardest element to deal with while painting en plein air is the constantly changing light as the sun creeps slowly across the sky. All of these elements make an impression on me while I am painting outdoors and I feel that they somehow find their way into each painting.
On most weekends I can be found painting somewhere out in the city. I often go out with the group, Plein Air Painters of Chicago or with the Urban Sketchers of Chicago. When I stumbled across this group of outdoor painters, it was as if I found my peeps. To put it another way, the little wolf inside of me found his pack.
If you see me out there, stop by and say hello.