Interview with Artist David Sandum

Welcome, welcome to all you fabulous TWPeeps. It’s Friday here on The Writing Piazza and that means it’s time for our weekly #fridayguestinterview! Today’s guest is the super-talented artist David Sandum. Not only has David painted some extraordinary pieces, but he has also crossed mediums, creating pictures with words on paper (or E-Readers). You don’t want to miss his incredible story.

Hello David. Thanks for joining us today. Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in Sweden and spent eight years of my teenage and early adult life in the US. For the past fifteen years, I’ve lived in Norway with my wife, Kjersti, who is half American and half Norwegian, and our two sons, Alex and Andreas, now 16 and 19.

A year after we were married, Kjersti and I moved to the States and settled in Salt Lake City, where I had been a high school exchange student and still had a network of friends. We started a family, and as the years passed, I worked full-time while attending college, as many Americans do, with the goal of becoming a business consultant. When I graduated with a degree in organizational communication in the late 1990s, we moved back to Scandinavia and I began searching for employment.

My life didn’t unfold as planned.

Following several months of being turned down for various positions, on the heels of an intense work and academic schedule in the US, I hit a wall and rapidly fell into severe depression and anxiety. Eventually I was hospitalized and spent many years in and out of a psychiatric facility. During this difficult time, I discovered the empathy and power of art. The works of Edvard Munch and Vincent Van Gogh especially intrigued me because both artists had struggled with similar problems. I felt a strong need to draw and paint for myself.

The Writing Piazza:
Art is certainly amazing. Your bravery in sharing such a personal story is admirable and I have no doubt it will help many people. Depression and anxiety have been taboo topics for so long that it’s good to see it being discussed in a frank and open way. The book you have written is eye opening and incredibly moving. Can you tell our readers about it.

Shortly after becoming ill, I started to not only paint my chaos, but also write down my thoughts and feelings. I was trying to make sense of it all. I was inspired to do this by Munch, who got his artistic view from the Norwegian bohemian writer Hans Jaeger, who in turn said that writers and artists should tell their life story. I believe it’s true—every living person has a story to tell. My reflections, experiences, and evolving art have now been published in a memoir: I’ll Run Till the Sun Goes Down: A Memoir About Depression and Discovering Art.

artist david sandum book cover

The Writing Piazza:
Telling your story is important. A lot of people will be able to relate and for those who can’t, it will help them better understand and empathize with those who are experiencing what you went through.

Tell us a bit more about your publishing journey. What did it take to get your book published?

That story would make another book! It’s been a 15-year project. I wrote my memoir between 2000 and 2008, and it took another seven years to arrive where I am now. First I had a publisher in Rome, but after about a year, that fell through due to creative differences. They wanted, for example, not to include any images in the book, and that was unacceptable to me as an artist. Then I set my mind on self-publishing, which proved to be a huge task. I spent two years trying to make it work. A literary agent also contacted me, but that didn’t lead to anything.

Finally I landed where I am now with Sandra Jonas Publishing House. Sandra Jonas and I met through Twitter, and we shared the same vision for my story. Connecting with her was a godsend. I feel very fortunate that the book ended up in such good hands. It showcases more than 50 color images of my own work and that of artists who have inspired me.

The Writing Piazza:
That’s a long road to travel but it’s good you didn’t give up. Now your book is out there and in the way you wanted it to be. I’m sure it couldn’t have been easy, but I for one am glad you stuck to your guns and kept the artwork in it because it really adds to your story.

You’ve included so many excellent pieces, like this one, it’s my favorite.

DSandum_NorwegianMt_2005 (1)





Norwegian Mountains, 2005
David Sandum Oil on canvas
27 X 32 cm
Artist’s personal collection.

I always wished I could paint, there’s just so much beauty and emotion in it. I’ve never had a talent for it so I’ve had to use my words and writing to paint pictures in the mind instead. So being someone who has the talent to do both, how different was writing from your work as a painter?

I once met an artist who said that inspiration is dead and only through hard work can we accomplish good art. I don’t agree with this view—I think inspiration is still alive and we need it as well to produce quality pieces. The two work hand in hand. We need to consistently show up and apply ourselves to allow inspiration to flourish.

