Watercolour artist brings the North Shore to life

North Vancouver Waterfront At Night (Detail), a watercolour by Mohammad Reza Atashzad.| Photo courtesy of Mohammad Reza Atashzad.

North Vancouver Waterfront At Night (Detail), a watercolour by Mohammad Reza Atashzad.| Photo courtesy of Mohammad Reza Atashzad.

What to do while waiting at a red light? Some listen to music, others simply stand there, but Mohammad Reza Atashzad, watercolour artist and art instructor, is different – he can finish a painting before the light turns green.

“Watercolour painting is very spontaneous; I can draw it very quickly,” says Atashzad.

Born in Esfahan, Iran, in 1958, Atashzad, is a watercolour artist who brings his painting supplies with him wherever he goes. Recently, he has contributed two of his works to the 2017 You Are Here North Shore wall calendar created by the North Vancouver Community Arts Council.

Inspiration through travel

Michelle Richard, executive
assistant at the North Vancouver Community Arts Council, says they posted a call for artists last spring and required all images to be recognizable North Shore scenes. There were 90 submissions for the calendar in total and Atashzad’s two watercolour paintings, Cypress and North Vancouver Waterfront at Night, made a deep impression and his works were selected.

“[Atashzad] has mastered techniques of painting with watercolour, an ancient medium that he uses in a contemporary style,” says Richard. “[His] understanding of watercolour is evident in his use of, and especially in the absence of, colour. We are thrilled to have two of [his] watercolour paintings…, as he has beautifully captured the essence of North Shore culture in two very different pictures.”

To express the spirit of the city of North Vancouver, Atashzad took the SeaBus from Waterfront to Lonsdale at night – the bright lights and high rises he saw are well represented in his painting North Vancouver Waterfront at Night. That journey, he says, was one of the most wonderful trips of his life. Atashzad spent 36 years travelling, observing and painting his surroundings. Motivated by the desire to find more beauty, Atashzad and his family came to Vancouver in 2005.

“Before I came here, I had heard about the beauty of this city. In my work, I paint everything in a peaceful and beautiful way, so Vancouver suits my painting subjects,” he says.

When asked whether he connects personal emotion to his work, Atashzad admits the beauty of nature sometimes brings tears to his eyes.

“When I feel the scene is so beautiful that I can’t even [describe] it in words, I have tears in my eyes,” says Atashzad. “I appreciate nature and I want to bring the beauty of it to paper.”

“Watercolour painting is my life”

Artist Mohammad Reza Atashzad.| Photo by Wenjie Shen.

Artist Mohammad Reza Atashzad.| Photo by Wenjie Shen.

Atashzad, who has held more than one hundred exhibitions throughout Iran and other cities across the world, including Rome, Florence, Chicago, Paris and London, still remembers the first watercolour painting he created 30 years ago: a rose. He continued to use the rose as a subject for several days, observing and attempting to memorize every detail.

Atashzad studied architecture at Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, graduating in 1897. But but painting was his passion.

“I could express how I see and feel about the world through it, and I never get exhausted from working day and night,” he says.

As people increasingly showed an interest in his paintings and bought his work he changed his career path.

” I draw from my heart and I enjoy what I do.”

Atashzad also teaches watercolour painting in community centres, including Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre and Kerrisdale Community Centre. In each class he gives students freedom to
create the work they want.

“I enjoy teaching students,” Atashzad says with a smile. “I teach my class in a peaceful atmosphere, just like meditation. As we start to draw, all stress comes out. Watercolour painting is my life; I am satisfied with my life now. Very satisfied.”


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