We’re going to stretch the canvas for the next profile in our on-going series about remarkable Canadians. Cory Trépanier is a well-known artist and filmmaker with a passion for capturing the vast Canadian wilderness on canvas. He has spent over a decade developing his Into the Arctic collection of oil paintings, developed from several expeditions to some of the most remote corners of the Arctic. Immersing himself into the landscape and travelling via foot, canoe, plane and boat, his adventures in the North have produced a travelling museum exhibition of fifty paintings, three documentary films, and global awareness for the wonders of the Arctic. His resulting INTO THE ARCTIC Exhibition Tour is now premiering at the Embassy of Canada. I’ve had the good fortune of hearing Cory speak about his many adventures, and spending some time with him when we both found ourselves sailing through the Northwest Passage. The interview below took place with icebergs floating by and the otherworldly beauty of the Arctic in our midst (and possibly a single malt Scotch in hand courtesy One Ocean Expedition’s top-notch bar).
Q: You’re originally from Windsor Ontario. What attracted a southern Ontario boy to the North?
A: The desire to paint the wildest and most untouched landscapes in Canada. I was originally inspired by our Heritage rivers, some of which flowed north to the Arctic. It opened my horizons with its vastness, and a landscape so different from anything I’d ever painted before. A beautiful part of the world so few people had ever seen.
Q: You’re actually painting on site, in the elements. A little different from a traditional studio setting I imagine?
A: Totally. The reason for doing this is to experience the landscape on an emotional level, laying down the foundation so that the final painting, completed in the studio, has a better chance of conveying what I’m feeling when I’m out there. It makes the challenges worthwhile, which include mosquitoes trying to gnaw me to the bone, freezing temperatures, strong winds, rain, polar bears, you know…the usual studio challenges!
Q: So what belongs on every Canadian’s Northern Bucket List?
A: Wilberforce Falls west of Bathurst Inlet is higher than Niagara Falls, and the most beautiful falls in the Arctic, plunging into an incredible redlined canyon. Coronation Fjord in Auyuittuq National Park is a 3-4 kilometre glacier with kilometre-high cliffs on either side, with the spectacular Penny Ice Cap in the background. I found a view on Banks Island in Aulavik National Park that took my breath away, wishing I had a much larger canvas. I hope my paintings inspire others with the beauty of the North, and maybe instil a greater desire to experience it for themselves.
Q: You’ve enjoyed tremendous support from Parks Canada. Can you name some of your favourite northern national parks?
- Qutinirpaaq (NU) – for unequalled vastness.
- Pukaskwa (ON) – for pristine water and ancient coastlines.
- Ivvavik (YK) – for hiking back in time.
- Auyuittuq (NU) – for feeling very, very small.
- Gros Morne (NL) – for its rugged beauty.
Q: Not too many people get the opportunity to visit these spots. What advice can you give those who are interested?
A: It can be challenging getting to the North, but there are companies that create accessible Arctic experiences, across a wide range of comfort levels. Some people might choose to do backcountry trips in our amazing national parks, others can look to operators like One Ocean Expeditions, Arctic Kingdom, or Black Feather, or explore other options through organizations like Nunavut Tourism. However you choose to do it, any trip into the Arctic creates experiences and memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life.