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Nature Artist - Wildlife, Landscape and Floral

Hollyhock Robert Bateman & Me
Hollyhock, Robert Bateman & Me

I was excited about starting my first painting class in March 2002, a birthday present from my husband who knew I had been longing to paint for some time. As far back as I can remember, I have always had a creative flair and, after trying my hand at acrylics, I fell in love with the medium and the techniques.

A few years later I was introduced to Canada's world-renowned master wildlife artist and conservationist, Robert Bateman, through Avenida Art Gallery. After a conversation with him regarding my art, and the fact I did not have any formal training, he critiqued my portfolio, which I had brought along. Robert told me I did not need to pursue a formal art degree, but he felt I needed some fine-tuning. With that in mind he asked me to join him in his Master Artist Seminar, comprised of a very small group of artists mainly from North America, and a few from overseas. What follows is a vignette from my journal of those five days spent with him at Hollyhock, an island getaway health retreat centre on Cortes Island, BC.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I arrived safely at Hollyhock and found myself, along with 22 other artists invited there for this five-day Master Artist's Seminar, in what seemed a lost world. Feeling as if I had gone back to a time when the world was less frantic and more peaceful, I learned that Hollyhock is meant to inspire, nourish and support people who are trying to make a better world. This is a world of vegetarian meals, with no caffeine, sugar, meat, phones, televisions or locks on any doors. After contemplating the past month of trying to prepare for this seminar, two art shows and a hockey tournament for my son, the no caffeine thing threw me a bit.
After introductions had been made and we began to settle in, Robert Bateman launched the seminar by showing us a painting of an Elk he did for his mother when he was 12 years old. He feels, even at 12 years old, this painting was a turning point for him, as the composition and style of that painting are much the same as he employs today.
A great storyteller and fascinating teacher, his seminar is a mixture of life stories, heritage, art history, humor, and artistic techniques. Boy do I have a lot to learn!
One of his passions is a concern for our youth, in that they are missing out by living in a virtual world! If our children do not experience life's real places in their hearts, they will not learn to love their environment, or become passionate caretakers of it. I totally believe this!!!!!
My boys are in for an awakening when I get home!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Today was our technical day!!! Woo hoo! We get to learn some "secrets"! The master artist shares everything with our small group, every last detail; weaving his techniques amongst stories of his life, his passions regarding the environment and humorous experiences with famous individuals.
Initially I felt a little out of my league while networking with the others, but soon I was able to offer some of my own tips. When I saw the other artists were grateful to me for sharing, I felt more deserving to be there. I was to learn we are all both teachers and students. I made some great friends and connections with artists from all over the continent.
Painting God's creation is so rewarding. The beauty of nature is that it is constantly changing. It is these changes I like to capture in my art. Sometimes nature is dark and sometimes beautiful, offering so much and, like Robert Bateman's character, is not predictable. Great art should have a sense of mystery.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Another wonderful day spent with our host and the other artists, with many more tips and stories. Robert reveals some of his personal life and shows off his home and his studio. (Okay, my goal is to have an art studio like this!) He explains how a lot of his paintings are inspired by art, music, movies and nature itself. One of Robert's paintings, "Midnight Black Wolf", was inspired by the Disney movie Fantasia. In the dragon scene in Night on Bald Mountain, the dragon had dark eyes with no pupils. He felt this was perfect for his wolf, as black eyes hold that sense of mystery.
Later that evening, some of us casually got together with Robert to relax and unwind. One fellow artist, Kelly Dodge, shared how she has the gift of taming wild birds. Robert shared his scariest moment, which happened while in Africa with his family. Wanting to get some photos, he asked his wife to take the jeep and meet him at a certain spot. Left alone, he noticed two lionesses stalking him in the tall grass! He slowly made his way toward the meeting spot, during which time the lions disappeared. He ran for his life and luckily met up with his family again, unscathed. His story capped off a fun evening; we enjoyed a lot of laughs and felt our bond increase.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

We wake to sorely missed sunny skies, and all of a sudden it seems the entire forest has come to life with song. There is wildlife everywhere. I went out before breakfast to practice my sketching, also getting some great photos.
This morning Robert is going to begin his demonstration painting and show us some of his works in progress. He does not seek detail, but form and rhythm. Many people say they love Bateman's work because it is so detailed. To him that is like saying, "I love your sweater because it has so many stitches." Lots of stitches don't make a great sweater; nor does lots of detail have anything to do with the quality of a painting. It is form and rhythm, which create quality.
After another vegetarian lunch, we each sit for personal critiques of our work. Important to me was Robert's opinion of the first painting of horses that I had ever done, "Autumn Thunder". He said it showed a good comprehension of muscle and bone structure and that the anatomy was well reflected in the final piece. All in all he felt "Autumn Thunder" was a successful painting. It proved both a relief to have his approval and an honor that he had taken the time to share his opinions with me.
We head outside into the sunshine to photograph, sketch and watch Robert finish up his painting, when we smell the smoke of a bon fire. An oyster roast FISH, PROTEIN! Our mouths are salivating. Never having had raw oysters before, and being a girl raised on Alberta Beef, these morsels proved fabulous.
After supper, Robert gives a wonderful talk about his environmental initiatives and his book "Thinking Like a Mountain". Many children these days can recognize over 1000 corporate logos, he said, however they can't name 10 species of animals in their own neighborhood, resulting in a world of children suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder. If we put kids back into nature, obesity, ADHD, depression, suicides, bullying, alcoholism and drug abuse decrease while school grades improve.
After the very full day, Kelly and I get together at night to digest everything that we had experienced. We hear the waves crashing against the shoreline and so decide to venture out and enjoy the stars. It is so quiet and we try to identify the sounds of animals we can hear. Quickly returning to our senses, we decide that two women wandering the shoreline alone in the dark probably isn't the safest thing. We head back to our cabins - who knows what may be lurking in the woods!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Our last day together and, with the sun shining, we all wish we could stay on and are saddened, as we have all bonded so well. In the morning, our group goes for a hike with Robert. We photograph and sketch as he gives us instruction on what to look for when gathering reference material. We bird watch, trying to name as many species as we can, and enjoy the abundant landscape all around us. Some artists had spotted a cougar a couple days earlier; a deer swiftly bounds into the woods; the bald eagles are flying overhead; and the Black Oystercatchers are whisking their way above the ocean. Blue herons are high above. Squirrels are dashing about the trees, and the plants and flowers glow in the sun's rays. I leave for home with my head swimming with tips, techniques, ideas, and a heart full of thanks for the friends I have made and the joy it was to share these past few days in the company of a true master artist, Robert Bateman.


Direct Correspondence to:Wendy Palmer
Wendy Palmer
c/o Wendy Palmer
96027 - 202 Avenue West
Foothills, Alberta
Canada  T1S 2X3
Tel: (403) 701-9443
  Worldwide Nature Artists Group
Email: wendy@wendypalmer-artist.com
Home Page: http://www.wendypalmer-artist.com
Wendy Palmer Wendy Palmer

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