Canoe on the shore during sunset.

Honouring Quetico: my experience as an artist-in-residence

The Artist-in-Residence Program at Quetico Provincial Park provided two weeks of rest, peace, inspiration, and creativity at the artist’s studio on French Lake. In today’s post, Jennifer Caie shares her experience as Quetico’s artist-in-residence in June and July of 2019.

Arriving at the studio, I was exhausted and worn out by the stresses of life.

After unloading my art supplies from the car, I just sat down in an overwhelming calmness.

The scene was peaceful.

Pink and blue sunset over a lake.

As I walked out to the lakeshore, a mother Merganser swam by with her ducklings, feeding among the reeds. Dark clouds gathered, providing a gentle rain that bounced on the lake’s surface, and then passed.

There were no sounds of motors, only canoeists in the distance on their way out to their first campsite in the interior.

Finding inspiration

My days were spent walking, biking, and canoeing in the park, photographing the moments that captured my eye, then preserving those scenes on wood or canvas.

Inspiration was all around me.

As I floated in the warm water, I watched the clouds in this land of lakes develop quickly, an ever-changing palette of colour and form.

I felt honoured to be in these ancient waterways where past paddlers had painted pictographs on the rock faces along the water’s edge. Ideas began to form as I worked on daily small paintings.

person standing on campsite

I have always practiced no-trace camping, but while in Quetico, it was what I experienced.

It was the first time I have ever witnessed a place that felt completely clean. Even the air was scented on a hot day with the release of essential oils from tree sap.

The sky, the land, the birds, and the history were my muse. A sense of protection was on my mind, and would be the theme of my acrylic painting.

Listening closely

What music is so sweet as the songs of silence?

Group of Mergansers swimming in a row.

It’s incredible that at first we hear nothing until our minds are quieted and our senses enlivened to hear melodies in the wilderness.

Harmonizing songs echoed over the water as the many kinds of birds and waterfowl made their presence known.

I loved the ringing music of frogs while paddling the marsh during the red sunset.

The lullaby of mosquitoes made me grateful for the thin wall of a tent.

These songs formed patterns and currents to be added to my painting.

Meeting kindred spirits

I lived these two weeks according to my natural clock rather than the ticking of a timer: waking up when fully rested, eating when hungry, and painting while inspiration flowed.

painting set up on truck

The only breaks in my lack of schedule were the two days I painted in the campground. Calling it “tailgate painting,” I set up my easel on the tailgate of my truck.

I talked to campers about participating in the park’s Artist-in-Residence Program: two weeks with a supplied studio and time in the park, providing a painting to leave with the park, and encouraging others to love and care for provincial parks.

Some people tried their hand at painting, while others asked questions and watched my process.

I enjoyed meeting people who were like-minded and shared my vision.

My mission is to encourage others to love and protect these wild places through my painting.

My artistic contributionpainting

My donated painting depicts the movement of birds, winds, clouds, and scents weaving in and out of each other.

The mother Merganser is there with her wings outstretched in a protective way over her home.

The repeating patterns in the water and rocks are the shapes formed from the elements working together.

The distant treeline and closer rocky islands contain campsites which were first used by ancient paddlers.

Isn’t it a privilege to be in the same place as those who have gone before?

Jennifer’s painting can be seen in the gallery at the Quetico Pavilion located in the Dawson Trail Campground adjacent to Highway 11.

Interested in being an artist-in-residence at Quetico? Learn more here!