Artists took to the streets of Huntsville on September 7 to paint en plein air using unconventional canveses: small birch bark canoes.
It was part of Off the Wall: En Plein Air, an annual event that raises funds for bursaries for Muskoka-area art students heading into post-secondary education. Organizer Kelly Holinshead decided to challenge the artists with something different this year.
The results were stunning.
“At first I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach it – do I paint a painting on it or do I make it look like a canoe?” said Gerry Lantaigne, who painted not one but two canoes for the event. “I thought, I’m going to paint a scene, I’m going to paint birch trees on my birch bark canoe. For the second one, the idea I really wanted to work with was to make it look like a war canoe.” To maintain the natural look of the birch bark, he clear-coated them prior to starting.
Lantaigne says he would have loved to receive a bursary when he was a young artist. “If they had bursaries like that for myself and other people it would have been a heck of a lot easier to pay for tuition and get supplies. What a great thing. Kelly has done an amazing job.”
Naomi Brinkhof, who often creates works in clay, was new to the event this year and chose an earthy theme. “I was thinking of what the canoe would go through: a wetland. And because of the Tom Thomson connection, I wanted a sepia, earthy tone so it looks like an old photograph. You can almost smell the fall.”
Some of the artists, like Donna Parlee, have participated in every En Plein Air event. She was excited about the new 3D canvases. “When you think of canoes you think of water. Normally I’m a landscape artist but I just wanted to do something a little bit different,” she explained while drawing on her canoe. “With the birch bark being such a natural substrate to work on, an organic, flowing pattern just seems to work with it. I was up half the night thinking of this!”
Also new for the event was the auction that followed. In the past, a live, on-street auction was held at the end of the event. This year, a soirée and silent auction preceeded an encore performance of When Winnie Knew in the Algonquin Theatre.
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