Arts Scene – Dan Nordin: Capturing the Coast on Canvas

by Jo Barnes | photo by Amanda Cribdon Photography

For some, retirement brings travel, relaxation, and a chance to slow down.

But for one local artist, it provided an opportunity to set aside a lifetime of studying and teaching in the objective world of math and science and to take up his paint brush to share a more subjective appreciation of our West Coast world.

Sidney artist Dan Nordin is a retired math teacher who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology, a long-time area of interest that inspires him to paint scenes of our local oceans and shores.

“My interest in marine biology is still there. I’m fascinated with the mussels, kelp, barnacles on the shoreline and images of water,” shares Dan.

Some might see these subjects as everyday West Coast sights. But for this artist, they are unique and worth a second look.

“Many people will walk by a clump of seaweed,” says Dan. “But for me, it’s just a work of art that needs to be celebrated.”

Working with acrylic paint, Dan enjoys depicting the detailed patterns and colours of local marine life.

“I’m fascinated with the vibrancy, detail work, and the colour and lines,” says Dan. “An example is the way the sun shimmers and reflects off mussel shells.”

Sometimes, there are challenges in getting a piece just right, but for Dan, the satisfaction is in the artistic process.

“I like the magic that happens. When the brain takes in stimuli and converts it to imagery in my head, I play around with that,” shares Dan. “The experimentation with colour and the pleasant surprises; I find it inventive and gratifying.”

He has always held an interest in art, but it hasn’t always been satisfied.

He recalls: “In grade seven, I was discouraged by our art teacher. We had arts and crafts in the class, but little in the way of art.”

When completing his Bachelor of Science degree, however, Dan rediscovered his interest in art when he had to draw what he saw under his microscope. His natural drawing ability allowed him to depict his scientific subjects with great detail and accuracy. Program courses also rekindled his affinity for art.

“I had to take three art courses to meet program requirements,” comments Dan. “One of them was the History of Art. It influenced me a lot.”

Dan accepted a position teaching math in Port Alice where, between preparing for lessons and marking assignments, he found time to paint.

“We had bought a house on the water. During the summer months when I wasn’t teaching, I would do paintings and would fill up the walls of our house,” says Dan.

Eventually the hobby took on steam. Dan showed his works at weekend art displays, gifted them to friends and family, and also donated them to charitable groups such as Cops for Cancer.
“The Tour de Rock started in Port Alice. I donated my art and was impressed with the high bids my art was getting,” comments Dan.

Shortly after he retired from teaching in 2013, Dan got a phone call that prompted a change of direction in his life.
“Someone called saying they wanted to buy my art, but I had no inventory,” shares Dan. “This got me thinking that maybe this is something I should try. I retired and went full steam.”

In 2018 Dan and his wife Claudia moved to Sidney. Since then he has displayed and sold his artwork from Sidney to Chemainus to Port Alice and many places in between. For information on his paintings and purchasing, visit

Dan is constantly gratified by the positive customer feedback, and sometimes the level of response has been truly overwhelming.

“A customer saw one of my paintings in Port Hardy and wanted to see more of my work. Now Port Hardy is 50 kilometres from Port Alice. It’s a long winding road,” shares Dan. “But they rented a car and drove. They ended up not only buying three of my paintings, but they also bought the one in Port Hardy. That kind of effort from a customer; it was amazing.”

Like other artists dealing with the pandemic, Dan had to deal with the loss of public opportunities to showcase his art. But for him, it brought a silver lining.

“Covid was a blessing. I worked like a beaver, while others had cabin fever,” notes Dan.

He has been able to take his time, slow down and work on more detail in his pieces. Now, with the lifting of provincial health orders and the possibility of more public events, Dan is preparing for his upcoming show “Gesso Camouflage” at ArtSea from September 10 to 16.

For this artist who has come full circle to his love of the marine world, undoubtedly his eloquence with a paint brush will continue.

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