Ocean — Lake — River — Glacier


Ocean — Lake — River — Glacier

About Irvin T. Amundrud

“What would you do with the rest of your life if the fear of failure and money were no object?” The words immediately recorded in my mind as I sat in the large auditorium half listening to the speaker at a colleges conference in Saskatoon. He then said something about these being the two things that keep people from what they really should be doing.

I set about to answer the question, not realizing how hard that would be. I had so many interests. I made lists and prioritized. I imagined the excitement of being a bush pilot. I was completing a private pilot license and had a half share in a small Cessna. In the end, I saw that the career dream I had in my teens had been reawakened. I would be a fine arts painter.

But was being an artist a valid career? Not an altogether unlikely concern. I had read later how the loggers in Ontario that met Tom Thomson had advised him to get rid of his paints and get a real job. I was convinced by the story of a youthful David playing music for a troubled King Saul. David played well, but God added something that touched the soul and spirit. Art and music are universal languages that serve like purposes, to compel and to comfort.

Fifteen years earlier I had studied art for four years at the University of Saskatchewan. The emphasis in art instruction was on learning to see, and drawing directly, rather than a traditional approach of building the drawing using the geometric shapes of cubes, spheres and triangles. I have always favoured this direct method, which seems more natural and responsive. I also trained to be a teacher, as a backup, with the advice that I may not make a living as an artist. Water had already been my inspiration, the rivers and lakes in northern Saskatchewan and in the Rocky mountains, but mostly the ocean. And that was a thousand miles away. I would have to move.

I had nightmares about having quit my career job at the college, then waking and being much relieved that it had only been a dream. I decided that I would ask retired people, who had their life work behind them, what I should do. I happened to be traveling to Saskatoon on the Greyhound bus. The elderly woman that I was sitting beside told me her story, then with very good reason for her answer said, “If you have an inclination to do something, don't put it off. The same opportunity may not come again.”
In 1990 I moved with my wife and family to Sooke, a fishing and logging community on the west coast of Vancouver Island. I set out to explore the inspiration that the sea coast would have for me. It had taken me four years to make the change from the time I heard the question that day in the auditorium. By then I had completed ten years with the college. A friend and co­worker had said, “I wish I had the guts to do what you are doing.” It was not self courage, but a faith.

For 25 years I have not felt the need to depart from painting mostly from life, on location, with watercolours. The approach I have learned is simple: look around, find a spot, get comfortable, get quiet, see all you can, forget about trying to make a masterpiece, and simply respond to the ever changing beauty around you. Granted there is a process. There were times when I thought of painting more as a curse than a blessing. The years of hard work and frustration that can bring you to tears gradually gives way to pure joy.

Years ago, an art dealer in Edmonton told me, “I can see you're on the right track, but you need to put more heart and soul into your work.” It was advice that I needed. I can't tell you how I paint without the permission to be a little philosophical. We all seek knowledge. For good or bad. To help people or to gain power over them. To prove or disprove the very existence of God. If it were possible to attain all knowledge, we would find that we had set ourselves a boundary that was much too small.

My journey began with learning to see more with my eyes, and to know more about painting, and it has been good. I must talk about a greater vision, that is intrinsic to the one just mentioned. Namely, to see with the heart and to know more about love. It sees into a realm that has no borders, where the impossible is possible, where dreams can live and the spice of life is poured out. Where miracles happen and broken hearts and bodies are restored. I ask myself, how can art portray such a place? Vincent van Gogh wrote about Christ being the greatest artist of all because he made a masterpiece not with paint, but with the human heart of flesh. What words can be used to conclude, when every thought says you are just beginning.

My surgeon told me a list as long as my arm of things that could go wrong, of handicaps I could be left with. He was preparing me for treatment of colon cancer in 2007. He then said, I think I can do a good job. Knowing you can't stay where you are, but reluctant to take the next big step into the unknown. Is there one other possibility to take another course. Faith without taking that step is dead, but once you have taken it, faith becomes very alive. And the unknown becomes ever less threatening. I am forever grateful to the people who carried me through this time