Category Archives: CAMP

Workflow – When The Creative Spirit Strikes, Don’t Be Caught With Your Canvas Down

Blank canvasses in the studio

Preparing Canvas/Linens

My thoughts for the day are very much that of a good Girl Guide or Scout;

“Be Prepared.”

There are cycles to everything. In my studio, the cycle of production of works of art follows a pretty set pattern.

  • Build the stretchers
  • Stretch the linen onto the stretchers
  • Size the linen
  • Gesso, Sand – Repeat x3
  • Edge and Finish

We build and make all of our substrates – from the small plein air panels with linen to large scale works. My wonderful husband/carpenter designed a perfect frame that allows for a quality finished piece that will stand up to the stretch that a good piece of linen will give. I’m very lucky.

Blank Linens Ready to go

Blank linens, stretched and ready to go.

All of those works require four major steps – sizing, and three layers of gesso, all individually sanded and prepared to give a smooth finish that can’t be done in a factory. It takes a long time, but is best done in “batches” of a few at a time in order to maintain an efficient workflow in the studio and the workshop. It’s messy and tedious, repetitive work – so if we are cleaning up for one, I might as well be cleaning up for 10! This means that for a couple of weeks at a time, I’m not painting – just getting my substrates all ready to go so that I can paint. But I am thinking about painting! I’m ITCHING to be painting. It’s actually a great thoughtful and reflective process that allows me to slow down a bit and thinking through some of the concepts for later execution.

I look at those spaces, that blank canvas and imagine what will go on them. Sometimes I have an idea ahead of time and prepare the custom stretcher just for the piece. Sometimes I work up a few certain sizes that are working for me, relative to subject matter and medium. We try to keep those in stock. I also make up a few oddballs so that I can have things ready when the creative spirit hits me. There’s nothing worse than having to wait for a linen to be made. I can take up to a week to prep one of those, if it has to be done on it’s own.

I’m prepping for my current residency at The Banff Centre to create the works for Haida Gwaii, a few more pieces for my CAMP exhibition in January, and now for a following residency in the Leighton Artist’s Colony at The Banff Centre in January 2013.

That’s a lot of painting – the more that I can think ahead for what I’ll need, the more efficient I am in getting everything prepared, the ideas articulated and the works created. Workflow is what it’s all about.


Studio Space At The Banff CEntre

All ready to go – My Studio Space at The Banff Centre

An artist needs to be prepared for just about anything. When the creative spirit strikes, don’t be caught with your canvas down!

ART :: What is it?

Temporary Installation: "CAMP - Land Claim" over "The Big Head" in Canmore, AB.

Temporary Installation: “CAMP – Land Claim” over “The Big Head” in Canmore, AB.

The beauty of art to me, is it’s many faces.


















Temporary Installation: "CAMP - Land Claim" over "The Big Head" in Canmore, AB.

Temporary Installation: “CAMP – Land Claim” over “The Big Head” in Canmore, AB.



Gwaii Haanas – The Need for a New Line at Lyell

"Sedgwick Camp - Gwaii Haanas" ©2012 Janice Tanton. Oil on panel. 6"x8"

“Sedgwick Camp – Gwaii Haanas” ©2012 Janice Tanton. Oil on panel. 6″x8″

Wow…what can I even begin to say and share with you regarding my recent trip to Haida Gwaii and the residency in Gwaii Haanas National Park, Marine Reserve and Haida Heritage Site? I’ll start just by sharing some works I created onsite in Gwaii Haanas and some thoughts about current context.

You have to understand the remoteness of this place. It’s a 20 hour, two day FULL drive from Canmore, AB – first on the Icefields Parkway to Jasper and then through the winding Yellowhead Highway country, though Prince George, along the banks of the Fraser and Skeena River systems, through the Pacific Coastal Mountains to the Port of Prince Rupert.

From there, it’s a 7 hour ferry ride, just to get to the island of Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) and just in view of the shores of Alaska from it’s northern coast. And that’s just the first part of the journey! Epic in itself, just to get to Haida Gwaii.

From there, our group of five departed from Skidegate, another ferry ride from Skidegate to Alliford Bay and then through an hour and a half of potholed logging roads that you could swallow your truck, and humping gear over an “outed” bridge to the marine departure point at Deer Bay, Moresby Camp. Not a journey for the faint of heart!

