Mentor’s honest feedback inspires motivated artist

Photo by Meghan Meehan/For the Review

Photo by Meghan Meehan/For the Review

Nicole Bennett

An artist through and through since childhood, junior Zach Mitlas is painting his way toward a bright future.

He began with doodles of a G.I. Joe in daycare, and now Mitlas’ passion rests on the canvas.

Mitlas said his style ranges from concrete to abstract expressionism, where he applies many layers to surfaces to add texture. He favors acrylic paints because they dry quickly, which easily allows him to add new forms to the surface.

“Abstraction is a big part,” Mitlas said. “What I want is to make images evoke a form, but at the same time not relate to a form in the natural world.”

Mitlas said his focus on painting developed primarily during his junior year of high school. He is currently working on a 9 foot by 6  foot painting, which is his first piece requiring a ladder.

“I like big work,” Mitlas said. “It feels good because it is so physical in the process.”

Mitlas said his ideas draw from experiences abroad in France, in class and from other students. Senior Lindsey Thordarson has a personal studio near Mitlas’ and he said the two often inspire each other.

“Zach has helped me develop as an artist by encouraging me to take risks,” Thordarson said. “After seeing Zach put up enormous canvases in his studio, I was motivated to try something more daring in my own work, which has really taken it to anew level.”

His influence also comes from American expressionist painter Willem De Kooning’s “Woman I” and Hans Hofmann’spush-pull theory.

“The idea is working the paint and pushing to the edge,” Mitlas said. “Pushing and pulling to the end and past it to make a form that is unique,something new.”

Ron Mills, professor of art and visual culture, has taught Mitlas throughout his tenure at Linfield. Mitlas said Mills has significantly helped his development as an artist and is a greatprofessor and friend.

Mills is more than a professor to Mitlas; he is a mentor. Mills said he admires Mitlas because he shows leadership and has courage and independence.

“He looks beyond classwork,” Mills said. “He wants to grow and develop his artistic sensibility, his identity through his work. He knows how to take critique, and more than that, he is hungry for it.”

Mills said Mitlas is an example of a student who not only wants to do well, but is driven and wants a mentored relationship through time, a privilege for both the professor and student.

“It takes work for a student to convince a professor they are worth the investment of mentorship,” Mills said. “I admire him and know our bond will go forward in time. Such opportunities are what makes teaching in a small college so valuable to me.”

After studying art in France last year, Mitlas said he was able to explore oil paint and participate in painting groups. Following graduation, Mitlas plans to return to France for one year to teach English. The next step will be graduate school and a career as a professor at a college or university.

“It’s great because you get to teach and be a professional artist at the same time, with shows andgalleries,” Mitlas said.

Mitlas’ passion for art illustrates why he inspires the people around him. Thordarson said he is always interested intalking, thinking and learning more about art.

“Zach is extremely driven,” Thordarson said. “I think he would be in his studio painting every single day if he could. I can easily say that he is one of the most engaged students I’ve ever met.”

Mitlas said his method is not primarily of the product, but centered on the process, and the most rewarding aspect of painting is pulling lines and suggesting forms.

“In respect to the exchange between canvas and artist, it is difficult to predict who will have the first word or the last, leaving only one way to find out,” Mitlas said.

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