I was third of five children. My young parents were second world war immigrants to Canada from the Netherlands. Using my father’s training and skill they started up a custom upholstery business in Wallaceburg, Ontario. They were only 20 and 24 at the time. The town economy was based on farming and factories for about 11,000 people. One high school with 1200 students. I just noticed that represented over10% of the entire town. I took all the art classes that they offered each year. It was the only part of high school that I enjoyed but it did not matter because I didn’t have much spare time.
The protestant work ethic was drilled into me so I started earning money first from selling art and at the age of nine, by delivering the early morning London Free Press to about 80 customers. That meant having all the papers delivered by six AM. Quite the responsibility lesson as the customers would call and complain if I was late or even cancel altogether. If I wanted to earn anything it was going to be by giving the customers their paper when they wanted it. After paying the family 30% of every dollar earned as well as for clothing, transportation (bike) and extras I still had enough to purchase canvas, paint and brushes. My parents encouraged my artistic endeavors in part because it kept me busy. Naturally curious I ventured off into the country side on many occasions. I was to be home before dinner but being caught up in the moment I occasionally tolerated the punishment – usually face in the corner with hands above the head for an hour or two. It seemed like a reasonable tradeoff for freedom. I must have exhausted my parents.
My mother marveled at my painting. One afternoon I came home to find her dabbing at one of my unfinished oils…we were both shocked to say the least. She said I made it look easy but after messing up confessed not to try again. Mom stuck to her knitting after that. I explored every subject: landscapes, animals, fish, and the human form. I gravitated to landscape and wildlife as I was inspired by nature.