This is a very inspiring interview that I did with my cousin Robert E. Wood. What’s so incredibly neat about Robert is that I didn’t even know about him until I “googled” his father one day. Sadly our families have been disconnected since I was probably a toddler or younger.
I remember my Mom telling me growing up that her cousin was a painter and his art was all around British Columbia and even across Canada. I always knew this but I didn’t know he had a son until I looked Karl E. Wood up on the internet one day.
I decided to look him up because my own daughter Tori is an exceptional artist, painter, singer, she really can do it all, my other children are also very artistic too.
What’s interesting is that I’ve always had the desire to paint from a young age but never did. I knew there was a lot of creativity in our family so I wanted to find more connection to that. I looked up Karl E. Wood and there he was, Robert, I found a family member and he was a professional artist just like his father. I went on to read that his grandfather was also a painter and I knew once I found Robert that I needed to get in touch with him right away.
We’ve connected in such a beautiful way, we are family and he’s now a wonderful encourager to me personally and can’t wait to meet him one day soon for the first time. We come from a history of entrepreneurs in our family, one day I’ll share here but for now, please enjoy this very inspiring chat I had with Robert.
What lead you to become a professional artist?
I grew up surrounded by art, so it was a natural direction to go in. My father (Karl E. Wood) and my grandfather (Robert E. Wood) were both professional artists before me, so the influence was there my entire life. I took to art from early childhood, and when I was a young kid I was almost unstoppable about drawing on any surface I could find, including walls in our house! In the end the solution was that I was given one particular wall that I was allowed to draw on! … I remember having decided by the age of 13 that I was going to be an artist, and so it was – I started painting full-time in November 1989, when I was 18 years old.
One thing I think it’s important to emphasize to everyone reading is to actively pursue your dreams, not just think about them or plan them for the future, but DO them now. My best example of this is that in 1989, following my graduation from High School, I was working a dead-end summer job at a convenience store (which had been a part-time job in high school and carried on into the summer).
One day in October that year my Dad said to me that if I wanted to be an artist I should just do it. Quit the convenience store job and – I specifically remember him saying – “Stop wasting your time.” Looking back now I think that’s a very profound comment, and an instance of the universe handing me something with a clear instruction: “Do this. Now.” We get signs in our lives; whether we pay attention to them or not… So I did quit the store job. I gave 2 weeks notice, and then in November 1989 I started painting full-time.
I was extraordinarily lucky to have then had eight months of intensive training with my Dad before he suddenly – completely unexpectedly – passed away… If I hadn’t listened to him (and to what the universe was telling me to do) I would have missed out on the great opportunity to study and learn my profession from him. So the moral of the story is that when a door is opened for you, go through it!
What was it like to learn from your Dad?
My Dad was a challenging teacher, as the best teachers usually are.
He was very precise in his own work and very demanding of me. I remember he once said that if I wasn’t going to become better than him (at painting), there was no point in my doing it at all. High expectations! Well, a lot of time has passed since then.
My Dad’s career was 25 years long, and my own career has just passed the 26 year mark. It’s not something I spend much time thinking about, but I do think in a variety of ways that I have exceeded my Dad, just as he had exceeded my Grandfather.
And I plan on being around for a long time, so the progression of my career will continue.
What is the best part of being an entrepreneur?
The best part of being an entrepreneur is being in control of my life. I set my hours. I decide what I’ll be doing each day. The art business is a huge industry, and a very competitive one – the vast number of people in the arts are never able to make a living at it, without having a supplemental job to pay the bills. In order to succeed an artist must have a high energy level, be optimistic and expect success, and be able to produce work that is pleasing both to the artist and to the public.
Who do you look to for inspiration?
Inspiration comes from everywhere. My Dad and Grandfather are always inspirational: I have numerous works by both of them hanging in my home, so their presence is always in my mind. But there are always lots of other artists to admire and learn from. As U2 sang, “Every artist is a cannibal; every poet is a thief.” That just means that artists look to other artists and learn from each other, drawing bits of knowledge and inspiration from our fellows. A very inspirational figure in my life was my friend and mentor, actor Barry Morse, who said – on this subject – that “Everyone in the arts must acknowledge that we are shoplifters. But when we set out on a shoplifting expedition we must always remember to go to Cartier and never to Wal-Mart.” In other words, steal from the best!
What is it about painting that you love the most?
I love that painting is an endless challenge. There is no limit to how much you can learn or achieve. There is no perfect painting, and any artist who thinks they’ve achieved perfection a) is wrong, and b) should stop painting.
It’s one of the world’s oldest activities – drawing on cave walls – and we’re still doing it, and probably always will.
The desire to depict the world we see and interpret that in an individual way is very powerful. It’s the same desire that leads people to write novels, songs, or anything else in the creative arts. It’s an unleashing of our souls, and there is no end to creativity. To quote an old saying, “The more I learn, the less I know.” It’s very true!
What do you focus on most to grow your business?
