Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Daniel St-Amant: Convergence

Monday, August 15th, 2016

We’re very excited to be hosting our artist, former residency-holder, and good friend Daniel St-Amant for his solo-show, Convergence!

You might remember that last October, Daniel spent a week at Algonquin Provincial Park’s Clarke Lake Cabin. He used that time to gather specimen and natural materials like mud and leaf-litter, to take in the inspiration of the park, and to plan large-scale artworks. His days were spent working on his craft, and at night he got to hear the howling Algonquin wolves.

In the past, Daniel used his signature technique—laying canvasses on the road to pick up the impression of passing cars’ tire-tread, the painting wildlife—to signify the way nature is often closed in and crowded out by human intervention. He would place animals within the confines of human encroachment. But since his time in the wild, his style has moved in a different direction…

Works in progress for the show!

Lately, rather than using human elements as structures of confinement, Daniel allows his wildlife to grow out of the mixed environment of urban and natural materials. It’s a hopeful message about the convergence between the human and animal worlds, and the ways that their interaction can be healthy. It’s an evolution and a progression, conjured up from the melding of very tangible materials from the real world, incorporated into artistic creativity. Daniel has perfectly expressed the spirit of this season’s overarching theme, Metamorphosis.

Join us from now untilSeptember 15th to see these completed pieces and reflect on Convergence in person!

Off-Season Artists: Andrea Ross

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

With the off-season drawing to a close, we’re at the VERY LAST Off-Season Artists post! If you haven’t been reading along, that’s when Alex, the man who considers refreshing his web page as refreshing as the spring breeze after a long winter, interviews our artists and unpacks their process.
In this installment, we speak with impressionist landscape painter Andrea Ross!

Andrea Ross and her piece “Shake It Down to Earth

So first off, where are you from? What was your experience of the Canadian landscape growing up?
I was born in Oakville and growing up my family cottaged on Skeleton Lake. I did many canoe trips in the Georgian Bay, Port Severn, and Algonquin areas, so rocks, water, and trees are fully engrained in my enjoyment of the outdoors.

“Benjamin Shoreline”

I notice that in your work you tend toward auburn and muted pinks and golds, with a quality of light that seems a lot like the evening just a little before sunset. There’s a very peaceful quality to your paintings! What attracts you to that aesthetic?
I love the evening time just before the sun goes down when the air is still, the light’s low and at a right angle to the landscape, and the shadows are long. Colours become deeper and much less bleached out by the light. It’s a time when I like to venture out in my canoe or Kayak.

How about your influences? What artists would you say inspire you most?
I very much admire the work of Ottawa artist Philip Craig. Earlier I studied work by Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt as well as the Group of Seven—specifically MacDonald, Thompson, and Jackson).
My mentor, my aunt Eila Ross had a career as a medical artist and I completed a degree in Fine Art at the University of Guelph, concentrating on drawing with the thought that I would go into medical Art. After graduating Guelph, I decided that was enough school for me, so I took a different route and created art for pleasure.


I understand that you’ve done a lot of work in pastels. That seems like a very different medium. How has that influenced the way you paint?
My first love was drawing and with the pastel medium—you can draw with pure colour. I have learned much about colour through my pastel paintings. My goal when switching to oils was to make them look like pastels yet do away with the framing that a pastel requires. I also wanted to work larger, and that’s difficult when you have to frame under glass.

“Sailor’s Rest”

There’s a really neat contrast between your land and trees and your water. There are these bold, broad strokes on the land and a real luminosity in the water. I’d love to hear about how you developed that style!
Generally, I work from drawing with paint to working up the shapes in the design, then creating the form in each major shape and finally working out the details in the focus area. Building the colour from dark to light and intensifying any areas I want the viewer to focus on. There is definitely a process with each painting which I try to follow. Sometimes this process is amazingly fast and in other paintings I slowly work through problem areas.
Sometimes to develop certain feelings I use a specific stroke and change the size and shape of brush.

