This coming September we’re planning a unique painting trip: Three days high in the Rocky Mountains. Using a remote lodge as a base, we’re going to have a helicopter at our disposal. I’m doing it together with mountain guide and top-notch painter Liz Wiltzen. We’re taking 10 friends with us. Okay, here’s the rub — it costs about $4000 each — high mountain air doesn’t come cheap.
We’ve chosen a spectacular place called “The Bugaboos.” It’s a largely inaccessible area with majestic peaks, alpine meadows and spectacular glaciers. So you can get an idea of the scenery, the lodge, and Liz Wiltzen’s work, as well as further info, we’ve posted a few shots at the bottom of this letter.
It was my idea to invite other painters to join in. I will, of course, be on hand to assist, mentor and guide anyone who wants it. I know it’s going to be a life-altering experience.
As many painters know, mountain work is an excellent grounding in composition and pictorial design. With subject matter right up to and often beyond the top of a picture, as well as strong patterns of snow and talus, there are “ready-mades” everywhere. Depending on local weather conditions, my idea is to make a couple of sorties a day and be deposited in spots to be determined by our group. Smallish plein air sketches will be in order, and there will be plenty of time for mutual crits back at the lodge.
Bugaboo Provincial Park, situated in the Purcell Mountains of southeast British Columbia is a pretty wild spot. It’s possible to grind your way in over 50 km of logging roads. One guidebook says, “It’s recommended that visitors protect their vehicle perimeter with a portable chicken wire fence to deter porcupines and other small animals from chewing on rubber brake lines and tires.” But we’ll be flying over all of that. Everyone will meet in Calgary, Alberta and spend an all-inclusive night in Banff. In the morning we’ll go by a private bus directly to the helipad. While we’re heli-painting, maybe there’ll be some chicken wire to go around the ‘copter.
PS: “I have memories of the clearest crystal mountain days imaginable, when we fortunates in the height seemed to be sky people living in light alone.” (J.E.H. MacDonald, 1927)
Esoterica: The brilliant Canadian painter J.E.H. MacDonald never got as far as the Bugaboos. But every year from 1924 to 1930 he ventured west from Montreal on the train to paint in the mountains of nearby Yoho Park. Many of my ideas, inspirations and spiritual thoughts have come from him. “One felt that the mountains are not completed. The builders are still at work. Stones come rolling and jumping from the upper scaffolding and often from the chasms one hears the thundering as the gods of the mountains change their minds.” (J.E.H. MacDonald)
Painting in the Bugaboos
More economical event needed
by Colin Bell, Calgary, AB, Canada
I would love to join you. Over the years I have made several sorties into the Bugaboos, hiking and backpacking, and have painted some scenes there. The cost of your excursion is a bit steep for me at this time, so I’ll have to wait for a more economical event.
(RG note) Thanks, Colin. “Waiting for a more economical event” echoed the feelings of some 80 artists who wrote. I can certainly appreciate the problem. Here’s another one but without the helicopters: It’s an all-inclusive 3 days aboard Columbia III out of Campbell River, B.C., Canada on May 24 to 27, 2010. I’m doing a plein air painting workshop in Desolation Sound and other Inside Passage locations. This one’s limited to 7 guests. Sponsored by Mothership Adventures and the Campbell River Art Gallery, we’ve put an ad for it at the very bottom of this clickback. You can talk to me about it at 604 538 9197 or directly to the coordinator Annette Yourke at 250-287-2261.
Regarding the Bugaboo trip, we filled the slate for “The Bugaboo Ten” by about 2 pm on Friday afternoon. “The Bugaboo Ten” for September 3 to 7, 2010 are:
Thanks so much for joining us. I’m going to try to make this your trip of a lifetime and a really valuable experience. I’d like to thank Jane Carswell and Audrey Frey of Canadian Mountain Holidays for putting it all together. And of course Liz Wiltzen who had the idea that we do this in the first place.
