Ever since I can remember, I loved to draw. I believe my first major influence was my older brother’s pencil drawings and caricatures, he himself copying the likes of ‘Cartoon’, a comic on hot cars, and comic characters, such as Bugsy and Mugsy from Bugs Bunny. Being the youngest of 4 children, two older brothers and a sister, I guess their influence would play a strong part in my life. I used to try to emulate my brother’s drawings. From there I can remember drawing and sketching Fred and Barney and the rest of the Flintstone characters, moving on to the superheroes with the likes of Spiderman, Superman and Batman, not realizing how much these early forays into drawing would leave their mark on my life. One of my early ‘illustrations’, completed in Grade 2, was entered in a city-wide School district art competition and placed 2nd. My first competition, my first award. You would of thought that would have spurred me on, but my recollection from then until I was a young man of 20, was not of art, but of hockey, like many Canadian boys then and still today. I still doodled and what not, art in school, because it was an ‘easy’ class,etc. and basically to goof off pass time with the boys.
After hockey and before adulthood, around 19-20 yrs old, I discovered the sport of bodybuilding and through bodybuilding re-discovered my interest in art. Arnold was at the top of the sport and just getting into acting. I started drawing and sketching the top bodybuilders of the time, and soon started outfitting them in barbarians clothing, as Arnold was about to star in his first major motion picture ‘Conan the Barbarian’. At this time I was working in a factory and decided that drawing for a living would be more fun than putting together motor homes. I must admit my parents were a little hesitant, and not sure if being an artist was a viable occupation. I still laugh today with my Dad about that conversation. So off I went to find a job as an artist. Not as easy as I thought, as living in the interior of British Columbia in Kelowna, a small town of 40,000 , there wasn’t a lot of options. But I did find a job in a local t-shirt company, part-time, and I thought I was on my way…Riches beyond my wildest dreams! Well, not exactly…actually not even close, so I stayed on at the factory, for a while longer, anyway. I then made the jump and became a full-time in-house artist for the t-shirt printer, creating art for ‘Joe’s Pool Hall’ and ‘Sunny Bay Resort’. While working I sent out portfolios to bodybuilding magazines, comic companies, wildlife magazines, sports magazines, you name it. Some called, some didn’t. One that did was Robert Kennedy, publisher of MuscleMag International. I did a few black and white illustrations, and he sent me a check for $25.00- I had that check framed and still have it today. My first freelance illustration job! I started working for Bob in 1979 and still work with him today. After a brief move to Toronto in 1981, to become an illustrator, I soon moved back to Kelowna to become the art director at the very company I started with . There I stayed until 1987, gaining invaluable knowledge of the silkscreening process, which I use today. I left to go on my own, a true freelance illustrator, finally. In and around this time, I started hunting with my two older brothers, and those yearly trips filled my head with thousands of paintings of nature and wildlife. My camera has been at my side ever since. And my love for painting nature and wildlife officially started. After a year or two of building cliental from around the Okanagan Valley and Vancouver, I decided that I needed to move to Toronto if I wanted to hit the big time. So I made the move in 1989 and changed my life forever. Within two weeks of my move I met my future wife, Dore and I never looked back. What was originally a 5 year plan to move out east and return to Kelowna once I ‘made it’, was now indefinite.
My contacts from B.C. led me to contact Labatt Brewery in Toronto, leading to several illustration jobs, from their annual Christmas card to several designs for their garments, including World Cup skiing, Budweiser racing and Blue Jay baseball. My relationship with Labatt’s led me to one of their screen printers, The Incredible Clothing Co. in 1990, and since then have been one of my integral clients. They have given me the opportunity to illustrate for such companies as JC Penney, Dillards, Wal-Mart, Zellers and the Venator Group (Northern Reflections, Northern Elements and Northern Getaway), allowing me the freedom to illustrate everything from sports, dinosaurs, wildlife and fantasy.
From 1992 through 1994 the two most important happenings in my life took place. First we were blessed with a son, Matthew and then in 1994 we were blessed again, this time with a daughter, Haley.
In 1995 I journeyed to a Wildlife workshop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and spent 3 days with wildlife artist and mentor Carl Brenders, whose work has inspired me for many years. Though I gained invaluable experience from the workshop, the one thing I brought home that was incredibly uplifting was something he said. I am a painter who loves detail, and painting detail, but had struggled with it because of the mainstream thought that you don’t need to paint every little strand to get the effect. But Brenders said to the class the he also struggled with this, but came to the conclusion that he paints this way because that is who he is. And that is who I am, a detailist, if that is even a word! I came home full of vim and vigor and set to painting my best wildlife piece ever, and although it took me a couple of years to complete – work commitments and such – the resulting painting was titled ‘Tiptoe, too- Out From Under’, and I entered it in the 1999 Ducks Unlimited contest, and ended up being selected as one of their prints. I also exhibited in Lansing Michigan that very same year, and the same painting won ‘Best of the Show” in it’s division.
While Dore and I lived in and around the Toronto area for the better part of 11 years, we made another life-changing decision in the fall of 2000. We had made many annual trips back to the Okanagan over the years for vacations and family weddings. It was at the last family wedding in 2000 that Dore turned to me and said ‘We’re out here every year, why don’t we just move!’ She didn’t have to ask twice. With all her hard work and support, in June 2001 we ‘loaded up the truck and moved to…’, well it felt like that, as I actually did load up a U-haul and moved our ‘house’ across Canada to Kelowna, where we reside today…. a move made easy by the world of internet – I still work many hours for MuscleMag and Incredible and painting wildlife. And I’m still chasing my dreams…dreams of painting and illustrating the fantastic worlds of fantasy….oh, didn’t I mention that? Well, around 1980 I discovered 3 books that changed my artistic perspective forever. The first was the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkein, author of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ among many others. His descriptive language filled my head with visual explosions!. The second was a birthday gift, The Art of the Brothers Hildebrandt, loaded with illustrations from The Lord of the Rings – I thought I had died and gone to heaven! And the third book, or group of books was the fantastic art of Frank Frazetta, the ICON in the fantasy art field. The works of these 4 people live strong in my life, as an artist, and give me hope that one day my dream will be realized! Be a dreamer and live those dreams!