Jonah

13″ × 16″, oil on linen (2012) Edge of Tuktut Nogait National Park, Northwest Territories, Canada

From the INTO THE ARCTIC Project

At the edge of the plateau I found painting possibilities in every direction. My family and I had been travelling for over a month, and the cliffs, rivers, and valleys – unlike any I had ever seen before – had me eager to reach for my brushes. I was at last going to fulfill a dream of trying to capture the Arctic on canvas.

But nature had a different plan.

A powerful storm followed by heavy fog blanketed the land for days. While I enjoy painting in any weather, I couldn’t see anything.

Jonah, an elder from the community of Paulatuk who was our guide, had joined us inside our tent, brewing up a big pot of “cowboy” coffee. Though primarily a landscape painter, I always try to be open to life experiences that move me. With my wife and two young daughters over 6000 kilometres from home, all of us huddled in a tent with Jonah on the Arctic tundra, this was one of those occasions. Jonah graciously agreed to let me paint him while he reclined, steam rising from his pot. After months of planning and preparing, I would never have guessed that my first painting ever above the Arctic Circle would be a portrait, especially of someone so closely connected to the land.

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