One of my first and fondest memories of meeting Ed was when my parents and I were a support vessel for the “Pulling Together Canoe Journey.” This particular year the journey went down the Fraser River and crossed the Salish Sea, and ended in Victoria. Ed invited me into their ten paddler Northern Dancer Canoe for which he was skipper. We travelled only a short distance that day from New Westminster Quay, down the sweeping Fraser to Deas Island. The cumulus clouds were a dark backdrop with bright sun cutting through and contrasting the sky. The sun would shimmer across the top of the silty water below us with the occasional thunder and lighting above. My entire life I had marvelled at the mighty Fraser from a distance, it was industrial, untouchable, and dangerous. When I woke up that day, I never imagined I would be in the middle of it dipping my paddle into the water in tandem following the unknown paddlers in front of me. My shoulders started to hurt after about 15 minutes, but no pain was going to stop me from enjoying this picturesque moment.
“Something’s calling me out there because I know there's a painting”
~w. e. hill - Rhythm of life
What does passion mean to you? Well, when I assume as you ask that question, my thoughts turn to my art work for instance. It's an overwhelming and emotional compulsion to do something creative in terms of the compassion I'm thinking of. That's how I feel about my artwork. Yeah. I think that's probably my quick response to that.
What is your most meaningful passion? My family, first. When it turns to my own devices, I suppose, my artwork is very much at the top of the list. My work with canoes and the First Nations culture is at the top of my list too.
How are you fulfilling that passion? I've been painting or involved in painting and creating my artwork in one way or another, almost continuously now for over thirty years. That's a pursuit that I'll do as long as my eyes, and my hands, and my brain all work together to keep it happening.
Was there a moment in your life that influenced you? Well, I have long known that I'm an artist. Every since I was a young kid when my aunt Margaret would tell me how good I was.
Then I think it was the perfect storm that happened in about 1984-85. I quit drinking. I'm an alcoholic. In 1984, I quit drinking, so I guess I'm a non-practicing alcoholic now. I literally switched my addiction from drinking to painting because coincidental to me quitting drinking I found Roy Vickers. He taught me his painting techniques while I was the RCMP detachment Commander in Tofino. Roy Vickers, is a very successful First Nations artist with a gallery in the community. We became friends fishing, outdoors, on the boat, socially.
Roy had a pretty big ego, so as a practical joke I decided I would do a painting at home on the sly. I got some brushes and the paper and the paints and I started doing a painting. When I get it finished, I'm going to frame it and put it on my wall. The next time he came over to visit, he'd be putting his nose up against seeing who's imitating his style, and it would be me.
Anyway it was a Saturday afternoon in Tofino. The doorbell rang. A knock came at the door and in walked Roy as he would do to have a visit. He caught me at the kitchen table working on this painting, half finished. He looked over my shoulder and studied it. I didn't say anything. He'd caught me. He picked it up and looked at it. He tore it in two. He said, "If you're going to imitate my style, you're going to do it properly.” He went back to gallery studio and came back in a few minutes with the proper paints, brushes, paper, and the works. He tutored me through that first painting.
It was a couple of months later, we were sitting in a hot tub talking. He said, "You know, if you did a print edition of that image that you painted, we could sell it." I wouldn't believe him.
I argued with him. I said, "Well Roy, we'll never really know because I can't afford to invest thousands of dollars to go and have a print edition done to prove you're wrong.” He said, "Well, I'll prove me right." He took my painting to Victoria, spent the time and money to have it done in a limited edition on silkscreen prints, run it back, had me sign them, number them, name it, the works. He showed me the whole process.
Those prints hung in Roy's gallery, and over the next three quarters of a year, that entire edition sold out and went around the world out of that gallery. That's when I said, “Wow!" That was my launch into what I'm doing still today.
How has your passion changed over time? It's become a part of the rhythm of my life. There's hardly a time, if I'm not painting, I'm writing. Perhaps even about my painting. If I'm not painting or writing, my eyes and my heart and my whole being is open to my next image. Where am I going to find it. Something's calling me out there because I know there's a painting. I'm looking for it.
What moment do you lose yourself within your passion. Painting or sitting in a canoe, fly fishing, wondering and worrying and concerned about the flight of the line and the presentation of the fly. Whether a trout's going to rise and take it. I guarantee you that when your out there, you’re not thinking about work. When I'm consumed with my artwork, with my family, with all of those rhythms of my life, then nothing else matters.
Do you have any recommendations for other people trying to find their passion? "Be open.” I give that advice to young people. I give that advice to RCMP officers that I meet, young guys who are just starting out. If something feels foreign to you, instead of saying "No" say, “Yeah." Let's see where this takes me. Because you never know what door is opening.
“Our most valuable possessions are our health, our family and our friends. I'm one wealthy bugger. That's not just poetry, that's very real.”
~w. e. hill