Ontario Landscape Empowers Trio of Wilderness Artists Committed to Portraying and Preserving the Environment

Posted by: Andrea Hammer

For several years, Joyce Burkholder ran rural retreats for women in Ontario, Canada. In 1990, she took eight women on an adventurous canoeing experience and called it “Wild Women.” They canoed across a large Ontario wilderness lake and camped on an island for 5 days.

“I loved the name, and I think they did, too. It empowered and united us. It suited Kathy Haycock, Linda Sorensen and me when we began to define ourselves as a group of three wilderness artists … all women adventurers in our own rite,” Joyce says.

“It has been, and still is hugely fulfilling to be a full-time professional painter of the stunningly beautiful landscape of wilderness Ontario. It is exciting, dynamic and inspiring, especially being part of an identified female trio who have all made a similar commitment to portraying and preserving our natural environment. As artists, our exhibitions together have more impact, make a stronger statement and require less effort when we share the work load. Also, going out into nature and painting together is so much fun! There is an adrenaline rush arriving at a captivating location, whether it is by foot, canoe or snowshoe, then setting up to paint and hours later sharing what we have each done.”

Joyce and Kathy, primarily plein-air enthusiasts, urged Linda to join them about 10 years ago. They decided to brand the group as “Wild Women: Painters of the Wilderness” for the mutually supportive idea of promoting the beauty of Ontario by painting and publicizing exhibitions of their work together.

“We have different styles of painting, different approaches to how we operate our individual businesses as artists … and different personalities! It became obvious very quickly that the more we understand each other, respect our differences and work together, the more power we have as a group,” says Joyce, who also operates an email network to inform and promote community cultural and creative events.

In addition, she teaches painting workshops in watercolor, oils or acrylics and values the opportunity to help people connect with their creative souls.

“To see a person pick up a brush for perhaps the first time and empower them to actually put paint on paper or canvas is very gratifying … and when they like it, and get excited, it’s fantastic. Also, the experience of teaching seasoned painters new or different techniques and approaches is an honor,” she says.

Kathy, who met the 92-year-old Canadian artist Doris McCarthy in the Arctic in 2002, still thinks of her mentor’s credo: “Paint from the heart. Keep loose. Tell a story.”

After Dorris eliminated a whole mountain peak in one painting, Kathy learned that landscape painting is not a geography lesson.

“Painting is more like composing a loving poetic ode to the landscape than writing a report about it. I try to bring home a little piece of the landscape to share with the viewer. It must not only look good – it must feel good too,” Kathy says.

“She confidently steered her own pathway without any glimmer of competitiveness. In fact, she would much rather bring others along with her on her journey,” says Kathy, who follows a similar practice.

“Together, we ‘Wild Women’ share exponential contagious enthusiasm. We relish the exploration and discovery of new places. We discuss our paintings and critique, plan future projects, trips and events. It’s always a rich adventure, not just the painting but also the camaraderie and exchange of reactions, feelings, insights and growth in our respective painting development.”

When painting alone, Kathy explores a close connect with Nature, which focuses the “flow” of her art during a time of disconnection from the land.

“Painting by myself alone sounds lonely but, in fact, it’s a very rich very personal experience I feed off of. It’s just me and the wild. I am totally immersed in the landscape, part of it; all my senses open and become exposed and spontaneous,” she says, embracing travel challenges and inclement weather as positive input for painting.

“These days, living in a cloud on the Internet really takes the cake. But back in the early 1970s, we three women all revitalized that close connection to Nature in our own lives. Independently of one another, we all moved out of the city into the wilderness to carve out more meaningful lives, creating our art in a simple back to the land off-grid lifestyle,” she says.

“Our art brought us together as Wild Women, creating a strong and pleasant voice as advocates for nature. As a landscape painter I want to bring to viewers a sample of what it is like to connect with Nature so they can look at my painting at home on their living room wall and begin to feel that connect.”

Back in the early 1970s, Linda was on a quest for a simpler lifestyle, living close to the land and nature.

“When I discovered this Shangri-La existed in Killaloe, Ontario, I set down roots and eventually began to raise my family after settling down and falling in love. There was a committed community of back-to-the-landers, who like me embraced this self-sufficient alternative lifestyle of homesteading and living off the land. Most of us had come from the urban landscape of consumerism and suburban city life. So this new way of living appealed to my sense of adventure and my unconventional outlook at the time,” she says.

Linda enjoyed the hands-on approach of carving out an existence in the wilderness.

“During these years of self-sacrifice, I adopted a credo I learned from a friend, and I applied this aspiration to my life. It was simply the words: “Art in Every Day Living.” Since my first commitment was to raising my family, I thought of my children as my art and raised them creatively,” she says.

“When my time returned to me after the kids were raised … my resolve and decision to pursue my art was stronger than ever. The artist inside of me was longing to create, so I decided to pursue my dreams and become a painter! I think that everything that had sustained me all those years made my resolve to pursue my art.”

Linda has led an adventurous life as a woman and artist living close to nature for 45 years.

“Even as a young girl, I rode the wilder horse. I think this is my nature. It is only natural for me as an artist to be an adventurous one. I truly enjoy getting out there in a canoe, pitching the tent and being there, absorbing the wilderness and timeless freedom of the experience,” she says.

“My painting is enhanced by my wilderness forays. In the past 25 years, I have created a body of work I call ‘Algonquin Wilderness’ and have embraced adventure as an integral part of the painting process. Nature is a strong and magical force that nourishes my work and feeds my soul. One cannot exist without the other.”

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