Self Portrait, 2000
click to enlarge

Arnold James Isbister
726 13th Street East
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Phone & Fax: 306-665-0396

Artist's Statement

Artist, A.J. Isbister with Prince Charles

Throughout the years, I have searched for a personal style that would best reflect my ideas and feelings. I am "native," but live and work in this world around us, which undoubtedly influences my culture, ideas and imagery. I have come to realize that my style is not technique with pigments on canvass, something concrete or three-dimensional, but an idea and passion within myself which I render physically. Different ideas or visions require a different approach. Being Native, I chose to depict images/feelings in a culturally moded frame, but my heritage does not exclude me from employing other frames to convey other images.

We should not be governed by style, but by creativity. Whatever vision, emotion, or idea envelops me and begins to manifest itself visually in my mind, is the way it will be seen externally. My style is forever changing, adapting to images imagined, dreamed, conceived; in a arena of free thought and association. I am an artist who visualizes through traditional, as well as, contemporary "styles" of imagery/ideas consummated within a bicultural frame of native and European influences. The social "norm," interpretation, meaning or spirituality is relative to Culture, and how people translate my visions is the genesis of my work.

My visions are not dependant or limited by a particular style; rather, it's an external application of how to recreate images born in mind at a moment of revelation. The only issue is to keep that spontaneous imagery intact, which will constantly change as we evolve, each painting is a testament of time, place, and mind; consequently a "style" of "no style." -- Arnold James Isbister


Being artistic or creative seems to come naturally at an early age and Arnold was consistently designated as the classroom artist for curriculum illustrations. This continued throughout High School. His first true introduction to Art began with an oil painting set given to him as a gift for Father's Day, and this first oil painting set embedded a passion within him. Possessed by a creative muse, he diligently experimented and painted day after day, consumed with color, composition, and technique.

Following 18 months of a monastatic existence and self-immersion, he applied for a scholarship to attend an Art School and, to his surprise, was granted one. In 1975, through March to October, he attended the International Banff Centre of Fine Arts in painting/drawing. In 1976, he enrolled at the University of Saskatchewan in the 4 year Bachelor of Fine Arts program. In the 3rd year, he switched Majors to Psychology, and in the 4th year, was employed by the Regional Psychiatric Centre (a federal penitentiary) from 1980 - 1994, subsequently, he never received his BFA.

After being employed 14 years, he glimpsed the possibility of another lifestyle. While on a graveyard shift, a friend came over and admiring his artwork, stated admonishingly, "Arnie, what are you doing in a place like this? Get out there and do something with this!" A little over a year later, having resigned from the workplace, he received the news that this same friend had committed suicide. This impressed upon him the fact that life is all too brief and having remembered this friend's statement and his subsequent death, it inspired him to pursue seriously, his Art in this all-too-brief lifetime.

Beginning in 1995, he re-established himself as an Artist with an updated portfolio and enlightened perspective to his idealogy in Art. Through serendipitous circumstances, he came into contact with Dr. Wayne Smandych, who was instrumental in securing solo exhibitions in Saskatoon, Calgary and Edmonton. Gaining confidence, he resumed his "old" ways of abstract, surrealism, and expressionism instructed by the likes of Tak Tanabe, Graham Coughtry, Mary Ann Bobak at the Banff Centre of Fine Arts in 1975. Reviving his "old" self, he applied and was accepted for group exhibitions in SOHO, New York, NY and Nashville, TN. Again, through a fortuitous line of events, he came into the company of Morgan Wood and consequently, a solo at the Wanuskewin Heritage Museum. Ms. Wood has been pivotal in cementing his new direction and faith in his work.

Whatever transpires now is the total sum of influences, events, and passion that continue to weave his imagination into images he hopes are unique in thought and application. As with culture, an artist must change, adapt yet retain its identity, or it will stagnate and die. So shall his work evolve simultaneously retaining a signature of thought, as opposed to "style."

Gallery 1 Gallery 2 Gallery 4
Gallery 5 About the Artist Exhibitions
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