Pandemic pursuit: Calgary auto painter finds ‘peace of mind’ creating art

It’s not very often you look forward to taking your vehicle into the body shop.

But a visit to one Calgary shop brings a chance to watch a true artist at work.

Wally Galas, the owner of First Place Auto Body in the city’s northeast, was sanding a 1970 Monte Carlo on Tuesday, part of a restoration project he’s completing on the vehicle.

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“I give it that little bit of love,” Galas said. “Thirty-eight years I’ve been doing bodywork and paint.”

Galas is now finding relief from the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic and other things going in the world, by using the tools of his trade in a new way.

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Galas is using his paint spray gun to create abstract art on sheets of aluminum.

“Just trying to find some peace of mind,” Galas said. “There’s so much going on around the world, if I get two, three, four hours by myself in the booth on a picture, that’s my whole escape.”

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Galas’ wife, Michelle Beckett, is helping to get his art out there, selling it in person and online.

“This has been amazing for our mental health,” Beckett said. “It just brings us a new adventure in life.”

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Galas says he’s often pleasantly surprised by how his paintings turn out.

“I cry when I finish a picture sometimes, because I only had this one thing in my mind and then had 20 things come out of it,” Galas said.

“I always put my heart and soul into every job.”

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