canadian cruise

iceberg painting by Canadian landscape painter

Painting on The Mighty St. Lawrence

Hello all,

I’ve recently returned from yet another amazing Adventure Canada tour (maybe my 14th or something?). This time it was from Quebec City to St. John’s down the the St. Lawrence. This was the first time AC has done this trip and I am so glad I was able to be aboard. Fellow Drawnonward painter Rob Saley was also aboard. We have now traveled together so many times that we can function as a bit of a unit. We were even given the assigned roles of ‘Party Captains’, meaning we led the crusade to keep the lounge lively after dinner. I think we succeeded. Fun was had. Art was made. Above all, it was a great trip.

I could go on about Adventure Canada, how they do things differently and why I have gravitated to this mode of getting around, but you should just check them out yourselves.

Basically, my gig while serving as ‘staff lite’ is to paint ‘en plein air’ (outdoors) on-shore whenever weather and time permit. I am permitted to sell my paintings to passengers. When not painting, I might be giving drawing workshops, showing a documentary film about Drawnonward (the artist collective I have been part of for twenty years or so) and fielding questions, or playing some tunes in the lounge with other staff or with musical passengers. Some very fun nights have been spent this way. As staff I am also expected to help with various things – whatever needs a hand. I have helped many a zodiac come to shore and assisted many more passengers out of the zodiacs with the ‘sailor’s grip’. As soon as the crowds are hiking, I am painting.

I’ve been lucky enough to sit down in front of landscapes across much of this country and these cruises allow me to keep accessing new, remote areas with my paintbox. This trip down the St. Lawrence was no different, although there were a few more urban ports and small towns than most of the other cruises I’ve been on. We sailed from Quebec City to St. John’s, hitting the Saguenays, Gaspe, Ile de Madeleine, P.E.I., Cape Breton, and St. Pierre and Miquelon. Some firsts for me; P.E.I and the Saguenays  were nice to add to the travel list. But, there is nothing like seeing new places from the water. I had no idea of the varied landscapes of the St. Lawrence. Watching them roll by was sweet stuff indeed.

But I don’t want to turn this post into a lengthy travelogue.

Suffice to say that travel, at its best, is transformative. Art… ditto. Travelling and painting together is the real stuff of magic and I feel damn lucky to have chosen this path and more so to have been afforded so many great opportunities along the way.

Later this year, to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of his death, a bunch of us plein air enthusiasts are going to hit some of Tom Thompsons favourite spots and see what kind of work we can make out there. I think we’ll even make a show out of it. I’m looking forward to my next foray no matter where it may be and no matter how I get there. It has never been boring and it always leads to other things down the the road(s). My paintbox stands at the ready.


Gaspe from the deck of the ship

Leaving Gaspe, 12×6 inches, oil on panel


Greenlandic Ice, 60×40 inches, oil on board

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The RCGS and me.

Hi there,

It has been awhile since I’ve written a post and  I thought that while I am between commissions I should expound on having recently become a member of the College of Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. I am honored and slightly gap jawed at having been offered the honor in the first place. And now, having honored the offer, I can offer some reflections on what I had to offer to have been honored with the offer.

Still with me? Sorry about that.

I ’96 when I started traveling Canada with some good friends with whom I had attended O.C.A. (Ontario College of Art, before the D) and had lived with in Florence, Italy for a year, I had no idea that we would go on doing so for the next 20 years. Together we camped, painted, drew and sculpted in some of Canada’s most remote and beautiful regions. We had yearly shows of our work up until only a couple years ago when families had become larger and long trips into the bush became harder and harder to pull off though in the future we fully expect to continue our adventures in the wilds of Canada as aging hipsters.

Some of our past shows featured work from our travels to places like Algoma, Haida Gwaii, The Gaspe, The Yukon, The Arctic, and Newfoundland among others. We were fortunate enough to know each other at the right time in our lives and make our numbers work for us. We planned trips and solicited sponsorships. Some excelled at one thing while others had strength in other areas. My point is that I would never have gotten myself to many of those places were it left to my own devices. It was because we were a group that an idea could be hatched and given the attention it needed to become reality.

In 2005  Drawnonward started traveling with an expedition company called Adventure Canada. We boarded a ship and cruised the high Arctic and crossed the Davis Strait to Greenland. We were ecstatic to be extending our travels in ways that were new to us and we all fell in love with Canada’s north and its people. Since that first trip many of us have traveled with AC again and again.

My own trips with AC have included several voyages to the Canadian Arctic, Labrador and Greenland, a few circumnavigations of Newfoundland and this summer I’ll be cruising the mighty St. Lawrence for the first time.

And it was because of AC that we were able to meet so many amazing people in the north with whom we helped set up an ongoing yearly art camp for young Inuit artists in Rankin Inlet on the shores of Hudson’s Bay. This has been an amazing experience for us and is something we are all proud of. We hope we can return for years to come.

So, in short, it is only because of my lasting friendships that my opportunities to explore have materialized and I owe a debt of gratitude to all of them for inspiring me to get off the couch, out of the studio and into the wilderness.

As a member of the College of Fellows of the RCGS, I am expected to be an ambassador for Canadian culture. I am happy to have been chosen to do so. I can only hope that my artistic adventures across this amazing country will continue and that I can continue to highlight Canada’s beauty in my paintings.


Hope everyone is having a good spring!


Here is great Gemini award nominated film by Andy Keen about a ’97 Drawnonward trip to Newfoundland called ‘Seven Painters, Seven Places’.

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And here is a short film by Eric Foss called Arctic Artists. It follows us on our first trip into the Arctic but the subject matter is much wider than that. This aired on CBC Sunday.

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