In July 1943, Armand was transferred by train to Denver, Colorado. Once again his painter’s vision saw possibilities in the West. Riding in the observation car he wrote: “The Beauty and charm of the scenery from here is too great for one to observe. Bringing me here makes me more aware than ever of the vast precious richness of this land of ours” (Merizon Letters, July 1943).
In Denver he began training in aerial photography. At the time the Air Corps used three cameras, right, center, and left, to photograph the landscape. It was Armand’s job in the laboratory to coordinate the three. In doing so he was able to create a seamless panoramic view of the landscape along with its sweep of topographic patterns, another dimension to envision on canvas.
Continuing his correspondence with his father, he confirms in a postcard his desire to someday become an artist despite talk to the contrary back in Grand Rapids. “I say Dad, I wish you wouldn’t let these men whom you refer to, bother you, as they seem to. You must remember that your son is fundamentally a great artist with much to say and it’s to their discredit if they cannot appreciate and understand me. As far as I’m concerned, you should have been an artist. For the practically nil instruction you received you did wonderfully, and I have sworn that I shall make your name famous in the world of art. All I ask for is time and liberty. I do not expect much understanding from our circles, though it is much more tolerant than in the days when you were young” (Merizon Letters, August 1943).
Once again he was sabotaged by poor health, hospitalized this time with swollen glands and fever. Support and encouragement came from visitors that included friends, Rev. Van Puerson, Tony and Ruth Hoekema, and Ruth’s father, Rev. Brink. It was a time of severe mental distress for Armand, and after several more months of hospitalization he finally received an honorable discharge from the Army. Returning home, tired and despondent, once again he was pointed to as a failure, a predictable failure.
How he must have wished they would have listened to his neighbor, Mr. Andrews, who regarded art as real work, important work. Armand recalled how Andrews would look at what he was painting and whisper over his shoulder, eyes bright, “Well, you’ve been working, aye?” The “aye” at the end added a happy upbeat note. As poor as he was at the time, Andrews purchased a painting by the young artist, “Scrub Oaks 1938,” for fifty dollars with a monthly payment of five dollars. As for the rest of the community, the last thing anyone would credit him for would be the hard work and imagination that produced a valuable painting. If he shelved cans at the grocery store, shoveled sidewalks, mowed lawns, or pounded nails, that was work. But painting was a costly indulgence. In an effort to comply, he tried a series of dead end jobs from factory to shoe shop where, “I couldn’t make any woman happy with her feet” (Zandstra Interview, 10-26-02).