What beauty lies beyond your vision as you drive on a main road? What treasures await those prepared to stop, search and explore?
To self-taught artist David L. Munro, roads and paths less travelled, and what they conceal, have yielded the greatest rewards.
With his sensibilities aroused, he will often raise the Pentax camera slung around his neck and capture a scene, using it to inspire a pen-and-ink drawing back at his home in Assiniboia.
Sometimes the subject will be nature’s green expanses, such as the Cypress Hills, sometimes wildlife like antelope and moose. Sometimes a log cabin will stir him. When he has completed a drawing, he can always count on his wife, Carol, to deliver a constructive critique.
Over the last few years, he has amassed enough drawings to mount his first exhibition, which has gone on display at the Jasper Cultural & Historical Centre.
“Hidden Landscapes”, which will be up until the end of July, features 29 pieces. Some of them exemplify his use of basswood as a foundation for landscape drawings.
He was at his brother’s place when he noticed the unique coloration on basswood boards caused by fungi; this started the idea of enhancing the multi-coloured patterns with black ink.
The source of basswood with these colouring patterns is no longer available. Nevertheless, for the past 10 years, Munro has worked at developing his style of pen-and-ink drawings.
“The freedom of this art form is wonderful, you can work on a picture and it dries instantly which allows me to set it down and pick it up again and not have to worry about damage to the picture,” he says. “It is a very mobile art medium.”
Munro’s art journey began as a child in Oakville, Manitoba, when he would draw cartoon characters from the comic books in the early 1960s. A friend of the family then introduced him to water colour techniques for creating trees.
“The use of brush strokes and colour patterns to create shadows and texture are still used in the pen-and-ink drawings I do today,” he says.
Oils were also an interest, from the age of 17 until his early 30s, with landscapes being the primary focus. Despite his enthusiasm, however, he never saw art as anything more than a hobby.
His working life is marked by astonishing variety, something Munro acknowledges with a smile. His three big jobs were: an agent operator for CN Railway, which meant extensive travelling; a meat cutter (20 years); and a massage therapist (25 years).
Listening to Munro, it is apparent he is in a good space.
Free from the demands of working for a living, he is able to pursue his passion and push the boundaries of creativity.
It is something he does with an energy that contradicts the image of a retiree with too much time on his hands. He admits he is someone who likes to keep busy.
“I’m not someone who can just sit around,” he says.
As well as his art, he also looks after the St. Victor Petroglyph Interpretative Centre and Museum, south east of Assiniboia.
Is this the best period of his life?
“Yes, I think it is,” he replies.