We currently have 9 artists on the waitlist for the Bugaboos. As I’m fully occupied on the dates before and after the Bugaboo trip, I’ve asked Liz Wiltzen to take a group on her own. She and I have frequently worked together and she is well versed in the Bob Genn method of “leave them alone until they ask and then give them a few really valuable suggestions.” The trip with Liz will be slightly less expensive but have all the same benefits as the one with me. Her dates start on August 31, 2010. Please be in contact with Audrey Frey of Canadian Mountain Holidays at or phone me if you want to talk about it.
by Jill Bukovnik, Invermere, BC, Canada
I’ve lived close to the Bugaboo area most of my life. At the lodge there is a huge chain link fence area to park your cars to keep your tires safe. However, if you venture out on other roads that have fabulous trails, you will need chicken wire if you are staying over night at the cabin… there is usually extra wire for people to use. If you venture away on other roads and trails be aware that there are bears in the area and it’s not uncommon to see fresh evidence of them. If you’re in a group, stay together as one large group as bears usually stay clear of 5 or more people. Enjoy your visit and don’t forget your cameras!! The Bugaboos are one of the most gorgeous places on earth. Liz Wiltzen’s work always captures nature and mountains beautifully. We as a community admire her paintings, they’re extra special. She has a collection of her works for sale at The Artym Gallery located on the main street of Invermere, B.C.
Three glaciers in one painting
by Max Elliott, Banff, AB, Canada
Precious time spent in the Bugaboos can indeed be the trip of a lifetime. Driving down those logging roads, and hiking over 2500 vertical feet to the hut is an experience in itself. The reward is a view like the one below right out the front door — three amazing glaciers in one painting! I’ll never forget time there with friends, and the wonderful climbers and mountain enthusiasts with whom we shared our living space and stories. Fortunately, our tires survived the porcupines.
Up in the crisp clean air
by Odette Nicholson, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
I’m not envious of your planned September ‘workathon’ because I’m not a helicopter loving girl, but what a place it is to paint, great views, incredible landscape. I enjoyed the Bugaboos on a weeklong hiking trip, summer 1974 and can still recall the feel of the Bugaboos, funny how that works… maybe one day I will attempt a series of paintings of my Bugaboos memories: loud crackling noises from the ice, clear almost white sunshine, crisp clean air and really cold transparent water springs, deep aching thighs and sore ankles — and yes, we did pack our garbage out with us.
The magic of Banff
by Ciara Jayne Hossack, Banff, AB, Canada
I’m a ceramic artist doing a residency at the Banff Centre, an amazing art hub! I’ve been in Banff for 8 years, but have been enjoying the Rocky Mountains since youth. You’ll love the Bugaboos. I have a friend who used to work up there. It’s such a great community, with amazing food and inspiration!
While in Banff you should stop by the Whyte Museum. It’s a quaint little art museum that was built by Catherine and Peter Whyte, well known early 1900’s Canadian Rocky Mountain Painters, mostly working en plein air. Catherine Whyte was a Boston debutant who dated a Rockefeller before meeting Peter Whyte at Boston Art College. Upon marrying Peter she moved to Banff and because of their money Banff has started off and always been a tourist town. She sponsored the museum, the Banff Centre (formally known as Banff School of Fine Art), the library, town hall and even had part in the hospital! Not a widely known part of Banff history, but from following your letters for the past couple years I believe that it is something you will enjoy! I am very interested in the work that you and your group makes, I hope you post their work online.
(RG note) Thanks, Ciara. We’re calling our gang “The Bugaboo Ten” and I expect great things from them. With a little extra time at the beginning of the adventure I’m going to take them over to the Whyte Museum. Thanks for the reminder.
The fine art of finding a mentor
by Karen Baker Thumm, MI, USA
For the past several years I haven’t done much artwork for various reasons. Now I’m ready to get back into creating, but I’m feeling a bit lost. I know my work needs improvement, but I don’t know where to start. I’d like to work with a more advanced artist for a while who could help guide me along the way; a mentor; but I have no idea what to expect from this arrangement. Is there a “going rate” for mentorship or does it depend on the mentor? How do these arrangements usually work? Should I tell the artist what I want to learn or should I let him tell me what he thinks I need to learn?
(RG note) Thanks, Karen. A connection with the right mentor can be life-changing. A few words from Miss Right may be just what you need to hear — a few words from Mr. Wrong can jinx you interminably. Be alert. Mentors often choose their mentees. Many of the best cost you nothing and serve you well merely because they see potential in you. The first thing you need to find out is if they have ever done anything worthwhile themselves. The jungle is creepy with theoretical mentors. Beware.
by Stephanie Quinn, Dallas, TX, USA
A friend from Texas told me about art Co-ops and how he was able to acquire some very nice paintings that way. The idea is to rent the piece for a couple of weeks, then if you wanted to buy, then the amount would be applied to the rest of the balance. I was wondering first what you thought of this and if you thought if this practice was still going on?
