I love painting. I love the challenge…
I grew up in Winnipeg and now live with my family on Toronto Island. During the school year, I work part-time at the Ontario College of Art & Design University. Months in the summer, I enjoy loading the kids in our VW camper van and heading west. Along the way, there are many stops at our favourite spots to camp and paint – Killarney on Georgian Bay, Pukaskwa National Park on the north shore of Lake Superior and Lake of the Woods are a few such spots. We always stay near Victoria Beach on Lake Winnipeg where I spent time as a boy. However, I also must always carry on across the prairies to the mountains, sometimes with my family, but mostly solo for some intense painting.
I paint en plein air with oils on small wood panels while traveling. My set-up is very portable, enabling me to hike into remote areas. Hiking has become an integral part of my painting process; clearing of the mind, acceleration of the pulse - all in anticipation of stopping to begin a composition, whether it be in small details in the lichen and rocks with wildflowers, or cropped abstract patterns of rocks meeting a lake, to the perfect alignment of a grand vista. I also take photographs. It has been said that, "It is not the destination but the journey, that is more important." This is certainly true for my process.
Back in the studio, some panels are chosen and worked up into larger canvases. Sometimes in the studio canvases I like to include a still-life in the landscape or people in the landscape and recently I have laid a play button on some canvases to reflect the influence of technology on our contemporary lives. I look forward to exploring new landscapes and new ways portraying them (climb a little higher).
There is a strong tradition of landscape painting in Canada. When I first began painting the Canadian landscape, I went to Lake O'Hara, because of the many paintings I had seen from this area; work by John Singer Sargent, J.E.H. MacDonald, Lawren Harris - just to name a few. There is a reason why Lake O'Hara was and continues to be so popular with hikers and artists alike. The trails around these three intersecting valleys have been groomed and maintained for over a hundred years. Lake O'Hara is spectacular; I have been back many times!
The land we live in shapes our history. We are all connected to it.
Although there are many places in Canada I enjoy working in and others I have yet to explore, I think I will be back to the Rockies many more times.
My favourite painting is usually the one on the easel.
– Mitchell Fenton
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