Take notice of nature, says Canadian artist Robert Bateman

Robert Bateman, one of Canada’s favourite artists, speakers and naturalists, will be in Sidney next month.

Canadian artist Robert Bateman will be in Sidney Feb. 26 at the fundraiser for the Rest Haven Foundation.

Robert Bateman, one of Canada’s favourite artists, speakers and naturalists, will be in Sidney next month to help support a local fundraiser.

An Evening with Robert Bateman takes place at the Mary Winspear Centre Thurs., Feb. 26, presented by the Rest Haven Foundation. Guests can expect to hear the accomplished artist talk about his career, his artistic process and about his passions in nature.

“I just love to give lectures,” Bateman said from his home and studio on Salt Spring Island. “I find they are easier than making art. I was always a teacher.”

Bateman grew up in Ontario and became a high school geography and art teacher in Thornhill and Burlington, Ontario for 20 years. But before you start to think that he took up painting later in life, think again. He said for him, art was much more than a hobby all of his life.

“For me, it was never a pastime. As a teacher in Ontario I found time to paint and people said I had a good hobby. But it was never that to me.

“I taught for fun, and I got paid for it, but I paint for real.”

It’s a lesson he imparts to the many children and adults who ask him about his work and how they, too, might become artists. Whether it’s painting or music, Bateman said it has to fill nearly every spare moment.

“I say to kids, about art, not to go to art school or seek it out as a career — not unless you have a lot of time and a lot of money. Do the art, do it all the time — on weekends, holidays — do it all the time.”

In so doing, Bateman encourages any artist at any level to get to know their subjects, to slow down, pay attention to the things around them and realize their value — especially that of nature.

Bateman, who has travelled to many remote natural areas and used inspiration from those places for his artwork, is an advocate for conservation of many special places and for nature in and of itself. He said humanity’s impact on nature has had a terrible effect, subject matter he sometimes explores in his work. Paintings of a clearcut forest or of a skinned tiger — both displayed at the Robert Bateman Centre on Victoria’s Inner Harbour — speak to the environmental impacts humanity has wrought on the planet and how some cultures use animals as status symbols.

These issues will creep into his lectures, he agreed, in a constrained manner. He said he’s no David Suzuki or Al Gore, yet he hopes his words will reach people.

“We can’t close our eyes to these messages,” he said. “But it does take time for people to take notice.”

So, in that way, Bateman uses the fame earned through his work to try to influence the next generation.

How the children of today will impact nature is a serious issue for him and he said he’s trying to get youth to slow down, step back from modern technology for a while and create relationships with the world around them. It’s what he has done to help him create his art.

“You have to take the time, really see things like a leaf or dandelion. Doing so will not only help you get to know your subjects, but get to know yourself.”

Quoting artist Georgia O’Keefe, Bateman said, “Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time — like to have a friend takes time.”

Bateman is still a busy man, noting that he had been painting for much of the interview.

“I can talk on the phone and create,” he said.

He’s currently working on around 10 commissioned paintings, including a dapple-shade piece depicting two giant lions for a client.

“I’m still busy,” he said when asked if he ever thought he’d be so much in demand so late in life.

“I’m quite surprised at the quality of my production over all this time.”

It’s work and quality he credits to his wife, Birgit, and his assistants and staff that help keep him on track.


An Evening with Robert Bateman

Enjoy special guest speaker, Canadian artist and naturalist Robert Bateman at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney on Thurs., Feb. 26 in a fundraising event for the Rest Haven Foundation.

The evening, starting at 5:30 p.m., features a dinner, silent auction, a display of Bateman’s artwork (also for sale, provided by Peninsula Gallery) and personal book signings (Tanner’s Books of Sidney will have some of Bateman’s works available), preceded by the artist himself speaking about his career and experiences.

For tickets, contact the Rest Haven Foundation at 250-656-0717 or visit resthavenfoundation.com.

The Rest Haven Foundation was formed in 2014, a not-for-profit society created to help ensure Sidney’s Rest Haven Lodge provides the best care possible for seniors.