Chris Lehwalder


View all Chris Lehwalder scrimshaw pieces

The artist was born to a family of eight in Seattle, Washington. His father was a Federal Parole Officer, who had met his future wife at the Seattle Symphony during World War II while flying B-17’s out of Boeing Field, in Seattle. During the War he was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Soldier’s Medal. Arthur and Polly were married in 1943, and settled in the University District. All six of the children were rigorously trained in classical music from age 5, and several would go on to great success as classical music and ballet. After attending first Linfield College and then the University of Washington, the artist left school and traveled through Europe without bothering to re-enroll at the “U”. He knew he would most likely be drafted as a result and was, thus embodying the old adage: “Have your own plan or you will be part of somebody else’s.” Entering the Army as a private he served in Viet Nam as C.O. of an unofficial “E” company made up of mortar, reconnaissance, and headquarters personnel where he received a Bronze Star with the Fourth Infantry Division. Upon return to the “World” (those serving in Viet Nam called the mainland U.S. “The World”, he re-enrolled in the University of Washington, earning a B.A. in History. He then attended Graduate School at Western Washington University in Bellingham for a year before returning to be readmitted as a pre-med student in order to fulfill the requirements to attend a School of Osteopathy. But the “fire in the belly” wasn’t there for four years of medical school, and, after a third or fourth trip to Europe, married in the 1970’s.There, at last interesting employment was discovered. Drawing houses to sell in Bellingham, where there was some modest success, he was hired by the Alaska Silver and Ivory Company, which was re-introducing the lost American art form of scrimshaw on Mastadon, Fossil Walrus, and Mammoth ivory. After learning the technique and tiring of the small scale jewelry that was then the only work available with that company, he and three other artists broke off and began to do larger and more serious static display works for collectors . Single works sometimes took a month to do, and were then retailing up to $15,000 each. Subject matters varied from animals in the jungle whales in the sea to historic battle scenes. As the group technique developed, the scrimshaw art works , which were essentially tattoos on finely polished ancient ivory, became highly photo-realistic and were in constant demand to this day.

The art form of scrimshaw requires intense, exhausting, concentration, and the subject matter has always been realistic. This is what the market has demanded. But this highly The Artist’s Family specialized market does not always offer a very great freedom of expression, and this can be less than satisfying to the artist’s creative needs. In 1993 the artist moved to Portland, Oregon and began painting “En Pleine Air”, that is, on location, in front of the subject. A great fan of Edward Hopper, his art often took on that great man’s style. He continued this vacation in Seattle, Bellingham, and then in Eastern Washington. Since then he has been in many group and one man exhibits, showing in Portland, Anacortes, Seattle, Tacoma, Port Townsend, Bellingham, and Spokane, and continues his dual work of scrimshaw and oil and water color painting with his long established galleries and representatives to the present.