Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The story behind

I was going to show you pics of some dyebaths I have started, but it will have to wait for tomorrow. In the meantime you get another book report.

I pulled Paul Kane's journal of his sketching travels out of the library last week. If his name sounds familiar, he was a 19th C artist who lived in Canada most of his life, and is best known for his paintings of Native Americans, and Western lifestyle and scenery, in an era when the only whites out there were fur traders and missionaries, and Vancouver and Edmonton were forts. And I tell you, I am absolutely in awe of the drive that would voluntarily take a person through such a trip for the sake of material for pictures. He earned himself the money to go to Europe and train, came back, and searched around to find people who would commission him to paint pictures of the Natives and the scenery out West. Then he attached himself to parties of fur traders and natives, making two trips west. The second took him all the way to Vancouver and back, and took 2 years.

Think of it. Two years travelling by canoe and horse and snowshoe. Food mostly what you could hunt on the way, and sometimes not much of that. Or it would go bad - he describes one point where the only thing they had for some days was salmon they had to shake the maggots out of. Snow many feet deep in the mountains. Plains with several days travel between houses, and the threat of massacre. Wading through swamps or rivers wet to your chest. Rapids with the risk of losing self and canoe to a rock. Coming close to getting gored while trying to sketch a buffalo during a hunt. But he did it, and came home with two years' growth of beard, and many sketches to turn into paintings. Not my cup of tea, thank you, but I take my hat off to all the people who wandered the wilds in those years, and underwent similar hardship to come back and tell people what it was like.    

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