Landscape painter David Pavlak’s captivating rural scenes depicting barns and pastures mimic his nearly 30-year artistic journey. It’s one that has been peppered with everything from grooming, harness training, breeding and now embryonic transfer of his central subject: horses.
Pavlak, 54, a well-known equestrian artist, admits his career has taken some unconventional and unexpected twists and turns, starting with a career-changing layoff from U.S. Steel in 1982.
That upset made him turn to his lifelong passion of painting as a way to pay the bills. He first discovered the talent at the age of 12 during a year of lessons with Lorain painter Marie Bonaminio, who would become his mentor, close friend and colleague. A photographer friend referred him to Collector’s Gallery in Lexington, Ky. — in the heart of horse country — as a starting point to sell his artwork of horses in nature. That was April 1982, and Pavlak is still showing at the gallery today.
“I originally just wanted to paint horses because I thought this would be one way to make money,” he says. His artwork also was featured on eight magazine covers for Hoof Beats magazine, a harness racing publication headquartered in Columbus. “Then I started getting interested in the sport itself,” says Pavlak, who was commissioned to do a series of four 6-foot-by-8-foot paintings for the Lorain Public Library in 2007.
But his interest grew. “I had some friends who were boarding horses at the Lorain County Fairgrounds. I got a groomers’ license from Northfield Park.” Several years later he became licensed to train harness horses, which led to a 5-year stint during which Pavlak lived on a horse farm in Wakeman breeding horses.
With his unusual large animal experience, Pavlak was recruited to become an embryo transfer technician at the Wellington Vet Clinic, where he has worked for the last 13 years. His artwork is featured throughout the clinic.
Throughout the years, Pavlak’s work has been featured in galleries around the country — one painting fetched as much as $5,500 at a Kentucky auction. In the 1980s, he would paint an average of 50 works a year, and now he paints about 20 a year.
“Even after 40 years of painting, I still go through these creative peaks and valleys,” he says. In fact, he just returned to painting after a six-month sabbatical to attend to his other passion — restoring and renovating historic homes. It’s a feat he has undertaken several times in the past 20 years in his West Avenue neighborhood of Elyria.
And while Pavlak has developed a deep love of horses, he has always been inspired to paint many subjects. Case in point: he is now crafting a work of a 1953 Studebaker in a snow bank.