the wild things are
Ayoung boy wanders through the Antarctic’s penguins and Siberia’s tigers. efforts on an outdoor rock lagoon he is in the
the fields and ravines behind Simple forms, realistically rendered with process of creating, Bateman pads across the
his family’s home. Pencil and an almost photographic quality, are given an wooden floor—past natural wood walls dec-drawing pad in hand, a serious impressionistic twist, expressing something orated with black-and-white and colour pho-look of concentration on his that resonates deeply with Bateman and ele- tographs taken by his wife, Birgit; masks and
face, he quickly and quietly sketches as many vating his art past mere reproduction to an artwork he has collected on his around-the-of the varieties of migratory fowl that funnel emotionally evocative level. world travels; and several of his own paint-through the area as he can, occasionally refer- To say Bateman’s work resonates with oth- ings—and settles himself in his studio chair.
ring to his already well-thumbed copy of ers as well is an understatement. In the process His studio, contrary to the stereotype of
Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds. On any given of pursuing his very personal goal, he has the lone artist who must have creative privacy,
day, he encounters dozens of different species, become one of Canada’s most popular wildlife is set in the thoroughfare of the house. While
as well as a multitude of plants and all manner artists, setting attendance and sales records at he is at his easel, the phone is ringing and
of wildlife.Hesoaksituplikeasponge,trans- museums and galleries and in book sales, people are coming and going and asking
ferring his rapidly accumulating knowledge of achieving wealth and international recognition questions. Having painted in the midst of
flora and fauna to paper with increasing pro- and accumulating honours and awards. He is what others might consider an overload of
ficiency. At 12, he knows already that this is no also recognized as a leader in conservation stimuli for much of his life, Bateman seems to
idle interest—this is what he was born to do. efforts, using every opportunity to speak about thrive on this chaos.
And he knows that, one way or another, this is the care and respect that nature deserves. At 75, the father of five and grandfather
what he will do for the rest of his life. of six appears to be at least 15 or 20 years
The young boy was Robert Bateman. The Artist in repose younger and remarkably fit (he swims and
fields and ravines were the largely untamed For all his accomplishments, Robert canoes in the lake at the base of their 80-acre
areas that made up much of 1940s Toronto, Bateman is a distinctly unassuming figure. property). He speaks with candour but with-an abundance of nature that served as the At his home in the pristine beauty of Salt out arrogance—a thoughtful, intelligent man
launching pad of his deep and abiding rever- Spring Island, a short ferry ride off the coast who is both loquacious and articulate. In
ence for the natural world. of British Columbia, Bateman is disarmingly short, an interviewer’s dream.
Over the next 65 years, Bateman would relaxed, putting his guests at ease as he guides “I never doubted I’d be an artist,” he says.
travel Canada’s wilderness and eventually us through his rustically appointed, warm “I was just born that way. I’m convinced that,
around the world several times over, etching and airy, open-timbered house. Sunlight as far as artists go, they’re born, not made.”
into his mind and capturing on his canvas pours in through large windows that look out Though he majored in geography at the
the purest expression of that reverence he onto a serene landscape of overhanging shade University of Toronto, even that, he says with
was capable of, the forms of Africa’s elephants trees and low scrub. a chuckle, was so he “could get free trips into
and wildebeests, Canada’s hawks and owls, Slightly dishevelled from his afternoon the wilderness to paint.” MORE