My interest in art and painting started at a very early age (I have, in fact, a painting (my aunt saved it) on the wall of my office that I created when I was just 3 years old, and it's actually pretty good, all things considered). As I grew up I continued to draw, paint and experiment with sculpture. My high school art teacher (the renowned naturalist painter, Robert Bateman, no less!) encouraged me to pursue a career in the arts.
That was, however, many years ago and, as so often happens, life got in the way.
Recently, I was consumed with the urge to pick up where I left off so long ago. I purchased my supplies, set up a small studio, but alas I no longer had any idea of how to begin. Somewhat frustrated, I began to research various art courses and came to the conclusion that I wanted/needed to study and learn the traditional approach to drawing and painting.
After enrolling in the Academy of Art in Toronto, Canada, I progressed through various Bargue studies and was eventually faced with my first charcoal cast drawing. At this point, I asked my instructor which charcoal would be the best? He responded "Nitram was the best that there was". So, off I went to the local art store – but no Nitram was to be found. Next I searched online – again no Nitram. It would appear that the best charcoal was virtually unavailable. Even worse, I discovered that it was no longer even being produced!
I decided to go directly to the source and wrote to Mr. Nitram himself. Initially I received no response, but I played the part of the proverbial squeaky wheel and persisted. Several emails later I finally received a response. This was the start of what would become a lengthy and increasingly friendly correspondence between us. Daniel (Mr. Nitram), as it turned out, had simply decided to pursue other interests and was no longer interested in continuing the Nitram business. It was to be the end of the line for this excellent product and I was very sad to hear of it.
It was at this point that my entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and I decided that I would be interested in taking on the business and preserving the tradition of Nitram fine art charcoal for myself and other artists. Eventually, my partner Patrica and I went to France and together we purchased the process, the equipment and the trademark.
In November I will be spending a month with Daniel to begin producing Nitram charcoal the way it has always been made. And the rest, as they say, is history. Or at least history in the making…