Ronald Julius Christensen grew up by the seaside and clam flats of Hough’s Neck, south of Boston, Massachusetts. The changing colors of the sea and marshes, the flowers grown by his father to earn money during The Depression, colors sometimes soft and subtle, sometimes bright and radiant; those memories are clearly evident in his painting throughout his long career.
He had several childhood diseases, spending long hours in bed, but one day his grandfather gave him a pen with very black ink while he convalesced. He later wrote, “I pressed it to the paper and drew a line, a simple black line, with no particular direction in mind, just looking for a place to go. My line and I began a journey, first in a big drawing book, and then onto many pieces of paper…”
He graduated from high school in 1942 and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. He became a cartographer with the Intelligence Division before attending Pittsburgh University for special cadet training. While stationed in the U.S., he designed posters for the Army. While serving in Guam, fellow soldiers asked him to paint pictures of their wives or sweethearts; using coconuts, black-out shades, or the fuselages of airplanes as the ‘canvases’.