– Words by David Wylie Photography by Darren Hull
In his early 30s, Rick Bond found himself in a new home with bare walls. The pharmacist had just moved to the Okanagan with his young family.
And so he began to make art to fill the empty space.
“I knew I had to do something creative, but I didn’t know what it was,” he said in a recent interview.
Rick began with illustrations and cartooning for his sons. Then he watched instructional videos and bought paint, laying it out on his kitchen table.
“Something just clicked. I just became absolutely dedicated,” said the Vernon-based artist.
It was a jolt back in time. Born in Victoria, Rick grew up in the Gulf Islands off the BC coast. His first recollection of being excited about art was in elementary school, when he did a crayon drawing of an atmospheric cloud and a boat on the water.
“I can remember so clearly being excited about how it looked like a cloud—and then I went into an artistic stupor for 30 years,” he said.
Rick went to the University of British Columbia in the late 1960s to study pharmacy. From James Island he moved to Burnaby, and then back to Victoria for seven years, before finally settling in the Okanagan.
“I kicked around in my left brain for about three decades,” he said. “It’s the opposite of art. I didn’t really find art until I got to Vernon.”
Living in Coldstream and working at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, Rick found time on weekends or after his shifts to chase his passion. He started out by watching videos from Bill Alexander, creator and host of The Magic of Oil Painting television series. It was easy to follow and learn the technical basics, he said.
Rick started to go to art workshops regularly and all of that learning coalesced into his own unique style, loose and vibrant in a way that could be considered contemporary impressionism.
“I started to look at what excited me aesthetically, and that was abstract art, colourful art and unique designs,” he said.
Rick joined the Okanagan Artists League—and was encouraged when his work was used to advertise an art show. (He still has that pivotal painting.) During one fateful workshop, fellow artist Brian Atyeo encouraged Rick to leave the “comfort of the nest and fly out on his own,” telling him he needed to go paint for himself.
Rick’s art life even offered up surprises during work hours at the hospital. He recalls being paged over the PA, while he was manager of pharmacy operations, to take a call from a gallery owner who wanted to carry his work. In 2006, Rick left the pharmacy to create art full time.
He’s now painted for more than 40 years, including the illustrations he created for his kids back in the ’70s.
Rick started with oil paints, but over the years he transitioned to other types of paint, over concerns about toxicity. He tried his hand at painting watercolours, which he enjoyed, but they proved expensive to produce because they needed to be framed under glass before being sent to galleries. Some sold and some didn’t.
“It was becoming too costly,” he said.
Using acrylics became a practical solution, as he didn’t have to frame them—rather just send them to the galleries as canvases. But acrylics also suit his style: “I love painting fast. I love painting with a lot of energy,” he said.
Rick’s paintings start off as photos, move into sketches and are then painted on canvas. His subject matter presents a bit of a dichotomy; he paints landscapes as well as musicians.
“I love jazz. It has this abstract quality to it. I love the aesthetic of the instruments,” he said.
The musical paintings have provided a break from landscapes and allowed Rick to explore compositions. He said colour, shape and energy are similar in both genres. Plus, not a lot of people are painting musicians.
Working for decades in pharmacy has given Rick a left-brain/ right-brain harmony, helping him along the road to becoming a professional artist—including his commitment to administration, communications, finances and other behind-the-scenes aspects of the craft.
“The business side of art really came from being disciplined in the pharmacy,” he said. “I’m really grateful to have been exposed to that training.”
Rick also does commissions, including some for major corporations, such as Coca-Cola.
“It’s harder work on the front end. You have to spend quite a bit of time talking to the client so you get a really good idea of what they’re looking for,” he said.
Rick’s paintings are in galleries across Canada, including Alberta, BC, Quebec, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. In the Okanagan, see his work at Hambleton Galleries in Kelowna. His works can also be found at Madrona Gallery in Victoria.
To learn more about Rick Bond, visit rickbondart.com