It was a beautiful weekend in Campbell River. Sun sparkled on the waters of Discovery Passage, snow glinted off Mount Crayshaw beyond Quadra Island, and the little ferry shuttled between Painter's Lodge and April Point Resort.
I was there to attend the 18th annual Painters at Painter's Lodge event - "Brush with the masters," as owner Bob Wright says. It's because of these artists that the resorts are fully booked a year in advance and all 1,000 day passes are sold out.
The artists and their significant others are guests of Wright. This year, 25 of the 34 member artists made the trip. All he asks is that they share their experiences with the visitors. So they paint on site, give illustrated talks, join in discussions and generally delight amateur artists and art fans who come from far and wide.
Because this is not a sales event, a spirit of conviviality and inspiration prevails. And because the same artists return every year, deep and productive friendships blossom. It also underlines how art can draw an audience hundreds of kilometres to a town whose resource base isn't what it used to be.
At the opening party, the mayor of Campbell River and four councillors, as well as a couple of bank managers, showed up and got the message.
Though he wasn't well enough to attend, member Ted Harrison was fondly remembered with the première of a superb film, Land of the Chartreuse Moose. Produced by his biographer Katherine Gibson, the film features animations that turn reality into Harrison paintings, along with terrific interview clips with the artist delivering hilarious lines with his deadpan wit.
Senior members in attendance included Dorothy Oxborough and Pat Martin Bates. They were among the original 13 artists, whose number included the late Toni Onley, Fenwick Lansdowne, Len Gibbs, Geoff Rock and Glenn Howarth. Every year, one new member is added and this year it was Mark Heine, son of another original, the late Harry Heine.
Arthur Vickers of Cowichan Bay hasn't missed the event in 18 years, and brought his 24-carat gold prints of eagle feathers.
Chief Tony Hunt, elected last year, invited us to visit him at Government House, where he is about to begin carving an eight-metre totem pole for the Canadian navy. As usual, Maarten Schaddelee was at his post at the front door of Painter's Lodge every day, carving an eagle in cedar.
A strong Vancouver contingent of highly accomplished painters kept us in stitches with their camaraderie, built up over years of travelling together. They include Alan Wylie, Kiff Holland, Brent Heighton, Mike Svob and Rick McDiarmid, many of whom are past presidents of the Federation of Canadian Artists. The contingent from that side of the straits also included Janice Robertson, Suzanne Northcott and Mickie Acierno. Pat Service kept a low profile, but her "portraits" of the backs of people's heads added a mysterious note to the remarkable art show hung throughout Painter's Lodge - each artist is invited to bring three pieces.
When showing with their peers, these artists bring out their best. Of particular note were two large and rather mysterious still lifes painted by Keith Hiscock. I took the opportunity to quiz Keith about them more than once in the course of the weekend - that's the essence of this event. Between breakfast (an extraordinary buffet) and nightcaps in the bar, we artists get to know each other in a special way. Portrait painter David Goatley was just back from his honeymoon. Andy Wooldridge and his wife Deb Braithwaite had hosted a dinner for the happy couple on their wedding day, a result of their friendship fostered by Painters at Painter's.
Phyllis Serota brought her audience close for an illustrated reading from her autobiography, Painting My Life: a Memoir of Love, Art and Transformation. In a huge tent nearby, Nick Pearce demonstrated how he paints life-sized nudes with just one brush. And still there was more. The Victoria artists known to us as the Divas - Catherine Moffat, Kathryn Amisson and Nancy Slaght - each charmed their audience with upbeat presentations.
As a special treat, Wright had invited two old friends. Paul Horn played his golden flute to accompany his partner, Ann Mortifee, who riveted the audience with her epic song Africa. On Sunday, we departed with renewed friendships and new inspiration.
If you plan to attend next year, now is the time to call the sponsor, Oak Bay Marine Group (2505983366).
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