Local artist Will Chils says he first picked up a pencil at two years old, and has always been infatuated with drawing.
“Where other kids had toys and stuff, I had a notebook and a pen,” Will says, “I just draw; like constantly, constantly draw.”
Despite being known as the kid who could draw, Will says he wasn’t always good at it. With time and practice, however, he kept building his skills to get to where he’s at today, and says he still continues to develop as an artist.
In addition to drawing and painting, Will’s other skills in the field of art include digital illustrations, graphic design, photography, and sculpture. He says painting is just one of the things he happens to be really good at, and likes to view himself as a modern-day Leonardo Da Vinci.
Will attended Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School in New Haven, which he says really expanded his view on the arts, and a lot of teachers guided him on the right path.
“There’s been times I’ve fell off the whole painting and art thing; there’s been times I haven’t picked up a pencil for months and years at a time, but I always come back to it, and I guess it something that’s always been there for me when other people haven’t,” Will says.
Art keeps Will motivated, and he hopes that one day he can get to the level he wants to be at as an artist, which would include having his own studio and be able to live off his artwork.
Will went to college for two years to try to pursue a career in art, but he eventually dropped out. He says it felt like a new experience at first, since he was a first generation college student in his family, but felt that the college mostly taught him things he already knew.
“Painting is like playing a guitar,” Will says, “Anyone can learn to play guitar; some people may be extremely skilled playing guitar, some other people may be average skill level playing guitar, but it’s something everyone can do.”
After looking for a job for about eight months, Will was hired by Veterinary Associates of East Haven, and did training at the affiliated veterinary hospital in Orange. It was there that he got to know Matt Lender, one of the owners of Shore Haven Veterinary Hospital, and one day it came up in conversation that Will was an artist.
“At that point in my life, I was slowly giving up the arts,” Will says, “I felt like I was ready to let go of it and probably move on with my life.”
Will says he then realized that art was maybe something he was supposed to do in life, and Lender offered him the opportunity to draw a mural in the new Shore Haven Veterinary Hospital hospital opening on Frontage Road this month. The mural depicts Lighthouse Point, Yale buildings, and East Rock, with images of dogs and cats in between.
“This is honestly the biggest painting I’ve done in my life,” Will says, “I’ve never done something to this scale. I’ve done a lot of small projects, small murals and paintings on canvas, but nothing to this magnitude.”
Will says he’s very appreciative that Lender gave him the opportunity, and that it made him feel really good about himself. Not raising his expectations too high, Will says he wants to see what comes out of doing the mural, and says it would be cool if he becomes more known and gets more opportunities to do murals because of it.
“I really enjoy painting,” Will says, “It makes me happy to just paint. It doesn’t feel like I’m working or anything like that. It just something I enjoy doing, and enjoyed doing for such a long time.”
Will says he didn’t really have too much work in the public eye before this mural, but had some art displayed in New Haven City Hall and at the college he attended previously. He was also a tattoo apprentice for a time, and says he tattooed a lot of people in his college dorm to make money while he was going to school.
“My leg is full of tattoos I’ve done on myself,” Will says.
When he’s not working on the mural, Will says that he currently spends most of his time at the hospital in Orange, but once Shore Haven opens, he will work full-time at that location.
“If anyone ever wants to come see the painting and talk to the artist, I’ll be here,” Will says.
Right now, Will works in the hospital’s kennels, but eventually would like to train to be veterinary technician. He says he loves working with the animals, and has never felt so passionate about a job before, saying that he communicates well with animals and enjoys meeting new dogs.
“It’s a pretty awesome job, honestly,” Will says, “Every time I have to go in, I look forward to it.”
Thing weren’t always easy for Will, as he says he grew up poor, was homeless for a point, and even survived getting shot. Noting that he wasn’t the most responsible person at the time, Will says the experience changed him as a person.
“I became more responsible, and art was something that always…got me back on track,” Will says.