Interview: artist David Sandum, the man behind #twitterartexhibit

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David Sandum is a 39-year-old Swede who went to college in the US, married a Norwegian, moved to Norway, and then launched a corporate career only to burn out at an early age. His stress-ridden job also led to a deep depression. As a way to deal with his depression, David started to paint, draw and sketch. Read on for some of his insights and to learn more about his most current creative and digital project.

[Disclaimer: The artist’s wife is my third cousin, so I’m kind of partial.]


Thank you David, for this opportunity to interview you through e-mail. You certainly have a distinct flavor in your paintings.

Q: What is the most important thing you wish to convey in your paintings to the viewer?
A: I mainly see myself as a colorist – and expressionist. Feelings, energy, and emotions are very much key to my work. The people I paint are never real portraits but “inner portraits.” A quote by Matisse sums it up well: “I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me.”

Q: When you paint, do you paint for yourself or for the audience?
A: Good question, as I think any true artist wish to share their work and say something. But at the same time, I started to paint to deal with my depression and art for me is very cathartic. Many times I have entered my studio feeling the world is chaotic and coming to an end, but left hours later feeling I’ve settled my daemons. So I guess the answer is both.

Q: Why paint and not go digital?
A: Because I am a painter. I am very focused on the classical view of what painting is. Not necessarily in a classical sense regarding technique and style. But in it’s genuineness. Today many people paint copying from projectors or use photo and scanners as a base for their painting. And this is ok for many people. But to me this doesn’t feel genuine, and I always start with an empty canvas and make it happen; and as soon as I get stuck copying, I seem to loose the emotion I seek for.

Q: Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
A: Depends what day you ask. But in general, Scandinavian influences are Munch, Karsten, and Sparre. Other influences are The German Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) movement (1911-1914) spearheaded by Kandinsky, and masters such as Gauguin, Van Gogh, Bonnard, and Matisse. From the US, Georgia O’Keefe’ has been a great influence, and this summer I travelled to her old studio at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico and painted in the desert for a week. It was an amazing experience. You can see many of these paintings on my website.

Q: What is your biggest distraction?
A: My own reoccurring self-doubt.

Q: How has painting affected your faith?
A: As in religious faith, or faith in humanity? I see painting in-and of-itself as spiritual, so I guess that’s the answer. Not that all painters see it that way, or view art as spiritual per say. Some painters see their work as a job like anything else and don’t believe in “inspiration.” I disagree with that notion, even if I must often “fight through the barrier” and can feel unmotivated like with any other job. But true art (or any other project where you push yourself) is always a struggle (at some point). I definitely don’t stand and whistle and paint roses all day, even if certain times, I think I’ve felt at peace.

Q: Depression is still a taboo today. Would you care to share some insights that may alleviate some of the stigma?
A: I don’t really know the answer to that, as I’ve never been that kind of a person. Ask my wife; I feel a need to share everything. But I have seen others feel that stigma and know this notion is very real. The feeling of being misunderstood however is often present. People associate depression with weakness even though it’s an illness. You don’t hear people ask someone with terminal cancer, “are you feeling any better today?” or “get a grip and move on!” I’ve heard these kinds of things plenty often and I think people in general just don’t get it. I’ve written a book about this that I’ll hopefully publish soon (looking for publisher now, or will self-publish). The title is: “I’ll Run Till the Sun Goes Down: A Memoir about depression and discovering art.” (In English) It took me ten years to write and this will be a thorough answer to your question.

Q: Would you be so kind and describe a regular day?
A: I really have no regular day. No boss and I avoid pressure like the plague. But sometimes I have deadlines for commissions etc. and then I try my best just to stay focused and put in the hours. I used to paint very sporadically and could be up all night for days until the kids got up for school, then slept all day till dinner. Now I try to have a more structured life and having private students definitely helps. I’m very loyal, so knowing someone will stand outside the studio in the freezing cold if I don’t show up, definitely helps to get me going.

