By age 11 Arnold was seriously studying painting and piano via his artist/composer father. His subsequently-developed love of drumming sustained his high school rite of passage followed by a longish stint of professional jazz drumming in Vancouver and environs as well as south of the border.
[note: some images are from early slides discovered after his death and can be of lesser quality of reproduction due to aging. They are included as historical evidence of form and subject development. Burrell's addiction was painting, not recording, so information concerning early work is unavailable with few exceptions. Of the estimated two or three thousand completed over his lifetime several hundred have been tracked down and photographed with willing cooperation of the collectors. The works are still on their walls as with any great art, which has precluded sales at auction. ]
Post-high school Burrell left North Vancouver to absorb the rhythm of sound and colour - and seek a source of funds - elsewhere. By 1950, in British Columbia he was gill-net fishing for a livelihood on the northern coast. The misanthropic coastline and fierce guardianship of rain-forest beyond for him held sirenesque certainty. He sketched what he could see but knew he would return to explore and paint whatever would be revealed.
In 1952 the Vancouver School of Art (now the Emily Carr University of Art + Design) accepted him into the full-time four-year program. He incorporated in the evenings the two years required for graphic arts class. At his honours graduation in 1956, the aforementioned first Leon and Thea Foundation Scholarship for students in Art was also the only time it went to one person for both Painting and Graphics. The Emily Carr Scholarship he also won was granted annually only from 1946-1966. A fortuitous time period for his attendance. Among his teachers were many well-established artists such as Jack Shadbolt, B.C. Binning, Fred Amess, Peter Aspell, Gordon Smith, Orville Fisher, and others.
Following graduation, these awards did indeed enabled him to return to immerse himself for two years in the northern interior with its kaleidoscope of cultures, climates and endless varied scapes of land, sea, sky. He found the light singular and painted everything and everyone that magnetized him.