Alexander Supertramp And The Great Northwest – Part 4 ~ Whistler and Beyond

Goodbye Vancouver Island

Goodbye Vancouver Island

We left Vancouver Island on a full ferry, crossed the Straight of Georgia and connected with the Canadian mainland at Horseshoe Bay. Seeing Vancouver was on the trip checklist and we found ourselves on the winding four lane road heading directly into the city. Something didn’t feel right. Really seeing and experiencing Vancouver would require at least on overnight stay. Before we even got a glimpse of the skyline we grabbed an exit and came about back toward what we craved most, to get into the wild.

Hello Vancouver (almost)

Hello Vancouver (almost)

Arriving at Horseshoe Bay

Arriving at Horseshoe Bay

The Sea to Sky Highway followed the shore of the Howe Sound for 28 miles where we found ourselves being drawn into the parking lot of a tourist gondola at Squamish. We were in the land of Fjords and Glaciers and the idea of getting a birds eye view was irresistible. I grew up with Gondolas in the ski town of Vail, Colorado. In fact I was in high school in 1976 on the day that two of the cars fell to the ground. Details of three dead and nine critically injured were broadcast over the school intercom and every since that day I have been cautious about trams. The Sea to Sky Gondola was a good experience. Tammy and I had a car to ourselves on the ride up. We snapped “selfies”, gawked at the scenery and yawned to pop our ears as we quickly gained over 2400 vertical feet. After eating lunch on the observation deck, we strolled across a cable suspension bridge and through the forest, taking in our first up close views of the precipitous and glaciated coastal mountains.

Sea to Sky

Sea to Sky

tam on bridge 4 BLOG

There was a long line at the upper tram terminal for the ride down which we were able to circumvent as the lift attendants were in need of two for a car that was loading. We were kept company by a pair of grim faced women who said nothing the entire ride down and a family of four who I judgmentally guessed could not speak English. It turns out they were from Toronto and as Canadian as maple syrup. When we told them that we had driven from Colorado and we were heading 12 hours north to see Grizzly Bears, they asked “Why do you want to do that, Eh”. All in all, the day was incredible. After all of the tough times we had been through in the previous year, it was good to just feel like we were two kids on a date.

vancouver's foothills2 BLOG

gondola selfie BLOG

A couple of hours later, we found ourselves driving through the villages of the Whistler Ski Area, contemplating a place to park for the night. It was interesting to see what Canada’s world class resort looked like, how it felt in comparison to Vail and the large Colorado resorts. It didn’t take much of that however and we found ourselves heading on down the road in search of “The Wild”. We ended up pulling into a rustic campground at sunset, parking Alexander Supertramp next to a picnic table and a river. For the first time on our journey, we had escaped civilization and the masses of humanity, we were finally alone.

Alexander Supertramp in the Wild

Alexander Supertramp in the Wild


True Confessions Of A Creative Eclectic

Every Great and commanding movement in the annals of the world is a triumph of enthusiasm ~ Emerson

Where was I when they passed out the roadmaps to creative success?  If that happened in Art School, I missed it because I was in the other building learning about statistics, debits and credits.  I’m not complaining.  In fact I feel fortunate that I wasn’t programmed with artistic shortcuts and principles as I was in business school. “Pick one thing that you like, do it well and you will succeed”.  The next time somebody hears me give that advise to one of my kids, I hope they slap me because I wouldn’t be walking the talk.  At times I feel so scattered, I don’t know what to do next.

As a blogger, I spend a lot of time reading the posts of others, looking for insights and inspiration.  Last week I read a post by JoDee Luna, the author of an innovative book called Refrain From The IdenticalAlmost immediately, I picked up on her description of the “Creative Eclectic” and I knew that she had coined a name for my affliction.

