I spent my childhood with an admiration towards the arts when encountered, and a somewhat natural ability to draw but it was not an activity that I spent any time on outside of required school projects. I enjoyed spending my days full of activity and sports and always had a fair bit of trouble sitting still for anything. My entire focus back in those days was on Hockey and Hockey alone. Like so many Canadian kids, my desire to be a professional hockey player left no room for any other activities unless that activity aided me in my efforts to reach NHL stardom.
When I look back on my youth to determine where any seeds may have been planted towards my current artistic passion, I would have to say it was my wife Cheri that sowed those roots so early on. My life changed in so many ways one fall morning when Cheri walked in to our Grade 9 French class. It was a classic tale of love at first site for me and I can still picture her in that moment as clear as if it happened today, but my instincts and friends told me she was well out of my league. I needed to figure out a way to be around her as much as possible. I found her personality, sense of humour and 80's tight perm fast becoming my favourite thing in life. Cheri loved art classes and as they were an elective, guess who signed up for every class she was in? That may have been the only thing I can consider 'smart' that I ever did in my 12 years of public education. We quickly became best friends and for the next 4 years of schooling we drove to and from school everyday and shared a locker together. I took art classes alongside her when I could although my grades in those classes were always terrible. Once we ascended to High School we stumbled upon an art teacher that had a strong background in the fine arts and actually knew what he was talking about. His passion captivated me, and the things he taught still stick with me today. I still failed most of his classes as I refused to create anything that wasn't a Moose. You name the project and I somehow managed to turn it in to a Moose. I only did this because it infuriated the poor teacher and that made Cheri laugh. I find it ironic to look back on those classes and recognize today what an impact that this poor teacher had on me. He probably thought I would never use any of his instruction and was just wasting his and the classes time. I think those exact words were spoken to me on a daily basis in his class.He taught me how to draw what I see, not what I think I see. I always found that lesson invaluable.
After graduation Cheri and I admitted to each other our feelings of love and within a few years we found ourselves married and homeowners with both of us working full time. Cheri worked in the investment industry and I worked in Aviation as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer. I fell in love with everything mechanical at a young age and spent a lot of time rebuilding and modifying vehicles with my dad. Any promise of a Hockey career was ended due to back problems at the age of 18 though I did get to experience a lot of amazing moments on the ice between injuries. Aviation was my field of choice as I felt the complex mechanical systems would forever keep me interested. I couldn't tell you anything about airplanes going in to Tech school, and could still hardly identify the make and model of anything flying over head after graduating, but my interest was in fixing them. I thoroughly enjoyed the experiences and adventures I had, working on everything from old Dehavilland Beavers and DC-3's to modern Eurocopter Helicopters, Boeing 737's, 757's, C-130's. There was always something new to learn with each day. Then back in 2009 a fall down the entry stairs of an aircraft left me in excruciating back pain with minimal abilities. The fall ruptured some discs that gave light to a birth defect in my spinal chord that was the cause of my life long back issues. Unfortunately we wouldn't find this answer out for another 5 long and painful years. During this time our lives slowly started to unravel and if not for the love and support of family we would have found ourselves destitute. My back pain worsened with time, leaving me primarily bed-ridden with Cheri caring for me. We waited forever for medical appointments with surgeons and MRI's only to be told time and time again that my back pain was due to my height. Raise our counter tops was the recommendation of one surgeon. We were told over and over that the pain was all in my head and that all I had to do was retrain the mind body connection. In a desperate attempt to regain my abilities I underwent yet more physiotherapy. This finally resulted in me undergoing mechanical traction at physio and losing the ability to walk unaided without a cane for years. It was a very dark time for us as we were in our late 30's, wanting to start a family but we began to run out of places to look for help. The only medical help we could get was pharmacological. Being desperate, depressed and over medicated,Cheri worried for my mental well being.
One afternoon while I was laying in bed lamenting our station in life Cheri was busy cleaning out an old desk in our room. We were having a conversation on what sort of things I could do to help me take my mind of all we were going through. Simply without a thought she reached in the open desk drawer, pulled out an old set of oil paints that used to belong to her mother, threw them on to the bed and said teach yourself to paint. That's how it started for us. A moment that could of easily been missed, changed our lives in ways we'd of never conceived..
Painting was just not on my radar in any way at all. It was not a thing I had ever thought of doing nor even at that moment did the idea excite me with much vigor. That all changed the moment the brush hit the canvas. For some reason painting felt like a craft I had pursued all my life. There was a familiarity to it that did not feel entirely my own. It also did exactly what we had hoped it would do in the way of giving me a moment to fully commit all of my concentration on this task, leaving behind for a moment all the negativity that was creeping in around me. I became fully engulfed in the pursuit of learning everything I could about painting. I couldn't paint for long due to the pain in my back and legs, but every moment was dedicated to the craft whether it was reading, watching videos or drawing while resting in bed. It was a challenging time for us as by this time we had exhausted all our savings and spent every last cent we could find on private medical treatments with no money coming in to the house. I believe it was my 3rd or fourth painting done that I entered in to my first art show hosted by a local art group I had joined. It won a prize and sold. For the first time in years I held a cheque in my hands that I earned. The value wasn't much, but it represented so much more than just money to me. It represented a chance to get some form of control back over my life and gave me hope to wake up to each morning.
While I focused all my efforts on learning how to paint, Cheri focused all her efforts on how we could turn this in to a source of income. As it turns out that is quite easily the hardest part of being a full time artist. We learned about marketing and social media and all we could about every art show in our area and beyond. Looking back on it, it was laughable how little we actually knew, but that didn't stop us. We needed to eat and this was our immediate chance for an income. We'd load up whatever embarrassingly old vehicle we owned at the time with paintings, prints and art cards, gridwall panels, tent and folding tables and hit the markets. We learned so much so fast at those events, and we worked harder than we'd ever imagined. My physical abilities were extremely limited and it was very hard for me to have to watch how hard Cheri worked at these shows. Yet with that hard work came an income and more opportunities.
Our luck continued to improve and finally after countless trips to emergency and consults with experts we met a surgeon who actually took the time to listen to us and offered exploratory surgery where he discovered the root of some of my problems. The surgery resulted in some relief of my pain and with an improvement in abilities we hit the shows harder and further with ever growing support from collectors and friends. We bought an old dilapidated and broke down Fedex delivery van and rebuilt it in to a custom mobile art studio and gallery affectionately named Maggie, and the adventures continued. We explored Western Canada and the States in Maggie and used her at times for pop up shows and events. She was not made for crossing the Rocky Mountains in Winter blizzards but we asked her of it anyways. On one trip, Cheri and I had to unpack art work at the summit so that we could use the packaging to wrap ourselves up in to keep from freezing to death. Maggie didn't offer much in comfort but she never quit in spirit.
As the years went on we started showing more and more on the east side of the Rockies in Alberta. The region is an obvious fit for my love of rural life and history of the old west. In 2019 we decided to make the move east and now find ourselves on a little property out in the country. Looking out my studio windows I'm greeted by the view of horses, sheep and cattle, old tractors, Canola fields and the odd Moose. The quietness of the area, massive skies and sunshine, are a constant source of creative energy and I find endless sources of inspiration down every lonely country road. It's been quite an adventure to get to this point in our lives, and in more ways than not, this is still just the start of it all. Thank you from both of us for your support, friendship and kindness.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to our story.
We appreciate everyone that has supported and encouraged us!!
Thank you !!!!!!