Grant Waddell began his artistic career at a very early age. Whether it was mud, finger paints, crayons, or toothpicks, popsicles sticks and glue, he would create almost every day. Ever since he could remember, he had a mind that has needed to create. To build things, compose and develop ideas.
Growing up, he was surrounded by art. His parents had numerous paintings, sketches and sculptures around the house and although his father wasn't artistic, his grandfather was, and several of his paintings hung on walls of importance within the home, but one piece stood out above them all.
"There was one painting by Gus Kenderdine," Waddell recalls. "Gus was a celebrated Canadian painter who depicted the Saskatchewan landscape. It was a fall painting of the Qu'apelle Valley, and this piece had a profound effect on my developing creative mind. As a matter of fact, it was Gus who taught my grandfather to paint! It brought it all home for me."
His talents were recognized at an early age by many, but most importantly by his Uncle. Grant had written him a letter, or more accurately written him a story about Snoopy and the Red Baron, complete with an illustration, which his uncle had framed and hung on the wall of his study.
"I didn't see this until I was in my early twenties," Waddell thinks back. "This fascinated me, because I had forgotten that this was something I had created. My uncle had recognized something in this pretty crude drawing and took the time time to frame it and hang it on the wall of his study. For the first time, I was an exhibiting artist!"
In his early teens, Waddell was drawing and painting regularly. About this time he was given his first camera, a Voightlander VitoB. Armed with this new creative instrument, he began running about the neighbourhood, shooting the goings-on and processing and printing his own film.
He would later realize that these two interests would dominate the rest of his life. Photography and painting became the backbone of his creative expression, and he constantly painted and snapped his way through his teens until finishing high school. He took a year off working construction and during this time decided that he needed to take this passion seriously. He enrolled in The Alberta College of Art with a focus on painting.
In his second year he made a pivotal decision. The pressures of making a living at his chosen craft began to weigh on him, it was then that he decided to switch majors and shift to commercial photography.
He didn't apply paint to canvas for the next 28 years.
After graduating, he moved to Vancouver with a friend from school and launched an assistants company that eventually landed him in the biggest commercial studio in the city. He stayed there for six years gaining valuable experience, this gave him the courage to start Grant Waddell Photography, a successful venture lasting nine years. During the last of these years, the desire to own a house and move closer to family became his focus,and in 2005 he and his family returned to Calgary, and bought a house. Grant opened a commercial studio with the belief that the Calgary market would be as lucrative and filled with the same opportunities as Vancouver. He discovered however, this was not the case.
This period marked the beginning of a deep fundamental change in his life. When he approached 50, Waddell experienced some personal tragedies that began to shift his direction: having a near death experience from West Nile Virus, shutting down his commercial studio, and experiencing the death of his father and step mother, both within a month of each other caused a massive upheaval.
"I never really understood the profound changes that were happening. Once you move into the next chapter of your life, and look back, you start to question every decision you've ever made and you realize that your time here is very important. It became apparent that some changes needed to happen and that some of the neglected areas of who I was needed nurturing"
With the realization that he had ignored his basic passion, Waddell enrolled in a weekend painting retreat and produced four paintings, his first in 28 years.
"Holding that brush and mixing colour felt so natural. I was amazed after all the time that had passed, that I was able to experience success quite quickly. I still have a lot of time to make up but I was pleased."
When asked why he chooses landscapes?
"I have always had a love of nature, and this is why I've chosen to paint the landscape." He says. "When I drive through the prairies, or up into the mountains, my eyes are always seeking light, texture, tone and colour. Nature has always held a very special place in my heart, although I have discovered that it brings a certain amount of pain with it now. So, working outdoors and getting back into the environment, has become a healing process that requires an intimate dialogue. Engaging in a conversation through artistic interpretation."
Photography has also taken on a new direction. Waddell is focusing on fine art along with his commercial practice. Producing landscapes of course which he has already had success in, but also using his skills as a digital artist to create more contemporary work. He has a few projects underway that he will be devoting a great deal of time to in the coming months.
When Grant looks back and reflects on his creative musings so long ago, he can't help but feel grateful that the two original artistic passions, fine art painting and photography, have both returned to him with such clarity.
"I don't think they were ever gone" Waddell says "They were just lost to expectations"