When I think about my memoir, I picture myself sitting at my computer alone at night, constantly writing, editing, and rewriting. It takes a lot of time and patience. Words are so precise. They aren’t like paint on a canvas that can be interpreted in many different ways. You need to carve out perfection in a phrase, dialogue, or setting. Words and prose can of course be abstract, but a memoir must tell it like it is. It was important to get it right—I didn’t want anything to be misunderstood. It also felt liberating to tell my story and get it out of my system.

The Writing Piazza:
Writing can be cathartic, that’s for sure. And I would imagine writing a memoir is significantly different from writing a novel because you do want to accurately describe events as they happened.

This blog is for writers but we can appreciate other forms of art as well. So I’d like you to talk a bit more about your painting. Tell us about your work.

In addition to painting my life story and transferring emotion, I see myself as an expressionistic painter and a colorist. I am not expressionistic in the sense of German expressionism, which uses a lot of black and focuses on the dark side of life (even if I sometimes do), but more like Chagall, who is expressionistic to me in the sense that he expressed emotion.

I have a motto from Matisse, “I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces on me.” I am not concerned with copying what I see, even if a good artist constantly observes the world, paying attention to—shadows, colors, expressions, colors, perspective, and composition. When I paint, I most always start with an empty canvas.

It is different with etchings and printmaking. I have had to learn to copy, but there is freedom in using the same copper plate, for instance, and varying just the colors.

The Writing Piazza:
As I read your book, it brought back memories of the art class I took as part of my general education courses when I was working on my Bachelor of Science degree. You definitely made me want to visit some art museums and just spend time staring at some great paintings! Your appreciation of art really rubs off on those of us who read your memoir. 🙂

Do you think you’ll write another book?

Yes, although I never thought I’d want to do this madness again! Lately, however, I’ve felt the desire to write a sequel to the first book, which ends on the theme of acceptance. It was a scary thought that I might be severely ill for the rest of my life, and I needed to accept that there were things in life beyond my control.

Much has happened in the last several years. In 2010, I started to believe that I could actually reclaim my life, even though I hadn’t succeeded in doing so up to that point. One experience stands out. I was painting out in the desert in New Mexico at Ghost Ranch in the footsteps of Georgia O’Keeffe, when the heat and stillness whispered to me, “Do something, or nothing will change. No one will rescue you.” The second book will be about restoring my dignity.

The Writing Piazza:
I wish you the best of luck. I’m sure it will be as poignant and helpful as your first book.

Do you have any upcoming events for your book and/or your art?

With respect to my book, I have a number of promotional events in the works, both in person and online, which will be posted on Facebook, Twitter, and my website

With respect to my art, besides printmaking in Barcelona this November and upcoming exhibits, I am involved in many projects. One is Twitter Art Exhibit, an initiative I started in 2010. Artists from all over the world are encouraged to submit hand-painted postcards to raise funds for charity. Last year 720 artists from 40 countries participated.

It has been held in my hometown of Moss, Norway, as well as in Los Angeles and Orlando. The sixth TAE will be held in New York City at Trygve Lie Gallery to raise funds for Foster Pride, a charity that helps foster children through mentoring and art, even after the kids are no longer in the foster care programs. I will travel there and open the exhibit. Any artist, professional or amateur, can participate. The only requirement is a Twitter account. The call for artists will start in mid-October. Follow @twitrartexhibit on Twitter or our FB page for updates.

The Writing Piazza:
That sounds wonderful! I hope all of my artistic friends reading this right now will consider participating. That’s such a worthy cause. Sadly, art is overlooked in the education of our children today.

David, thank you so much for being a guest on my blog! He and I would like to thank all of you for taking the time to read this interview. We are honored you have chosen to be with us.

I have also written a review of David’s moving book. Check it out HERE.

I hope the rest of your day is fantastic.

Until we meet again.

P.S. I wanted to pass along a note from David’s publisher, the amazing Sandra Jonas, who I have worked with closely in setting up this interview. She informed me that they have just a few SIGNED copies of David’s book left. Be sure you snatch one up before they’re gone!

Buy your copy here: Use the coupon code SANDUM for 25% off your order.