The sudden passing of renowned local artist Brad Piatka came as a shock to his family and friends.
The creative and talented artist loved the outdoors and nature and promoted the preservation of regional forests. He will be missed by many, but Piatka’s family hopes his legacy will remain through his artwork, much of which can be found in homes, businesses and murals around town.
Piatka was born and raised in Port Alberni, but spent a short time during his childhood and as an adult in Saskatchewan, Parksville and the North Island.
His main employment was in the logging industry, but he continued to spend all of his free time painting and drawing.
Piatka was a natural-born artist. His mother was a self-taught artist and the family has many members who also draw, sketch and paint. He started sketching at a young age and did what he could to follow his dreams.
“Any chance he could get, he would grab anything to draw with,” said Piatka’s sister, Aleata Carpenter.
“He would draw images on the steam on windows. He had an account at an art store in Campbell River and would make weekly payments. He had a paper route and would save money to buy paper. He started out by making people laugh with his cartoons. At that time, he was using India Ink.”
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As a single father, Piatka passed not only his passion, but his compassion and life lessons on to his daughters Denay and Desaray. The detail in his work has been an influence on many aspiring artists.
“How can you not be inspired?” Denay asked.
Although Piatka’s most famous pieces depict his love of the beach, river and forests, Denay said he had a different, little-known side.
“He had this creative, crazy side,” she said. “He had this imaginative side and as a teen, drew faces and expressions. Many people don’t know that side, but he enjoyed that and the freedom to paint that way.”
His daughter, Desaray, took on her father’s love of painting at a young age.
“They would paint together for hours,” Denay said.
“She sometimes painted on his to finish them off. He was very hands on with his girls and above all, taught us compassion and that nature is our church.”
Over the years, Piatka was the recipient of several high-profile rewards and acknowledgements. Starting off winning blue ribbons at the Alberni District Fall Fair, he won a juried show for his painting, “The Grass Cap”, in Nanaimo just prior to Expo ’86. It was at that event where he was next honoured with another award. While Prince Charles and Diana were on tour in Prince George for the exhibition, she visited the art show that was held there and placed a star on his painting.
Sixteen years after that event, Piatka placed first and second in a 2016 juried show.
“He was proud it it,” Denay said. “It was his passion, but he was humble. It was almost like he couldn’t go a day without painting. It was a part of him.”
In June of this year, Piatka was diagnosed with cancer and was told he had only weeks to a month to live. He continued painting until the end, and was grieving himself over the loss of other family members.
Piatka passed away on August 4 at the age of 58 and his Facebook page has been changed over to a living legacy.
The family is still selling some of his reproductions and prints.