“Good Footings”

In terms of your subjects, we see a lot of familiar views in your paintings from around Algonquin and the Muskokas. What would you say is your favourite spot in the outdoors?
Without a doubt, my favourite spot is right where I live on Skeleton Lake, but I do love Algonquin Park and am extremely happy to be able to get to the park within an hour and enjoy this fantastic, natural, unspoiled area.

And last but not least, what’s something we might not know about you?
I am a very keen 470 sailor and love to listen to classical music, especially when I paint.

“Hut Hike”

And that’s that for our Off-Season Artists series this year! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as we’ve enjoyed writing.
Now we’re hard at work getting everything ready for the new season, starting June 1st. Stay posted for updates and info about our artists and the activities we’ll be putting on this year. We can’t wait to see you!

Off-Season Artists: David Grieve

Friday, February 5th, 2016

It’s our next Off-Season Artists post! In this series Alex, the guy who feels right at home among both keystrokes and brush-strokes, helps you ride out the long winter season by talking to some of our favourite artists.
This time, he’s speaking with David Grieve, a southwestern Ontario artist with a talent for creating landscapes out of his unique oil painting technique.

So first off, tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, originally? I understand that your mother was also an artist. I imagine a lot of your early artistic exposure comes from your experiences with her. What kind of art did she make, and how did the beginning of your artistic interest take shape?
I was born and raised in Brantford, Ontario.  When I was young, my mother encouraged me to draw and paint.  My sister and I were able to accompany her to her studio in the summer.  While there we had the chance to work with oils on canvas alongside the adult artists.  I took it for granted at the time but realize now that not many 8-year-olds have the opportunity to paint with oils.  As a result, I found myself at ease with the medium years later when I was studying fine art at the University of Guelph.
Looking back on my experience at school, I was always interested in art.  I recall being scolded in grade one for skipping my desk work to spend more time at the easel.  I’ve always been drawn to the artistic elements across subject areas in school.  Even something like drawing the cells in biology class was an artistic experience for me.

“After Harvest 2″

One thing that stands out in your work is the fact that it deals with Southwestern Ontario. That’s a very different environment from a lot of the Canadian landscape art we’re used to seeing—northern forests, the Rockies, big rainforest pines out west…
What attracts you most to the landscape of Southwestern Ontario?
It is appealing, to me, looking for beauty where you live.  The natural environment in Southwestern Ontario is a part of my daily life. Where I live, I am surrounded by beautiful rolling hills of corn and beans as well as trees that have lived here for many years.
The change in environment has an impact on me. It’s easier to breathe.  I am saddened however by the high rate of urban sprawl that is taking place in Southwestern Ontario.  Where I used to see fields and open spaces while driving along Hwy 403, it’s now being replaced by shopping centres and parking lots.  I feel that it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the importance of the beauty in nature.


I’ve definitely noticed that as well. Once it seemed like a Toronto problem, but you can see it across the board, even reaching up toward the Muskokas! Slowing that down is going to be crucial over time.
Speaking of the trees you mentioned, some of my personal favourites among your work are when you capture them standing alone against the sky. That’s such a characteristically rural image, with strong associations of home and melancholy for a lot of people. And I feel like your heavy, distinctive swathes of paint are the perfect method for it! How did you develop that unique method of painting? Were there any influences that pointed you in that direction?
I have always been interested in thick paint.  Whenever I visit a gallery, I inevitably end up spending the most time in front of paintings that are ‘thick.’  When I was in university, I was lucky enough to go to New York with some of my friends.  There was a large exhibit of Lucian Freud works. I loved how thick and expressive they were.  I am also influenced by how loose and expressive works like Monet’s lily pads are.  It was a special opportunity to be able to stand in front of them during my visit to New York.
I feel that there is a parallel between myself and the lone trees that I paint.  I am similar to the solitary trees when I am alone painting in my studio.  I enjoy this solitude and find it peaceful.

