‘Art rock star’ Robert Bateman headed to HSAD
By Angela Long
July 26, 2016
It’s Monday morning on Saltspring Island, British Columbia and Robert Bateman can’t decide which painting to work on next. There’s the pheasant sitting on a stone wall, a snowshoe hare in winter, the Canada geese with five goslings, a screech owl perched in an apple tree, a pair of loons on Boshkung Lake.
“I like to have a lot on the go,” he says in a phone interview with the Echo.
Soon Bateman, one of Canada’s most renowned artists and winner of numerous honours and awards, will add teaching a three-day workshop at the Haliburton School of Art and Design to his list.
Dean of HSAD Sandra Dupret says the workshop, which was advertised on March 1, sold out within two days. People from all over Ontario signed up for “Robert Bateman – Passions and Practices” from Aug. 9 to 11 to learn from an artist Dupret calls “an art rock star.”
“We already have such a renowned faculty here,” says Dupret.
“To have Robert Bateman listed in our roster is the icing on the cake.”
It won’t be Bateman’s first time teaching in Haliburton. Bateman has been coming to the area since 1939, when he was nine. The Bateman family rented a cottage on Boshkung Lake during all of the Second World War. After the war, the family purchased the cottage next door. Since that time, Bateman has explored the back trails and hidden lakes of the Haliburton Highlands, learning the landscape as he learned his art.
As he transformed from high school teacher, to world traveller, to famous artist, Bateman never forgot the land of Canadian Shield and calling loons. He’s been coming here every year, painting its geography, its abandoned farmhouses where in the early ’70s and ’80s “you could wander around and see pretty wallpaper peeling off the walls where some hopeful housewife had thought this is going to be the future.”
These experiences have informed much of Bateman’s work, providing a template for what he calls “poignancy and poetry, and nature taking over again.”
It’s this intersection between the human world and the world of nature Bateman admires most about the Haliburton Highlands, he says. It’s what continues to drive his passion as both an artist and a conservationist.
“To me, Haliburton is the perfect blend of what I love most – natural heritage and human heritage,” he says.
But lately human heritage is driving around in too many fast cars and loud boats for Bateman’s liking. He talks of a Boshkung Lake where the only manmade sound was “the squeak of Mr. Burwell’s oars as he rowed into Carnarvon” – a far cry from today’s boats “going around in circles with loud motors just for the sake of going around in circles with loud motors.”
But despite the changes in the human landscape, Bateman says not much has changed in the back trails of the cottage country he knows so well.
“It’s perhaps the deepest part of my heart,” Bateman says.
Just outside the window of his house on Saltspring, Bateman describes the meadow, an old farmhouse, a heritage apple tree.
“Where I’m sitting right now could be Haliburton,” he says. “Maybe that’s why I made my out West place, where I want to live the rest of my life, I made it this place because it’s so much like Haliburton.”
He looks at his paintings again, and decides to work on the loons in front of the misty island of Boshkung.
Join Robert Bateman for his “Life Sketches” talk on Wednesday Aug. 10 from 4:45 to 6 p.m. in the Great Hall of Fleming College to hear about his “journey firmly rooted in a passion for the natural world” – as conveyed in his latest book, a memoir, Life Sketches. Bateman will be available for signings. Life Sketches is currently available at the campus book store.
An original Bateman painting, created during his three-day workshop, will be part of the HSAD Faculty Art Auction on Aug. 11. Preview at 5 p.m. Live Auction at 7 p.m.