(RG note) Thanks, Stephanie. It sure is, and not just with co-op galleries. Rent-to-own is popular in Public Gallery art rental programs, and is often seen as a way for people to get the courage to become serious collectors. In galleries, co-op and otherwise, the practice is best suited to government-type people who have lots of time and don’t mind all the bookkeeping and the frequent writing of small cheques. Evolved commercial galleries don’t bother with it. Artists wise up to it after a while because work often does not sell, and comes back after a couple of years with broken frames. Other than that, it’s a fine idea.
Pittance of an honorarium
by Barry Kleider, Minneapolis, MN, USA
A few days ago, a reputable summer arts camp invited me to teach a one-week photography residency. I said I was interested, and a couple days later, I got a follow up email asking to chat with me. He had clearly read my CV and knew how much both Minnesota and North Dakota pay teaching artists. I checked out their staff bios and I was suitably impressed. We spoke at some length. And then he mentioned the honorarium (I can only call it that — $500) I was incensed! I’ve been teaching photography for 15 years and working with kids for almost 30. Here I was being offered a CIT”s wages. The thing that bugged me most about it was that this was coming from an arts organization. What message do we send our students?
(RG note) Thanks, Barry. I hear ya. It’s always of interest to me that many arts organizations will pay a big fee to a theoretical, pompous, over educated buffoon while at the same time paying peanuts to someone who knows what he’s doing, does it regularly, and is successful doing it. In cases like yours I tell them I’d rather do it for free, but I’m busy.
Finding comfort with galleries
by Shelley Mitchell, Halifax, NS, Canada
I have been a professional artist since 1996, by which I mean I make my living from sales of paintings, and at the present time I’m represented by five galleries. The one bad experience I have had in my early career was with a well established gallery which turned out to be quite secretive about sales and payment and continually moaned about their overhead etc. I gave them a choice of paying me or hearing from a lawyer and was lucky enough to get my money and the return of all my work. I learned the valuable lesson that I need to be vigilant about my art business affairs as do all retailers. Every other gallery I’ve been involved with has been a very positive experience and they have furthered my career and found wonderful patrons for my work. These art galleries provide venue space, promotion, advertising, openings, contacts, moral support and much more. Each gallery owner who represents me has become a personal friend whom I trust to have my best interests at heart because if I succeed they do too. That doesn’t mean there have not been times when we had to work out differences as in any long term relationship. There is also a responsibility on the part of the artist to oversee her/his own career and this means choosing galleries based on their philosophy of art and business. If you aren’t comfortable it isn’t going to work. Initially this can mean a certain amount of research and trial and error but later this pays off by letting someone else do the work of promoting and selling your art and allowing you to get in the studio where you belong. If you want to know if a gallery is honest and a good fit just contact any of the artists who show there and you will get a first hand evaluation you can trust.
(RG note) Thanks, Shelley. One of our main jobs in life is learning to distinguish between high-maintenance, difficult, problematic folks, and — sweethearts.
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How to stay in touch
by Adriana Rinaldi, Oakville, ON, Canada
You are out and about quite a lot and you stay connected to everyone via the Internet. Did you once say that you were out in the field painting plein air and you still have a way of being able to connect out there in the middle of nowhere? I would like to know the technology you use to do that as I will soon be retiring and painting full time, but would like to stay connected to family, friends, by blog or by MySpace pages as I paint out in the bush or up at the cottage. Please advise.
(RG note) Thanks, Adriana. In the time I write this there will probably be a newer, better way to stay in touch. I currently use a Blackberry Bold, which as well as being an internationally connected cell phone, it also gets all the emails that come into my studio computer at home. I find I can make brief responses on pressing matters on the Blackberry. I have not tried writing a full twice weekly letter on one. For that I use an Apple Mac-Pro (Word for Mac) and send out on Wi-Fi. Most places support Wi-Fi nowadays, although sometimes you have to pay for it. In really remote places I use a satellite phone. Letters I wrote from the Mackenzie River trip in Northern Canada a few years ago were written on a laptop and sent out under the sky by satellite phone. People are always telling me to lighten up from technology and give it a rest. Recently someone found me in a deep dark woods painting while I was talking on a speakerphone. “Nuts” he said.
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Pam Stapleton of Kelowna, BC, Canada, who wrote, “Enjoy… being on the top of a mountain is the most uplifting experience I have ever had. ‘The up knows the down, but the down does not know the up.’ ”
And also Gary Gibbens of New Zealand, who wrote, ” We have our own beautiful mountain ranges here in New Zealand and I have had some success in painting their many moods.”
Enjoy the past comments below for A trip of a lifetime…