Kylar Stern thought he would grow up to play in the NHL, but after leaving hockey, he instead turned his interests to painting. He now sells his artwork online and has donated thousands of dollars in proceeds to charity.
It was a change that many, including Stern, didn’t see coming.
“My friends were actually acting super surprised because I was always either the sporty guy or doing something like that. No one knew I even painted!”
Stern, 25, grew up in a hockey family. His father played professionally for over a decade, including with the Calgary Flames, and he spent three years in British Columbia playing junior hockey before quitting the sport.
With his new free time, he found himself drawn to art.
“When I was a kid art class was always my favorite, so I always enjoyed that, and then once I got into sports that kind of got pushed away,” says Stern.
“[They] were very conflicting and opposite hobbies, but it shaped me into who I am today.”
Stern loves to paint large abstract pieces — right now he enjoys acrylic. He finds inspiration from pop art and continues to explore new mediums.
Stern’s busy life has an impact on his mental health, but he attributes art to helping him stay healthy.
“For me, art is kind of a way to escape from day-to-day stresses. I’ve struggled my entire life with anxiety, overthinking, and not being able to turn my brain off, so for me it’s kind of a release being able to shut everything out, put on music and just paint.”
Stern also works in petroleum engineering as a technical sales advisor for an oil and gas company in addition to modelling part-time for Mode Models International.
Since he started back with art just over a year ago, he says it has played a pivotal role in being able to rewind and focus on himself.
“I feel anything you can find as an outlet to help ground yourself is beneficial.”
Stern adds that it’s not just creating art that feels good, but what he does with his finished pieces.
After his artwork started to pile up in his condo, Stern started selling his paintings with all proceeds being put towards charities.
“I’m financially somewhat stable, I don’t need that money. There are lots of people that need it a lot more, and it goes back to the concept that art is helping me, and why not help other people?”
Stern’s sister was adopted from Ethiopia when she was six months old, which helped motivate his desire to give back. He is excited to continue his family’s values through his own work.
Stern has donated to multiple charities, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Canadian Mental Health Association, and the Breast Cancer Society, and currently has plans to help out more. Many charities have reached out to him thanking him for the donations.
“Sometimes people’s reactions of it are more than I even had in the first place.”
Positive feedback is something that Stern has received lots of, oftentimes with people being more excited about his work than he expected. Many people have been touched by Stern’s efforts, including his original inspiration, Brittany Lemoine.
Lemoine also does art to help her mental health. After being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder two years ago, she found art as one of the few things that could calm her brain and body down simultaneously. She has since shared her journey on social media.
“If I can show support to anybody that’s suffering, or offer any sort of mind easing to anyone looking at my art or looking at the quotes that I post, then that’s unreal,” says Lemoine.
Lemoine sells her art through Instagram, which is how she garnered much of her audience. She donates a portion of the proceeds toward mental health initiatives. Following in her footsteps, Stern has also adapted this method of outreach.
“I saw his art a few weeks ago and was just astounded by it!” exclaims Lemoine, “It just hits my heart.”
Lemoine isn’t the only person touched by his art. Stern’s feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
“My family and friends have been very supportive, all the way from back when it started. I’m very lucky I have a supportive family on anything that I decide,” he says.
Stern has raised more than $5,000 for charity through art sales, and Jenna Matthews is one of his buyers. A long time friend of Stern, Matthews purchased a large, striped piece featuring primary colours with pop-art subjects, and says she will likely continue to buy more art from him.
“It makes me feel like I’m not just spending pointless money,” says Matthews.
“People can come over and I can tell them that this money was donated to a charity, it’s my friend who does it, and I think that is really the meaning of art. It’s supposed to bring people together.”
Stern looks forward to continue creating and working toward helping charities.
“I don’t think that’s an interest that you ever really lose passion for, so as long as you have time for it — and I’ll make time for it — you’ll keep painting.”
- By Chloe Chapdelaine