An interview with Victor Sandblom and David C. Kane.
I have to say, I felt pretty good about myself persuading two prominent northwest artists into joining me for a cup of tea on a cold November Sunday afternoon. No coincidences, right? Probably one of the best ideas, and best new friendships, a girl could ask for. You may find this feature a tad long, but there’s a whole lot more to this story, I assure you. For now, I will share that Victor and David, two well-educated and worldly artists, have chosen to come together in this place we call Magic Skagit for many of the same reasons you have – the unspoken Law of (Artistic) Attraction.
You may think I’m pulling your leg, but as time passes by and I have the great pleasure to meet so many wonderfully talented creators and makers who for one reason or another now call Skagit home. I realize we all tend to sing the same song once we arrive, and we often forget why we were called here in the first place. One might surmise we are drawn to this piece of land because there is something alluringly different about Here versus There. And aren’t we the lucky ones to be able to attract artistically minded travelers to our community who bring back their riches in the form of expanded knowledge, dissimilar opinions, and a broader vision, then translate what they have seen into art.
David and Victor have each worked, traveled and lived outside of the bountiful Pacific Northwest territory. David spending time on both coasts and in New York City, where he reports he felt a strong sense of acceptance of the arts. Victor, after college, set sail for Europe, spending time in Madrid and Paris. There he learned that art in Europe starts conversations. “It’s a cultural thing. There is a natural connoisseurship,” he stated. Victor and David shared many of the same sentiments about their intentions to be a part of the Skagit artistic community. Moving to Skagit from Seattle a few years back David reflected, “The arts have long been more appreciated in this area, even going back to the 1930’s and ‘40’s, there was a draw to the valley then as there is now. There is that familiarity of artists being more accepted here than even in Seattle.” We all agreed this sense of place hits you when you come over the hill into the Valley just past Starbird Road. When asked, Victor (who lives with this family in Snohomish) said his source connection to the Skagit was the vast sky, the abundance of nature, and the tradition of accepting artists because that is what they do. He went on to say, “Skagit artists are not regarded as crazed hobbyists or running dog lackeys of the capitalist roaders. The good ones are appreciated for making really good art. People around here are looking at art shown and collected. People here are more drawn to beauty.”
Some people are born with it. Most children experience the arts in some form at an early age. So I had to ask these two consummate artists about their first memories in front of the canvas. David picked up his first brush in kindergarten where he vividly remembers painting a perfect witch on a broomstick. A year later during first grade David was most-unfortunately beat-up by another kid for painting a better shoe. As if to say, “Don’t be painting over your pay grade,” he joked. Always interested in art and painting, David fondly remembers how he learned to paint fire as a kid. “The trick is to do it fast and not to get it mixed into other surrounding subjects,” he shared. It’s obvious to all who know David and his work he has skillfully mastered fire and most other subjects of matter. Victor smiled and recalled how he was in awe of his very first preschool trip to see Shamoo the Killer Whale at a local aquarium. So inspired on that day, returning to the classroom he put on his smock and began translating his experience with the giant sea creature. Unfortunately for little Victor there was a shortage of white and black paints, so as you would expect of a natural born creator, he improvised with greens and reds. Indecisive about adding an octopus to his canvas, he learned a valuable lesson about attempting to paint things out. “Sometimes nothing IS something,” Victor affirmed. Throughout the years whales have made themselves known to Victor. And, as you will see in his current body of work, Still Listening for the Sound, the whales continue to call out to Victor today.
As someone who deeply regrets not pursuing a formal art education, I wanted to find out how two seasoned artists navigated through their educational experiences and who or what made the greatest impact on their individual styles. Surprisingly, Victor said he attempted to avoid art in the begining. He tried his hand at marine biology – counting fish, which he says, “Bored me out of my mind!” Changing majors, Victor went on to receive his BFA and MFA. David never strayed away from the arts, taking “a bunch” of art classes in junior high and high school, eventually ending up at the University of Washington School of Art. He initially felt that experience to be quite chaotic, taking him about a year to figure it all out. Pensively he shared that art school is good because it keeps you from reinventing the wheel. You learn techniques you don’t have to invent for yourself. “One of the things you get out of art school is it teaches you to learn from your own art. The teachers taught us to create in one day and then erase. No matter how good it was, it was gone.” Adding, “If left to your own devices you get caught up in it.”
Victor, once the student and now a teacher himself, said he learned a similar thing from a print maker who taught him to make mono prints, then smashing them. “You don’t want to treat your art as precious. You must critique the entire composition.” They then went to compare notes about destroying or burning almost every piece of work created during their college years.
Now showing at i.e. gallery, Edison, WA: David C. Kane, 37 Enigmas + Victor Sandblom, Still Listening for the Sound.
37 Enigmas: If you know him, you know flying saucers and other strange things have cropped up on David’s canvas for years. He started doing it as a way of painting romantic landscapes without being too corny. You know, those late 18th – 20th century sweeping vistas and big cloud formations featuring pristine rivers through lush landscapes with noble savages in one corner, or lovers in distance. And queue the saucer…. “UFO’s and that kind of phenomenon are the modern version of gods and goddesses.” What are the UFOs saying? “It’s a paradoxical element to the whole thing, a sweeping natural vista, English country side, and BOOM!” he said with a big grin. UFO’s represent scenes of mystery and wonder describing things you can’t talk about. “Either you believe in UFO’s or you don’t. Either you believe in this painting or you don’t. The UFO’s represent the intersection of belief and knowledge.”
Still Listening for the Sound: The man and the sea. Victor and the whales. As previously mentioned, whales have been calling out to Victor for quite some time – more than a couple years. In fact, some of his current body of work has been evolving more than 20 years. Victor explained this as a type of “subconscious coming out of the deep.” He has painted many different critters throughout the years. There are (hidden) suggestions in his paintings where he intentionally does not paint the whole scene or idea. His whales are as much about smoke, natural forces, combing weird aspects of nature, and then originally sticking them all together. There is an intentional imbalance in the paintings which are meant to be off-putting. There is a sense of things happenings to create an unknown too, like something is just about to happen.
A few final thoughts… Who inspires these guys? Victor: Margy Lavelle, Louise Kikuchi, Ed Kamuda, Thomas Wood, Clayton James was a big influence too. David: Bryan Cypher, Jeff Morlan, Jacques Moitoret, and Chris Theiss – to name a few.
Double your pleasure. Don’t miss their two-man talk: In Conversation, Saturday, November 18, 2017 (3:30PM – 4:20PM) at the i.e. gallery, Edison, WA
This perspective on the local arts scene is shared by The SAM Project Founder and Publisher, Sandra Benton.
The leader of small but fierce team of dedicated writers, photographers, designers, and artistic influencers, Sandra is a dreamer and a do’er, a maker and creator. Her life-long connection to the arts has been expressed through many mediums including, written and spoken word, illustration, painting, design, interpretive dance and song, tinkering with ukulele, and too often overly dramatic performances to intimate, unsuspecting audiences (a.k.a. friends, families, complete strangers).
A business development and communications professional by-day, Sandra is determined to shine a light on those who have a vision to create and are willing to share their special artistic gifts with the rest of the world.