I am a Creative Eclectic.  About five years ago, I found myself enthusiastically pursuing a plethora of ambitions that I had neither the training nor the time for.  Sketching, painting, writing, producing videos and even making music on garage band began filling my free time and taking priority over getting a good night sleep.  Today, as you might gather from a visit to my websites and blogs, I’m like a kid in a candy store.  You might also realize that like a confident (or cocky) gambler, I’ve left behind my day job and I’m now “All In”.  I do have moments when I catch myself saying out-loud, “Am I Crazy?  This is never going to work!”  But somehow, some way, I know that it will all come together.  After all, the most beautiful symphonies have roots in madness.

As of late, I have a half dozen or so unfinished paintings hanging haphazardly in the studio and I’m excited to finish them.  But as life goes, you can only peel one potato at a time, and right now I’m working on my video business.  My wife and I together, have created a new blog called The Local Tourist – Colorado.  It is all about finding adventure in our own backyard and documenting those adventures through our video production enterprise.  We would love it if you would check it out.

“If You Don’t Fall For Something, You Will Stand For Anything” – An Artist’s Mantra

“Tying One On” 18″x18″ oil on canvas

We have all heard the saying “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”.   We might see this popular quote on a bumper sticker or a church marquee or hear it within the lyrics of a popular country western song.  Who in their right mind could argue with the wisdom of these words?

I guess this is where I have to raise my hand and admit that I dance to the beat of a different drummer.  Last evening while driving home from a weekend getaway to Santa Fe with my Wife, a profound thought popped into my mind.  As I often do while driving, I had slipped into a deep hypnotic state of thought and I was pondering my progression as an artist.   It wasn’t but just a few years ago that my ambitions to be an artist were packaged away in the closet and my ego was absorbed in my efforts to succeed in businesses that seemed to choose me rather than the other way around.  In so many ways, I was drifting from one endeavor to the next looking for a fulfillment that did not exist.  Then, one giant decision at a time, I began jumping (or falling) off of a series of precipice’s that I would have no way of ascending again in the future.  The motivation for those bridge-burning life changes were founded in what seemed like nothing more than a compelling hunch or gut level inclination.  I now know with conviction that I did not fall from grace, I fell into passion.

Call me a rebel, a non-conformist or even accuse me of blasphemy if you want.  My mantra seems to be that                                                                                 “IF YOU DON’T FALL FOR SOMETHING, YOU WILL STAND FOR ANYTHING”.  You see, if I had not truly followed that which I am passionate about, I would have settled; stood for just about anything.

Maybe it is simply a matter of left-brain versus right-brain that determines whether one sees the dog wagging the tail or the tail wagging the dog here.  I’m certainly not alone in adopting this antithetical world-view.  I am accompanied by a great number of people who go against the grain, challenge the status quo and think outside the box.  Think of a great creator or artist and you will observe a person who took great risks to pursue their passion, you will also see a person who refused to settle for just any subject matter in their work, their work resonates that which they are passionate about and that is what catches the eye and the respect of the viewer.

As I share this new painting (“Tying One On”) with an audience for the first time, I can only hope that all of it’s technical flaws will be overshadowed by the passion that I have for the subject matter.  I never was obsessed with fly-fishing, but I did tie my own flies as a youth and I know that wading into a mountain stream can be a spiritual experience.  I now find greater satisfaction in attempting to capture the essence of fly-fishing on canvas than I do participating in the act itself.

Triple Wonderful – Painting My Wind River Memories

"Triple Wonderful" Oil on Canvas 24"x24"

My childhood was filled with adventure and some of my most memorable experiences took place on fishing trips to the Wind River Indian Reservation in the mountains of Wyoming.  This is where my Grandfather, William Butler helped to organize an annual pack trip that would introduce hundreds of Men and eventually Women and Children to the pristine wilderness over the course of two decades.  The memories of Wind River are made even more special as they are shared with my parents, sisters and some of my closest friends.

At Wind River, I learned to ride a horse over mountain passes and across streams just as the Mountain Man Jim Bridger did when he explored the home of the Shoshone and Northern Arapahoe Indians.  The days at Wind River were spent fishing from sun up until sundown.  Dozens of low elevation lakes surrounded the camp and the native brook trout were plentiful.  One day, each summer, a group would organize a one-day expedition to timberline, pressing on to the upper lakes in search of gigantic Cutthroat Trout.   These upper lakes ran in a chain, each one spilling itself out through waterfalls to the one below.

