I was very fortunate to live a few blocks away from one of the most magnificent city parks in the world, Stanley Park. The thousand acres of forest, trails, ponds, creeks and shoreline became my classroom. I spent many hours roaming the park, photographing the birds and animals (swans, racoons, squirrels, skunks, etc.) and observing. Since I didn’t own a car, I was glad to be able to walk from my high rise apartment in just a few minutes and be enveloped in what, at times, seemed to be almost undisturbed wilderness.
One of the nice things about painting, is that it is not an expensive endeavour, unless you count loss of salary from not having a ‘real’ job. I was able to paint watercolours in the living room and my biggest expense was a camera and a couple of lenses. I had many challenges and much to learn. Watercolour can be unforgiving at times and I had never had a formal painting lesson. I learned by trial and error. At one point I painted nothing but water after having botched a painting of a raccoon standing in a pond in order to learn just how the light played off the water and how reflections worked on an undulating surface. I do recall one painting going flying across the room when I accidentally splattered paint on it. As an athlete, I knew that if I persevered, built one skill upon another, that the results would come. A good athlete must have a solid belief in their potential and I believed that I could be a good artist.
After four months of painting, I felt I had enough work worthy of showing to a gallery. I approached the Harrison Gallery in downtown Vancouver and they agreed to take the paintings I had done on consignment. They sold the first painting within the first two weeks. I was now a full time artist. At this time I reconnected with a man whose children I had coached in track and field, Bob Wood. Bob was a successful forester and his wife, Janet, was an Olympic official after having started to officiate in my track Club.
The Woods loved my work and Bob commissioned me to paint an eagle in flight against a rainy cloud-filled sky. After I had delivered the painting, Bob asked me what I would like to do with my art. I had a ready answer…”I would like to be able to have the time to paint full background paintings of animals and birds.” At this point I was using a minimum of background in my watercolours and basically doing illustrations of birds and mammals. I was able to finish them and sell them fairly quickly and thereby pay my rent and put food on the table. Bob made me the most amazing offer and to this day I am grateful for his generosity. He offered to set up a limited company for my artwork production and finance it completely for a year including a salary and all expenses. I took the offer.