“We’re seeing more phenomena of our natural
and human heritage vanish, gone forever, than has
ever happened before in history.”
The practical aspect—and Bateman is study of two things, two birds sitting on a the first one doesn’t look nearly as bad as the
nothing if not practical—was that he was also twig facing left or facing right, centred fifth one, so I go back to the first one. Almost
able to teach geography and art for 20 years. around what I call the ‘fried egg’ composi- always—sometimes it might take months—
Many people don’t realize that Bateman was a tion—yolks in the middle and the whites something will come to me and I’ll have a
full-time teacher until he was 46—he didn’t around the edges,” Bateman says. “That’s breakthrough and think that part of it’s
sell anything until he was 35. about it. It wasn’t a slice of life.” okay now.
“I loved teaching,” he states. “It was a In contrast, Bateman’s work makes use of “Some people think I just sit and copy
meal ticket, but it was more than that. I always empty space; his animal or bird subjects are photographs. That would be so easy,” he says,
said that I taught for fun and painted for real. often more like accents—off-centred or prac- laughing. “It’s my joy, but it’s work.”
I got paid for the teaching, but it was just fun. tically hidden—evoking the thought that the
I never expected to make a living as an artist. world continues outside the painting. The disappearing world
That was never my plan.” “Bateman’s subjects are ready to go some- At 75, Bateman has lost none of the pas-
where else,” wrote the world-renowned natu- sion for nature or for painting that gripped
Life’s rich canvas ralist Roger Tory Peterson. “They’re ready to exit him at such an early age.
That plan changed during a two-year offthe canvas. There is a sense of immediacy— What he has lost is the loss shared by all,
teaching stint in Nigeria, when Bateman dis- of a moment captured, and then life goes on.” and it is what concerns him the most these days.
covered his painting “voice” and the world The inspiration for Bateman’s work Very little of the Toronto of Bateman’s
subsequently discovered him. might come from a natural encounter with youth remains today. The areas that he roamed
For years he had dabbled in a variety of his subject, or from a trick of light, a dream or as a child and young man have been paved and
art forms—from realism to impressionism a movie image. He works from photographs built upon many times over.
and cubism as well as photography and and sculptures, or strictly from memory. And Much of what he has painted over the
Japanese art—influenced by artists from van though he lives to paint, and has almost every years has vanished as well, lost to the con-Gogh, Degas and Cézanne to Franz Kline and day of his life for 65 years, the struggle to cre- stant creep of civilization.
the Swedish wildlife artist Bruno Liljefors. In ate never comes easily. This is the paradox of Bateman’s life and
1963, an Andrew Wyeth exhibit inspired him “The ideas come and maybe gestate for work. As clearly as he envisioned his life’s
to return to his realist roots. The result was an years,” he says. “I like them when I first start, arc, it wasn’t until he was much older that
amalgam of styles, one that broke all the rules and then they get worse. So, I put them to one he recognized the transient quality of the
that applied to the genre of wildlife art. side, and I start another one to cheer me up. environment in which he steeped himself.
“Up until then, wildlife art would be the By the time the fifth one is looking horrible, He never intended to be a chronicler of
The Costco Connection NOVEMBER 2005