A visit from Robert Bateman
Perhaps the most famous living Canadian artist visited Tsawwassen in October to share his thoughts on art, nature and talk about his most recent book, Life Sketches: A memoir.
Robert Bateman, 86, stopped by the South Delta Recreation Centre to meet fans of his artwork, which is best known for his stunning realism portraits of animals.
“At times I guess I’m a controversial figure among some artists, who maybe don’t consider wildlife art part of the great lexicon of art. But, of course, they’re wrong,” says Robert, laughing.
Originally from Toronto, the artist has called Saltspring Island his home since the early 1980s. Much like Delta and other communities that lie in the path of the great Pacific Flyway, Saltspring Island offers bird lovers like Robert nearly year-long viewing opportunities.
“I’m not a scholar in the area of ornothology or migration but I’ve spent a lifetime with birds, painting birds and taking an interest in them,” he says. “So there’s a connection there and that whole area [Delta] is fabulous during migration time.”
If you think that somebody in his eighty-seventh year might be slowing down, nothing could be further from the truth. He is currently working on the largest painting he’s ever done, a private commission that is a 15 feet wide trypic. The landscape painting is based on the view of house in Victoria overlooking the Pacific, but Robert will be adding his own dictinct naturalist style by painting in some Harlequin ducks, black oystercatchers and turnstones.
He says when he’s not on tour talking about his autobiography, he’s painting seven days a week until 10 o’clock at night. Robert laughs when asked why he doesn’t rest on his laurels: Order of Canada, Order of B.C. and countless medals and awards.
“I’ve never heard of an artist who retired. If someone went blind or totally crippled and couldn’t continue to paint then fine. But I think artists are born that way and they die that way.”