Departing Moresby Camp, it was an hour long trip by boat on the trusty BC forestry services boat, the “Adelita” to our floating camp at the Bischof Islands in Gwaii Haanas. These waters are the fourth most dangerous in the world. Enough said, I suppose…

Using the Bischof Islands as our base, we headed out to many different locations in Gwaii Haanas. I created several works onsite where time and equipment landing would permit. I also worked on the boat, in watercolour creating sketches as we travelled the long distances between points. I’ll share those in a later posting with you.

The only communications in this area is by marine radio or satellite phone, both of which are sketchy at the best of times. When not sketching or painting, I spent a great deal of time in visual observation and in photography. There is never enough lifetimes to begin to paint what I have seen or experienced, but here is a short “bite” for those who are so eager to see what I did when I was there.



Athlii Gwaii – Sedgwick Bay Camp

Sedgewick Camp - Athlii Gwaii, Gwaii Haanas (Lyell Island)

Sedgewick Camp – Athlii Gwaii, Gwaii Haanas (Lyell Island)

This painting was done onsite at Sedgwick Bay, Athlii Gwaii (Lyell Island) where in  the autumn of 1985, a group of Haida elders travelled by helicopter  to engage in one of the first direct action efforts of first nations across the land. Conflicting interests that pit first nations against industrial development reached a boiling point. The Haida Elders created a line between the ancient rainforests and old growth cedar and spruce and the forestry companies that held timber licenses. Four Elders stood on the line at Lyell. Please see the clip below of excerpts from Urban Rez’s production of “Athlii Gwaii – The Line at Lyell”, exclusive footage from that time features touching interviews with elders; Ada Yovanovich and Adolphus Marks. Contemporary interviews were conducted with the Elders Ethel Jones and Watson Pryce in 2002. They shared their memories of that trying time. Sadly all four Elders have passed on but their act of selfless devotion to their beloved Haida Gwaii should be an inspiration to us all.

Visiting this place was a great inspiration for me. I would say it was one of the most stirring and inspiring moments of my visit. It was pouring down buckets that day, but I could hear the Elders and the protestors, firm in their convictions and in their hearts. Their spirits were all around me. There was even an old Chinese Checkers game still left in the main cabin. I sat in the doorway for a very long time, imagining what it might have been like for them all, to make a stand, bind together and speak out for what was right, not just for themselves, but for everyone.

I am grateful that the Haida Nation, these Elders and young warrior members stood so firmly to protect this place. We should do the same now, as the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project by Enbridge threatens once again, this magnificent culture and ecosystem in which we are all so interconnected. Stand up and speak out about the effects that this pipeline will have on habitat, culture and the ecology of our planet. Write your MP and the  official opposition. If you are international, write your own governments and let them know that this is an issue for all people.

Make yourself heard…and be part of the new “Line”. Do the right thing.


Are We Sheep, Content To Lick The Side of The Road – or Do We Stand and Deliver Our Destiny?

Big Horn Sheep on the Icefields Parkway

Big Horn Sheep on the Icefields Parkway ©2012 Janice Tanton.

The Icefields Parkway starts to get well-travelled at this time of the year. It’s still a barren stretch of road, devoid of the average “touristy” stops, cell connectivity and roadside gas stations. You’re bound to see some form of wildlife almost any time of the year in this high country. More often than not, you’ll see Rocky Mountain Sheep vs. the Bighorn Sheep that you see above, but nonetheless….both will cause a jam on the highway as tourists from all over the world stop to catch their fill of  a bit of wild “Canadian” through the lens of the glaciers, the mountains and the Columbia Icefield. Hell…as taxpayers, we’ve sure marketed it! I’ve always said it’s the most beautiful road in all of Canada and drank that Koolaid…until today.

Today, I found a less-travelled path by the common North American, Japanese, Chinese and European tourists that so often are now found along the stretch from Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. The Icefields Parkway seems but a cheap touristy trinket version of “Canadian Wild”, eh?

