90″ × 66″, oil on linen (2017) Wilberforce Falls, Hood River, West of Bathurst Inlet, Nunavut, Canada
Painting in the Canadian Arctic has offered me a wealth of new experiences: encounters with wildlife, learning about Inuit culture, connecting with history, studying hardy and ephemeral Arctic flora. It’s also offered me the opportunity to set up my easel in places where such things have seldom, if ever, been set up before.
Wilberforce Falls (now called Kattimannap Qurlua) is one of these places.
Some of the only art I had seen from this hidden gem is an etching from explorer John Franklin’s first expedition, which travelled up the Hood River in 1821. His crew included artists George Back and Robert Hood, from whose sketches an etching was derived. Franklin was so impressed with the falls during his early explorations that he named them after William Wilberforce, a fellow Englishman whose life’s work led eventually to the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire.
This natural wonder captivated me completely as I tied my easel to a nearby bush at the cliff’s edge. I revelled in the falls’ roar, was mesmerized by the colourful, shifting prism in the mist, and was awed by its steep, red-walled cliffs. Here, I felt the exhilaration of painting in a truly wild place, one that I hope will remain so forever.