“Cold Front”

Another aspect of your painting and one that’s made especially interesting by your technique is the way your big skies aren’t just a backdrop to your pieces, but performers in their own right. They’ve got rich textures and an uncharacteristic sense of depth. I’d love to hear about how you imagine the dynamic between foreground and background in your work, and if it’s a challenge to bring out so much liveliness in the sky, something that so many artists relegate to a place of secondary importance.
When a storm rolls in, and you get to witness it while out in the countryside, it stirs something inside of you.  Excitement, danger, beauty and drama.  I love trying to convey that energy and excitement in my skies.

I gather that you tend to work from photographs when you’re painting scenes from southwestern Ontario, but I also know you’ve got a cabin in the Kawarthas where you and the family like to spend some time. That must be a great platform for getting closer to the natural landscape, and for a change of tone. How does your artistic practice differ when you’re up at the cabin? What’s that experience like as a change of pace?
Spending time in the Kawarthas has changed me and my work. Having a place to go has been fantastic.  Since I work from home, sometimes it feels like I am always at work, so it’s simply nice to get away.  The drive north offers me the opportunity to observe nature and the changes that take place in the fields and trees across all four seasons.
Spending more time on the water has been wonderful.  I think about the lake a lot and the beauty around it.  There are times when the sun shines just so on the lake and surrounding islands that it feels awe-inspiring.  The open skies around that lake also offer dramatic views.  Whether it’s a summer sunset or storm clouds rolling in, the image is often breathtaking.
I do work from photos, and I’m now taking many at the lake. It took me a little while before I started to paint images from the KawarthasI was getting to know it.  The landscape there now feels like it’s a part of me and my life, which allows me to recreate it on canvas.

“Sister Sunset”

Speaking of being up at the cabin, what’s your favourite thing to do when you’re out in nature? What kind of environment do you find most fulfilling or inspiring?
It would be difficult for me to find anything better in life than paddling a canoe on a warm, calm day with my family.  The peacefulness of being on the water and the soothing sound of the paddles propelling us forward gives me great joy.

And last but not least, what’s something interesting that we might not know about you?
I love fishing. Whether it’s fishing from the boat during the summer or drilling a hole in the ice during the winter, I enjoy being outdoors.  The added thrill of catching a beautiful bass or a giant muskie makes it that much more enjoyable.

So that’s David Grieve! We love gazing into his large-scale canvasses and getting lost in those bands of colour.
Check back soon for our next Off-Season Artists! 


Announcing Our 2016 Theme

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

It’s been just over a month since we closed our doors on the amazing 2015 season. Since then we’ve been hard at work looking forward and into next year. Now our leadership team, Matt and Joel, have decided on a theme for 2016. We’re proud to announce that theme now…
So without further ado, here’s our introduction to the 2016 season’s show at the Algonquin Art Centre:

 Hilary Clark Cole, “Marsh Mellow”

“All things change. Nothing remains the same.”
Since the philosopher Pythagoras said these famous words over two thousand years ago, artists from all walks of life have explored the concept of metamorphosis, how things change and transform through time.  Their creative efforts have provided us with some of the world’s most iconic works of literature, sculpture, and painting. In addition to its cultural significance, Metamorphosis also represents one of the most familiar and ubiquitous biological processes we know of, leading some thinkers to conclude that life itself is simply a series of metamorphoses.

In light of this concept’s artistic and biological significance, the Algonquin Art Centre has asked its artists to explore the theme of transformation for its 2016 show, Metamorphosis. Selected artists will explore these ideas as they apply to the landscape and wildlife of Algonquin Park and Canada’s protected lands, shedding new light on a rich, venerable, and still vibrant artistic theme.

The Western Uplands with Alex

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Alex, our Social Media Manager, recently took some time to visit one of the backpacking trails near the Algonquin Art Centre. You can read all about his adventures here!

That’s me! Also, there’s a map of the trail section so you can follow along. Click to enlarge and get a closer look! 

