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Wild Women: Kathy Haycock, Linda Sorensen, Joyce Burkholder
Wild Women

Wilderness Painters
on Location

by Joyce Burkholder

Photo: The Wild Women from left to right: Kathy Haycock, Linda Sorensen, Joyce Burkholder

Three acclaimed artists have banded together as Wild Women to celebrate their love of nature. Immersed in the outdoors, painting in all seasons, their works are infused with the essence of being there. Encouraging viewers to take part in the experience, the Wild Women exhibit their finished work in galleries throughout the province.

Joyce Burkholder (that’s me), Kathy Haycock and Linda Sorensen are the Wild ones. We each have our own approach to how we paint on location. Often using home-made or low-cost equipment, the joy and excitement comes from tromping through the bush, finding an inspiring scene and capturing the sights, sounds and smells on canvas. We go on painting adventures. Every time, it is challenging, stimulating, and absolute fun. An ecstasy comes from inhaling the scene, from the infusion of all the micro-events going on while painting. When a graceful heron glides by, a gentle snow falls, or a brewing storm gathers momentum in the sky, there is more of a story to paint.

During my many years of painting on location, I think I have encountered every conceivable form of precipitation, been in temperatures from one end of the thermometer to the other, and been consumed by numerous varieties of biting insects…Still, the great outdoors is my favourite studio.

It helps dramatically to be prepared. Having stable equipment that can be fairly easily moved in one or two trips from vehicle to location, and that can be set up or taken down relatively quickly, makes a big difference. When I first started painting outdoors I carried everything I needed in a milk crate, which worked upside-down as my chair, and I painted on my lap. Now I have graduated to a French-style standing easel with telescoping metal legs which holds my brushes and palette. I much prefer the metal legs over wood, because they don’t swell in humidity. I put the whole easel in my freezer between painting adventures, so my palette and brushes don’t dry out.

I paint primarily with oils, as I find them to be the most agreeable in all conditions, although I also use water-colours, acrylics and pastels on location. I try very hard to never use oils inside and inhale unhealthy solvent fumes in my indoor studio. I use a school-size backpack to carry all the other ‘stuff’ such as paint tubes, solvent in an unbreakable stainless steel jar, sketch pad, rags, apron, latex gloves, hand warmers (winter), sun visor (summer), thermos of tea (year ’round), etc. My small folding chair, lunch bag and camera have shoulder straps. That puts my easel in one hand and a very handy canvas carrier in the other. Voilà! I am ready to head off in search of the next grand painting experience.

Kathy Haycock uses a compact laptop painting box, which holds her palette, brushes and several 11” x 14” birch panels that she is fond of painting on. Slots inside the box keep the wet panels from touching. Kathy will often work on two panels in a day, then complete them in her log studio after some contemplation. Sometimes, she uses them as studies to make much larger paintings.

Linda Sorensen has assembled a combination of a folding metal tripod-type easel that comes with a carrying case; she attaches a basket that holds her brushes, water for acrylics, and paint tubes. She holds her disposable paper easel pad in her left hand while painting with her right. She carries everything, along with her colourful painting umbrella, in a camping style dry bag, a great example of being prepared especially if we are going out in the boat!

We like to be Wild! Having a great story to tell about a painting done on an adventure is an added dimension and often deepens the understanding and experience the viewer has while admiring a finished and framed painting hanging in a gallery. It may make them want to take it home, and so the story enriches their lives and furthers an appreciation and preservation of our precious wilderness.

All three artists’ studios can be visited every autumn on the Madawaska Valley Studio Tour.

Joyce BurkholderJoyce Burkholder:

I recall vividly the time we were in Algonquin Park in January and it was so cold, minus 30, my oils hardly worked on the canvas. We had packed up our gear and snow-shoed into a site on the edge of a drop-off overlooking Tea Lake. I packed the snow down with my snowshoes and we had a laugh about the rectangle being our outdoor studio, complete with short walls!

It was a brilliantly sunny and absolutely glorious day. Everything was so intense: the light, the colours, and the cold. We were staying in a cabin on the west side of the park, so when we got back at the end of the day we lit a roaring fire, had a fabulous meal and supportively critiqued our paintings…a very important part of the process.

Joyce owns and operates the Wilno Garden Gallery, her indoor studio, gallery and picture frame shop surrounded by an enchanting perennial garden. Open from spring till Christmas, the gallery displays many of her paintings done on location and pottery by her partner, Dan Hill.

Joyce regularly offers Painting Adventure Workshops including instruction, encouragement and support in a beautiful wilderness setting. Please phone 613-756-7890 for more details.

Kathy HaycockKathy Haycock:

Late October is a wonderful time to paint in Algonquin Park. The tamaracks are lacy gold. The bright yellow poplar and birch flutter cheerfully in the north wind.

Thus, on a stormy fall day, we parked the Jeep at Rock Lake and headed into the bush. Unsettled weather means a lively sky and good painting. Hiking towards a big opening in the trees, we sought any lake with a grand view. Finally we emerged on a beautiful sweeping sand beach at the end of a long narrow lake. On the far shore massive cliffs defined the slopes. It was perfect. After soaking in the mood, we each set up and began to paint in the rain. Soon the rain stopped and the clouds broke up. I continued to paint. When finished, I stood back in the sun and discovered I had put the likeness of an angel in the clouds!

These days when the Wild Women go painting, it is with adventure in mind. We go by foot, boat or canoe, snowshoes, or skis; by Jeep off-road or down the highway to explore and paint the Algonquin wilderness we love.

Linda SorensenLinda Sorensen:

The Island

On an earlier camping trip we had scouted out ‘the island’ as a place to return to paint. The island sits in the middle of Opeongo Lake, South Arm near the West Narrows, and is surrounded by other small islands. The setting was enchanting in its allure and we were drawn to its charm. We set up camp with our party of six a short boat trip away, in sight of our muse. The boat is a James Bay Freighter that looks like a canoe with a 9.9 motor on it and holds a lot of gear and people. When the camp was secure and we loaded our gear—canvas and paints, easels, cameras, and lunch—we were escorted by boat and dropped off to paint for the day. The timeless sunny days of late August filled our hearts and canvases with an inspired tranquility as we embraced the time-honoured freedom of the artist’s realm and the natural world. For the days that we spent on the island, I felt an abandon from my life back in the world and I drank in each precious moment. When each day was done, we sounded the boat horn which we had brought with us and our boatman appeared to take us back to camp, inevitably and reluctantly. It was time to pack up the camp and head for home. We headed out and etched in my mind is the image of the land that I love disappearing behind us, ’til the next time. Such is the life of an artist!

This is an original story, first published in The Country Connection Magazine, Issue 54, Summer/Autumn 2007. Copyright Joyce Burkholder.



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