Q: How has painting helped your depression?
A: Wow, that’s a different question. Helped feed my depression, or helped with my depression? Well, I guess when I’m stressed with exhibits and stuff it fuels it, or when you don’t sell five months in a row and the bills are stacking up. Then I tend to get a tad stressed. The idea or fact of rejection is also a tough one – An experience every artist goes through. Your work is very personal so it hurts when people laugh at it. But as an artist, you’re in the public sphere and people have the right to speak their mind (thank heavens). So you must learn to deal with that or perish! But besides that, it helps more than it ruins. So why complain?

Q: What are some of the things you have gained through painting?
A: I have learned to get in touch with my emotions, convey my emotions in a constructive way (most often), follow my dreams, live a simple life, endure, and be stubborn as heck! (was from before), and to realize that even though we live in a society with great speed demanding immediate results, some things in life requires patience. I always wish to excel and get better, but I know learning to paint is a lifetime feat.

Q: As an artist for some time, what characteristics are more developed in you now – compared to when you started out?
A: I guess the technical aspects. I have always struggled to paint arms. Now I just struggle a little bit.

Q: What traits must all artists have or develop?
A: In my view (as hinted on earlier): Endurance, striving to excel, feeling a desire to say something (or I’m just another decorative slave). I also wish to help people. This might seem cliché’. But sometimes I get the idea that someone can look at one of my paintings and recognize something, feel strengthened, empathy, or help them disappear to another place. Van Gogh said it best: A good picture is equivalent to a good deed.

And regarding the work itself, I often think: If it doesn’t happen over night, it’s ok.

Q: You also use your web site, Facebook and Twitter to communicate, how does this impact your work?
A: Yes, it helps a great deal. Being an artist is often lonely, but through social media I can interact with other artists and art-lovers and get feedback and help others with theirs. It can also help to stimulate sales and with PR (my degree is in organizational communication).

Q: How important is it to meet your audience, at, say, a vernissage?
A: It’s very nice and stimulating to talk to people, but I wouldn’t say essential. It used to be very important for me, as my feelings are key, and I often wanted them to get a certain point. But lately I’ve learned that people don’t need my experience or opinion showed down their throats. If they ask for it, I’ll answer them honestly. But sometimes people should have the right to experience art from their own perspective in silence. So now, I usually attend the opening and the last day. Then people are always welcome to visit me in my studio.

Q: Favorite movie of 2010?
A: Inception blew me away, Toy Story 3 made me smile, and the Danish movie “I en bedre verden” (In a Better World) really moved me. See trailer (Norwegian subtitles) here:

Q: Favorite or most recently read book?
A: Favorite book is Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach. I read it once a year. I need to be reminded of a great many things in there. I also love anything by John Steinbeck.

Q: Favorite new song?
A: Right now I really like Mew’s new album ( And Håkan Hellström from my hometown Göteborg Sweden, rocks! Besides that, a lot of Coldplay, Springsteen, and Mozart :)

Q: Favorite dish?
A: Mexican baby!

Q: Favorite place to paint?
A: My studio

Q: Speaking of these new channels of communication – please tell us more about your most current project. I understand you run it through Twitter?
A: See info at link:

Q: How can people enjoy the exhibit?
A: Deadline is over. Exhibit opens December 2nd at 6:00 p.m. The exhibit will last two months at the Moss Public library. 200 artists have submitted work that will be exhibited on a large white wall, arranged by Momentum. All proceeds go to children’s books.

Q: Will there be or is there a specific web site?
A: Just link so far. But Google it and you’ll find lots of other links etc already. Will perhaps post a u-tube video of event.

Q: Will you repeat it next year?
A: No, I will sleep for at least two ;) This has been a huge undertaking!

Q: Will you host painting classes online soon?
A: No. I view teaching the old fashion way. Don’t know why, but I’ll stick to teaching private students for now. But who knows about the future?

The future will certainly be colorful for David and his many talents.

Thank you for your time and input David! I wish you the very best with the exhibit at the Moss Library.

Follow David Sandum on Twitter:!/DavidSandumArt
His web site can be found here:

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