I have often considered going back to this special place.  Even after so many years, I find that the essence of Wind River finds its way to my canvas when I paint.  While painting “Triple Wonderful”, I found myself asking if places like this really exist and it is because of Wind River that I know that they do.  My good friend Andy, who was there with me in the seventies, returns each summer on a solitary week-long walkabout, touching and feeling the country that made such an impression on him as a kid.  Perhaps I’ll tag along with him one of these summers.

The Way That You Wander Is The Way That You Choose

"A Perfect Night" oil on canvas 16x20

“I want to see these houses solid, I want them to feel like houses.  I don’t care about your drawings and your values-they are your affair.  They will be good if you make me sense the houses and they will be bad, however “good” they are, if you do not make the houses live.”  ~ Robert Henri

My fascination with log cabins and wilderness adventure surely began somewhere in my pre-teen years, for the first time in my life I searched for something in my identity that made me unique from my parents, sisters and friends.  Yesterday, I found within a box storing the remnants of my sentimental possessions, a book entitled “How To Build And Furnish A Log Cabin” by W. Ben Hunt.  The back cover was missing but otherwise it was in perfect condition, just as it was when I carefully studied it’s pages and dreamed of one day hoofing it into the wilderness and building a cabin of my own with my own two hands.

My romantic inclinations of building a solitary paradise in the wild likely started with the release of the 1969 movie “My Side Of The Mountain””, which was a loose adaptation of the 1959 novel by Jean Craighead George.  In brief, the story was about a Boy who finds inspiration in the words of Henry David Thoreau before running away to the mountains to live off the land, the animals and his journal being his only company.  I’m sure that the part of the story that grabbed my attention was how he built his home, he carved and burned for himself a cavernous sanctuary within the trunk of a giant Hemlock Tree.

And then in my mid teens there was the movie Jeremiah Johnson, my fantasy instantly renewed as Jeremiah put the finishing touches on his log fortress.  With these song lyrics that fire inside of me was rekindled.  “The way that you wander is the way that you choose, the day that you tarry is the day that you lose.  Sunshine or thunder, a man will always wonder.  Where the fair wind blows”.

As it turns out, the fair wind blew me in the direction of starting a family and building a career for the next couple of decades.  Then in my late 30’s, I read the amazing account of the life of Christopher McCandless in John Krakauer’s book “Into The Wild”.  The adventures of Alexander Supertramp and his short lived utopia in “Magic Bus” made me smile from ear to ear and in the end I find that I have personally come to the same conclusion as he, that “Happiness is only real when shared”.

So this is why I am compelled to paint the things that I do.  When I paint subjects that are close to my heart, the process ceases to be just an exercise and it becomes an expression of who I am.  Somehow, painting my adventurous memories and my dreams gives me the best of all worlds.  In this work, I can make my happiness live and I can share that happiness with others.

Not just a book - lost and found

Colorado Snow and Painting

"Midnight Crossing" oil on canvas 18x24

It started snowing yesterday, which made it a perfect day for painting winter scenery.  I have been working on a series of full moon winter adventure paintings since January and I don’t want to stop.  The foot of very wet snow that fell overnight is a blessing for two reasons, we have had an extremely dry winter in the mountains of southern Colorado and I’m not sure how I can justify painting the cool tones of winter once the forest comes to life in an explosion of green and yellow.  These spring storms are helping me delay a shift in focus.

Mid May Snow Brings June Flowers

I so much want to share the entire series right now but as you can see, I have not even signed them yet.  Most likely I’ll release images of them one by one as they are completed.  This painting is called midnight crossing.  The mountain the West Spanish Peak, a near “fourteener” that literally is my back yard.  The rest of the props come from my imagination and memories of backcountry skiing with friends around Gunnison and Crested Butte, back in the early 80’s.