Today…I found the road from Smithers to Terrace, and THIS is the most amazing piece of road that I have yet seen in all of my life. Wide areas of timber, rivers that flow with strength and purity one into another – of every colour and size, culminating in the Sacred Headwaters of the Skeena River. Wow. And until yesterday, I thought the Bow River was something to behold, but the Skeena has a power and life-force beyond comprehension and words. My friend, Rob Buffler talked about the Skeena over coffee last week. His eyes lit up with fever and wonder…and I would not have understood it until I saw it for myself.

The Skeena River

The Skeena River ©2012 Janice Tanton.

The verdant valleys that lay at the bottom of majestic snow-capped peaks that line the sides of the Yellowhead highway #16 westward towards Prince Rupert…have taken my breath away today. The smell of the air is different here. It’s newer – fresher, filled with spirit and the life-breath of the trees. The life-breath of this planet.

I get it. I get why we need to look at this land with different eyes, and protect it. I’ve never seen anything like it. Pristine…beautiful. There are no words for this place…and there are fewer people to see it.

I travelled for hours today, only sighting a few logging and industry trucks and a camper or two amongst them. The tour companies don’t come here…it’s too far, too remote, but it’s important. We need to see this place. This is the place that the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline (and a warning- that’s the link to Enbridge’s point of view of this) will pass through. It is almost as though this remote place doesn’t matter because the majority of folks never see it. This is just not true. It matters. Oh…how incredibly vibrant and alive this place is. I do not think we can afford to even take a small chance to ruin such a thing. It disrespects the Creator. It disrespects us. It disrespects everyone that came before us and everyone that will come after us. We really need to rethink this.

Protest of Enbridge, Northern Gateway Pipeline in British Columbia

Speak up. Spread the word. This land is important.

I despair that my children, and their grandchildren may never see such things as I’ve seen today, and I am not a sheep, content to lick at the side of the road while the tour companies plan the stops and the tourists jump from their busses, cameras in hand to catch a sheep licking the road. I don’t want to see that type of “managed” wild. It’s just not real…not living…not “us”.

I will not be that sheep. There is something much more powerful stirring within me.

This is the time for us all to become more like the bear – to travel far and wide and see what our territory is, beyond our comfort zones, beyond our daily lives and into the life we are all so deeply connected within.

We cannot lose this….or can we? Get involved. Find out what the issues are for yourself. Question and understand every viewpoint, and then voice an educated opinion.

A Study in Contrasts

Black Bear ©2012 Janice Tanton

Black Bear ©2012 Janice Tanton

Nothing quite so exciting than starting your trip by getting this close to a bear. I had a great day on the road, experiencing every form of weather from snow to sunshine and every terrain from snow-dusted mountain peak to mossy green swamp. In one day, I spotted two black bears, a huge male elk, bighorn sheep, deer, loons, bald eagles.

It’s made me realize once again, how privileged I am to live in this part of the world, and that so much is right in my own backyard.

And after spending the coldest night in the history of mankind, tent camping on the shores of Purden Lake, BC, I’m just enjoying a few moments of Second Cup coffee, a decent bowl of hot oatmeal, access to the internet and a few minutes on the computer….I’m off again, out of this artificial world of malls, concrete and conversation to the stillness of the Yellowhead Highway and a wicked Stephen King audiobook.

-Signing off from Prince George, Second Cup. Life is good, if somewhat filled with contrasts for me today.

Countdown to Gwaii Haanas Artist Residency – Haida Gwaii

I’m 10 days away from heading out on the open road and sea to Haida Gwaii for my residency. I’ve been blogging about the countdown on my CAMP Art Project site, so do head over there and have a look!

Camp Art Project

Camp Art Project Site - Subscribe for Updates!


I’ll be hosting a workshop on May 27th at the Haida Museum, and setting up and photographing the installation, “No ReZervations Required” along the driving route to Prince Rupert, so I hope you will follow the CAMP art project blog linked my work.

Gwaii Haanas Marine – Parks Canada Videos!

Here is where I’m going for the Gwaii Haanas Artist In Residency program.

Gwaii Haanas Marine is Canada’s newest national marine conservation area reserve.

This stunning marine environment is cooperatively managed by Parks Canada and the Haida and is a globally recognized model of shared management.


The CAMP Art Project Site