“I can’t conceive of anything being more varied and rich and handsome than the planet Earth. And its crowning beauty is the natural world. I want to soak it up, up understand it as well as I can, and to absorb it…. and then I’d like to put it together and express it in my painting. This is the way I want to dedicate my life.”
The above quote comes from Robert Bateman, and wonderfully summarizes the work of one of Canada’s foremost painters and naturalists. During a decades-long career painting beautiful, and often awe-inspiring, depictions of Canada’s wildlife and landscapes he has never pretended to be a detached observer of nature. A self-defined naturalist and conservationist, he has worked with the World Wildlife Fund and been honoured by the Canadian Wildlife Federation and the National Audubon Society. But if you were to ask an average Canadian to name five environmental crusaders, you’d be hard pressed to get Bateman’s name, since he has rarely been seen as a face or heard as a voice within the ecologist community.
Recently, though, Bateman took a step into the public-eye, appearing in a short video entitled Not a Pretty Picture in support of the No Tankers campaign in British Columbia. Backed by the Victoria, B.C., environmental group Dogwood, the campaign hopes to block a proposed oil pipeline from Alberta’s tarsands to the B.C. coast, which, among other things, will increase oil-tanker activity and exponentially raise the chances of an oil spill in this diverse – and fragile – ecosystem.
While the video is simple and straight-forward, Bateman’s narration and the progression of his brush strokes from long and broad to increasingly erratic, and then to the precise, hits home the point that as no part of the canvas escapes his brush, no aspect of an ecosystem can escape an oil spill.