That would be Christopher Pratt. No relation, unfortunately, but he and his wife, Mary Pratt, are Canadian art institutions. More on that later.
I have a secret desire to become a part of the great Canadian plein air landscape tradition. OK, only once a year, but I respect and admire the work of its practitioners and there's nothing so romantic as the idea of facing the elements with a beat-up pochade box and a flask of coffee. I love the tortured trees in the windswept Canadian landscapes of the Great Lakes, and my landscape style lends itself to such drama, but the only ecosystem on the west coast that really works for me is on southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, thick with my beloved Arbutus and Garry Oak trees. A summer afternoon on a deep, quiet lake in the British Columbia interior? Not so much. I was there for a week, though, and Adams Lake is remote and pristine and beautiful, so what was my problem?
I struggled with the first painting, and it wasn't just the fact that I was using oil paint. (I can do it better -- and faster -- in acrylic.) It was also the fact that it wasn't a composition I would have chosen under normal circumstances, but I was determined to soldier on. After all, western Canadian art galleries are chock-a-block with landscapes painted by artists who make healthy livings from both tourists and locals who like to see the same style and subject matter over and over again. Much of it is lovely, so why shouldn't I join the queue?
Once I'd finished with my first painting, which turned out fine but wasn't exactly what I was aiming for, I set about looking for another like it, thinking that all I needed was more time in the saddle. So I stuck my feet in the stirrups and painted ... and after an hour or two rubbed it all off. I couldn't even admit to myself how frustrated I was getting. At that point I decided I needed some perspective, and went for a little stroll to see if there was anything, object or scenery, that I actually wanted to paint. All I could find was this canoe, identical to my own, but a paler yellow. Compositions immediately started popping into my head, so I set myself up in front of it and was immediately transported. And as I painted I simplified the landscape and desaturated the colours very gradually until this was the result.
Looking at it after I got it home I kept picturing the work of Christopher Pratt and Alex Colville, the enigmatic, cool and remote qualities of which I deeply admire. And I had to admit to myself that this was the most painting fun I've had in ages. So what's next I wonder?