I’ve loved backpacking ever since I first hiked the Lake Superior Coastal Trail with my best friend in 2008. The mountains, tundra, and coasts that I’ve hiked since then are amazing, but the Canadian Shield holds a special place for me, so I never miss an opportunity to get out and do a trek in Ontario. This time, it was the Western Uplands trail in Algonquin Park.

I had also been meaning to try out a solo backpacking trip for a while, so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to take it to that next level in country I’m familiar with. I chose Western Uplands because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t undertaking anything too extreme for my first solo, and you can do a two-night loop, hiking around 12 to 15 km a day. With that in mind, I mustered my gear, caught a ride in with our General Manager Joel and our staffer Jenna, and set out.

Day 1
Make no mistake. I look cheerful but my flesh is being steadily consumed by insects.

This being late July, the trail’s first impression was “You are now in bug-country. Prepare to pay the blood-tax to your insect-overlords.”
And yes. I definitely did.

As soon as we snapped that trail-head picture, Joel and Jenna jumped back in the car and headed to the gallery, while I quickly coated myself in Muskol. Health-concerns aside, Deet is one of our greatest achievements as a species. Once I was sprayed down, the bugs left me pretty well alone, so I booted up and got on the trail.
My first night’s destination was West Maggie Lake, about 16 km in a winding, north-westerly direction.

This part of Algonquin maintains a pretty high elevation, which forces the clouds to drop a lot of their precipitation to the west of the park. The vegetation is much denser and more varied than where I’ve done most of my Algonquin hiking, in more easterly places like the Highland Trail and Centennial Ridges. Day one was a lot of dense bush, crossing streams and bogs, and steadily climbing to the high lake where I’d be camping.

There weren’t too many people on trail. I did, however, face a great deal of territorial posturing from some very gutsy collared grouse. They look like a greyish, mottled turkey, and they scoot around with their heads down until you get too close. Then—POOF—they shoot up, puff out their tail and collar, and rush you! It can be pretty startling to be honest, but you just keep on forging ahead and they leave you alone. After a while, it’s just funny.
I wanted to keep a fairly quick pace, so other than a stop or two when there were enough predatory damsel-flies to keep the mosquitoes at bay, the day was pretty uneventful.

After about 6 hours, I came to the eastern tip of Maggie Lake, where you peel off from the main trail to loop around West Maggie. I trekked along the lake until I found the perfect site. It was at the very western tip of the lake and looked east onto some rocky islands. One look at that view, and I made camp right away.
After getting my site in order, I had two cravings: coffee and washing off.
(Coffee first, obviously.)
After coffee, I was feeling so hot and sticky that I just needed to get refreshed, and Maggie Lake is great for a splash around.

That little island—which probably has a name, but I’m going to call it Spruce Island—was a perfect destination. It gave me the chance for a good 150-meter swim and some warm, flat, shoreline rocks to catch the westerly sun while some enormous spruce trees towered over me.

It was beautiful.
But the sun was getting lower, so I swam back to camp, made my dinner, and after reading my book for a while, secured my bear-hang and turned in for the night.

 Day 2

The woodpeckers woke me up just after the sun rose. I can’t tell you how beautiful the view from my tent was, so I’ll just show you.


Now, an experienced trekker knows that on any trip longer than two days will have one Hell-day. It’ll never be the first or final day but can otherwise occupy any place in the trip. So, by process of elimination, on a three-day trip you just know you’re going to run into trouble on day two.
Conveniently, I forgot this rule as I woke up, broke camp, and set out.

Don’t get me wrong, the day’s hike was beautiful, especially as I set out around Maggie Lake to meet back up with the main trail. But, day two constituted the top of the trek’s loop, heading east, which hikes you up onto ridges that are both stony and boggy, and inhabited by swarms of mosquitoes. My legs were sore, my pack felt heavy trudging up the largest elevation changes on the trail, and that late coming summer we were having decided to hit me with a day around 29 degrees and dense, humid wetland air.
This is also when the deer flies found me.