I think the key to success in any business is partnering with the best people you possibly can. In the case of painting that would start with your teachers (after my Dad passed away I continued learning from a couple other artists who were family friends, including Harold Lyon. Anyone can do this: there are always good professional artists teaching classes). The key for a painter’s ongoing sales success and business growth is two-fold. First, the artist has to always continue to produce better and better work, while being prolific. Second, it’s important to partner with galleries that will successfully represent and sell your work for you. When galleries do their job it allows the artist to focus on creating.
What is one thing you would tell someone who is a creative entrepreneur?
Believe in yourself, and maintain positive energy! That is SO important for everyone, not just creative entrepreneurs. I’ve known many artists over the years and those who are the most successful are usually the most positive and self-assured, while those who overly doubt themselves or are inclined to negative, depressed attitudes are unsuccessful. I’m sure there are exceptions, but that’s a good general rule. It’s the law of attraction. Like attracts like. It’s an upward spiral. Be positive, believe in your success and talents, and you will find the universe will deliver more of that positivity and success to you.
Some last thoughts from Robert…
Be a dreamer. Don’t be a realist. All those old sayings like “Get your head out of the clouds” are possibly well-meant, but they kill creativity. They program people to be just another cog in the wheel. When people say, “Come on, be realistic” they’re telling you to keep your feet on the ground and not shoot for the moon.
Why can’t you shoot for the moon?
Why can’t the dreamer be as successful – or more successful – than the realist?
Just the other day I talked to a couple whose daughter (a trained geologist) is unemployed in a depressed industry, while their son (a musician in a band) is booking lots of gigs and being very successful. They never expected him to be more successful than her, but right now he is, and he’s followed his passion!
Another example of this, from my own life, is that I’ve always been a science fiction fan. From when I was a little kid I loved shows like STAR TREK and – especially – SPACE: 1999.
Parents may not want their kids watching too much TV, but if it’s a passion, follow it! That childhood passion carried on, leading me to join fan clubs, write fan fiction (I had always been interested in writing as well as painting and this helped nurture the writer within me), and to attend conventions (gatherings of fellow fans) in Canada, England, and across the US, where I made many great friends – some of the greatest friends in my life.
It also led me to meet many of the cast and crew of the series, and to eventually work with some of them, including working with actor Barry Morse (who I mentioned earlier) on no less than 15 different stage, radio and television productions over the 13 years we were friends, prior to his passing in 2008. We also collaborated on numerous books together, including his memoir, “Remember with Advantages”. I’ve written many books connected with Barry Morse and SPACE: 1999, and still have a couple waiting in the wings.
But that long-nurtured passion for science fiction and writing took me in a new direction about 4 1/2 years ago when I joined forces with several friends in the creation of a new upstart science fiction television production company based in Montreal called Space Opera Studios. I have been working in series development and scriptwriting, and have found myself being mentored in scriptwriting by the great Christopher Penfold, who has had a wonderful and successful career, but – back in the 1970s – was the script editor and one of the main screenwriters for SPACE: 1999!
So you see how it all comes full circle?
My current budding side career as a screenwriter has come about because of my lifelong passion in science fiction, dating back to my childhood and that series SPACE: 1999, and now I’m working with one of the men who was most instrumental in creating that series. The point is to be a dreamer. Follow your passions – you never know where they will lead you!
About Robert E. Wood
Robert E. Wood grew up surrounded by artists and art. He was born in North Vancouver, B.C. in 1971, and currently resides in Calgary, Alberta. He has been painting full time since 1989, and his career follows over 70 years of professional art in his family. His grandfather was Robert E. Wood and his father was Karl E. Wood – with whom he spent eight months training. This was followed by study with several other notable artists, including Harold Lyon, and years of personal artistic exploration and development. Robert has been surrounded by art his entire life and took to it from his earliest years, when his grandfather called him “the little painter”.
Primarily known for his Canadian landscapes, Robert is adept at portraying a wide variety of subject matter: the mountains, canyons, lakes, rivers and forests of the Rocky Mountains, sunsets, old cabins and barns of the West, the Okanagan, Europe, Mexico and other tropical settings, and a variety of still-life, floral and garden scenes. His paintings sing with colour and always depict scenes he is dramatically inspired by.
Robert enjoys working on location, plein-air painting, which helps his images achieve a sense of true light and life. He extensively travels and explores his favourite regions of Alberta and British Columbia – these include the Kananaskis and Banff National Park regions of the Rockies, as well as the South Okanagan. As well as painting on site, Robert takes large numbers of photographs to use as reference material for his studio paintings. His visual library consists of some 60,000 slides and photographs which are always on hand to inspire future paintings.
Robert Wood’s love of light and colour, and passion for conveying his vision of the world, is a never-ending source of inspiration, and he has come to see his task as almost a spiritual one, using oil as a medium to imbue his canvasses with beauty and positive energy, which then resonates with the viewer. Although he believes awards in the arts are ridiculous and a matter of subjective opinion, Robert is nevertheless honoured to have won first place in the only art competition he has ever entered: Arabella art magazine’s 2014 “Great Canadian Landscape Painting Competition”.