A Brush with Henschel: Down to the lake

This painting is a product of that propensity for wild places.

Painting a picture is an experience that is so personal that many artists are hesitant to show their work. For them, it is like baring your soul and hanging it up on the wall for all to see; an intimidating and scary thought indeed; one of the reasons why the personality of the creator plays such an important role.

When you think about it, the fact that visual art today is carried out in much the same way as it was five hundred years ago, is simply amazing; even more so is that it is alive and well. Another astonishment is that in this day and age, when computers can spit out visual images of infinite complexity in a matter of minutes, we are still as fascinated by the relationship between today’s artists and their paints, brushes and canvases. The reason for this fascination is the wonderfully exciting result that happens when the artist sits down in front of a blank surface and comes up with his or her own creation. This becomes a form of communication with whoever looks at that creation. It is not just a picture but also a meeting of minds between the artist and the viewer.

The same work of art will often appeal to one viewer and be rejected by another; some paintings will “speak to you”, others will not. There is a connection (communication or non-communication) between the artist and the viewer that is unexplainable but, nevertheless, quite magical. Equally magical is the artist’s relationship with his or her subject. Why is it that one artist prefers to paint flowers or still life; another, portraits and yet another, landscapes. Once more, the personality and experiences of the artist come into play.

Sir Joshua Reynolds, the famous portrait painter, was raised in the luxurious surroundings of the English aristocracy where he was trained in portraiture. This distinguished gentleman would simply not have been excited about painting the Scottish Highlands; whereas, Canadian, Tom Thomson, landscape painter and Group of Seven ikon, worked as a guide in Ontario’s Algonquin Park; at that time an area inhabited only by lumberjacks and forest rangers.

Gordon Henschel,(the infamous North Island landscape artist), the son of a trapper, spent most of his formative years in the wilderness lake country of the Manitoba and Ontario border. Therefore, his choice of subject matter and lifestyle is hardly surprising. He chooses to live in a sparsely populated area only minutes away from the kind of space he is used to.

This painting is a product of that propensity for wild places. It is, nonetheless, an easily reachable spot I will share with you. Starting down the Island Highway from the Nimpkish Heights turnoff, eleven kilometres of driving will get you to where an old logging road crosses. At this point a right-turn and a careful one kilometre drive will give you some gorgeous views of Nimpkish Lake as well as some solitude.

This painting was done in oils on a sunny day in mid-January. You remember the one!

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