I had an exciting moment after climbing out of the Mink Creek ravine when I met a black bear grazing in one of the bogs I trudged through. It’s an interesting feeling, encountering a bear on your own. All the going wisdom and bear-training tells you that in the overwhelming majority of bear sightings, the animal flees as soon as it sees you. But in the back of your mind, there’s that inescapable knowledge in your brain that says “Wow. If it decided to, this animal could really mess me up.”
But I stopped and, as expected, after a few moments the bear noticed me and took off like a shot. No worries!

Not long after that, at about mid-day, I turned onto a side-trail up to Norah Lake. It was a bit more of a climb than I’d like in the middle of a gruelling day, but it’s pretty much the highest point on the trail and I wanted a nice spot to break for a while.
I wasn’t disappointed.

Norah has a beautiful platform of rocks overlooking the water, and I spent a long lunch watching a family of loons fish on the lake. It was exactly what I needed to get some wind back in my sails.

At that point, it was only a couple of hours to my day two destination, Panther Lake. I was a little nervous about this spot, since it only has one campsite and—I’ll admit it—I’m kind of afraid of the dark. That’s multiplied when you haven’t seen a single person all day and you get to thinking about marauding bears and Wendigos. Another fun fact: my reading for this trip was The Fellowship of the Ring, and on this night I just happened to be reading about the Black Riders.
So that definitely added to the “alone in the woods” jitters.

Fortunately, Panther Lake had a beautiful site waiting for me, with some of the most enormous spruce trees I’ve ever seen in Ontario. I honestly didn’t know we had them that huge out here. Even though the water-access was a little rough, it made for a great looking spot…

I was way too bushed to think about anything except getting some food in me and getting to bed, so other than a few nervous glances into the trees, I fell asleep pretty quickly.

 Day 3

There’s always a mixed bag of emotions on the final day of a trek. You’re sore and tired, but it’s sad to leave the trail behind. Fortunately, this was my shortest day, clocking in at around 11 or 12 km. This leg closes the hike’s loop by coming down out of the highlands and heading south towards the highway, so the trail is also mostly downhill, which was a treat for the legs.

With all that in mind, I took my time and enjoyed the walk. I saw my first human being for about 36 hours around Dace Lake, and from there to the highway there was a steady stream of people just starting out on the trail. They were all friendly and asked questions, mostly about the bugs, and I tried not to have a grizzled, thousand-meter stare as I responded that they weren’t too bad.
Nobody needs that when they’re just starting out…

I only made one substantial stop, at Guskewau Lake, which has to be the most picturesque lake of the whole hike, with rolling hills and good, wide water that makes for a stiff breeze. From there, it was just a straight shot down Guskewau Creek, all the way to the marshy flats around the trailhead. And there I heard the best sound for any trekker at the end of a trip: cars on the highway.

I hitched a ride from a super-nice young couple from New York, and met up with my friends at the Algonquin Art Centre.


Final Thoughts

I was pretty pleased with how this trek came together. I ate most of my food, with the exception of my emergency extras. I wore every piece of clothing I carried as well, so it was nice to know I have my garment-packing locked down. Both clothes and food were in the right quantities. I didn’t touch my extra bottle of fuel though, so I’ll learn from that and pack a little less next time.
But all in all, I managed well!

On a personal level, I learned a little about myself. Although I’ve backpacked a lot with close friends and I love that experience, I also took a lot away from this trip. I felt at peace and ease, and found myself really taking the time just to look at the world around me without feeling the need to comment on it. That’s a pretty special feeling for an extrovert like me, and I’ll carry the lesson forward.

My conclusion is this: trekking with a friend is more fun, but by yourself is more beautiful.
I can’t wait for my next trip, whichever kind it is.

Algonquin Art Centre - Gallery in the Heart of Algonquin Park

open June 1 - October 19

10 am to 5:30 pm daily


located at km 20 on Hwy #60

in the Heart of Algonquin Park


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Algonquin Art Gallery
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