When acclaimed impressionist painter C.W. Mundy gets ready to start a new work, he begins with a simple step:
“I lay my hands on every canvas, and I pray over it,” Mundy said.
His Christian faith and his wife, Rebecca, have been the two biggest reasons for his success, said Mundy, whose early career as an illustrator included working for former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight.
You can see an exhibition of Mundy's paintings now through Nov. 30 at Castle Gallery Fine Art, 1202 W. Wayne St. in Fort Wayne. Mundy, 68, also will be here for an artist reception 5-10 p.m. Saturday; he will speak about his work at 7 p.m.
Early art interest
Born in 1945 in Indianapolis, Mundy became interested in art as a young boy when he would sit on his father's lap and watch his dad doodle, he said during a telephone interview from his home in Indianapolis.
A Sunday School teacher helped harness his creative energy — and gave him early positive feedback — by asking him to do daily posters for Vacation Bible School.
“I got a lot of recognition for that,” he said.
He studied art in the late 1960s at Ball State University in Muncie, graduating in 1969. Classmates included “Garfield” comic strip creator Jim Davis and Fort Wayne artist Jody Hemphill Smith, who owns Castle Gallery with her husband, Mark Paul Smith.
Working for IU
A sports fan and former Ball State basketball player, Mundy began his art career as an illustrator, specializing in sports figures.
He caught Bob Knight's attention with a piece of art featuring images of the coach and a few of his players painted on a section of hardwood flooring. Knight contacted Mundy to ask if he wanted to draw the cover illustrations for IU basketball media guides and for game programs.
“He said it was the first time he saw art of ballplayers that really looked like the ballplayer,” said Mundy, who did art for IU from 1983 to 1991.
With help from Knight, Mundy also made connections that resulted in some of his illustrations being used in attractions such as the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., and Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle.
At the same time, Mundy found himself getting farther and farther adrift spiritually and in life, he said. Two events changed his life.
First, in 1985, he re-submitted himself to God, he said.
Prayer helps him focus on what he needs to do rather than following tangents other people want him to take, he said. He's not interested in being part of a religious denomination, but the belief that Jesus Christ died for mankind's sins lies at the core of everything he tries to do.
“I know more about Scripture than I do about art,” Mundy said.
He never pushes his faith on others in person or in his art, he said. But he's happy to talk about it if conversation leads there.
“We just want to follow his lead,” he said, including giving up art if called to a ministry.
The other turning point in his life came in 1989, when he married his wife.
“Next to the Lord, she is my greatest inspiration,” he said.
After they married, Rebecca, a fan of impressionist-style painting, supported him through her job as a physical therapist while he shifted from time-consuming art illustration to painting full time.
During the next few years, Mundy studied the work of impressionist painters who had preceded him, including noted Hoosier Group artists such as T.C. Steele. He also studied with a few renowned impressionist painters still working, including Scott Christensen and Dan Gerhartz.
In addition, Mundy began painting en plein air, which means out in the open air.
As he began to have success selling his art, Rebecca transitioned into managing all business aspects of his career. He describes her work of getting his art to market as every bit as important as his painting.
In September, Hemphill Smith reconnected with Mundy at a reunion of Ball State art students organized by Jim Davis and retired art professor Ned Griner.
Hemphill Smith had tried off and on to exhibit Mundy's work here since opening Castle Gallery 19 years ago. He had his own gallery in Indianapolis, however, and exhibited there.
“I think he is just the finest impressionist — probably one of the most internationally known impressionists today,” she said.
Mundy, who has won numerous honors and awards, said he focuses on beauty and harmony in his paintings rather than the view of some artists that man and the world are fractured. He has painted all around Indiana and in Europe.
“I love creek scenes,” he said. “I love the farm country, and the Amish up in that area (northeast Indiana).”
A skilled banjo player, Mundy enjoys testing boundaries in both his art and music.
“I have to be inspired, and the adventure is the inspiration,” he said.
He tries to find out what works, and what he can do to make something work if it isn't working.
“I'm as excited about the creativity as I have ever been,” he said.