When I was fifteen, my family moved to New Jersey for a year. My father taught Civil Engineering at UNB and had taken a sabbatical to study at Princeton. At the High School there I had the option of taking wood-working or Art. Both interested me equally so I flipped a coin and the art course was decided.
Five or six years later I got a summer job as a labourer on a construction site to earn my tuition for the next year of university. I climbed down in a trench where I joined half a dozen others who were uncovering a concrete footing that had been buried with clay when the side of the trench collapsed. I encouraged them to join me in a work song: “Take this hammer – huh! Carry it to the captain – huh!”
We were swinging our shovels in unison and “huh!ing” enthusiastically as we flung the clay away from the footing. The foreman was not amused. I was fired.
There was a summer course in Art being offered at Memorial Hall on the UNB campus which turned out to be a better way to spend the next few weeks.
That is the history of my formal training.
From there I went on to eventually complete a degree in Theology at McGill and spent over thirty years as a minister in the United Church of Canada. Throughout that time I continued to use my art as a way to keep my balance and maintain my sanity. The painting kept ministry from eclipsing the other dimensions of my identity and occasionally gave me the pleasure of mounting an exhibition, not to mention of making a little supplementary income.
I always imagined that I would be more disciplined about my art once I retired, that I would produce a lot more work. I retired in 2008 and that hasn’t happened yet because I’ve realized I’m not going to let it become a job. But I still love to sit at my easel when other callings don’t take priority.
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