Renowned artist Robert Bateman doesn’t recommend taking post secondary education to become an artist — painters need simply to commit to painting. A lot.
“If you want to be an artist do art. And do it in all your spare time,” he said.
Bateman, who lives on Salt Spring Island, paints until 10 p.m. every night, seven days a week, taking breaks for meals and a couple hikes or bike rides in nature each day. In fact, he was even painting while doing this interview over the phone, because it requires using a different part of the brain than talking, he said.
Bateman will be giving a talk at the Island Arts Expo in Qualicum Bay Saturday, Nov. 3. The Expo runs throughout the weekend, Nov. 3 and 4.
Bateman has always been an artist, he said, and he believes that “just like hockey and tennis players, pianists and violinists, artists are born.”
He wasn’t handed the jock genes, he said, so instead of participating in sports, he created the posters promoting the events.
As a young boy, Bateman would paint nature and became an impressionist at 18 when his then wiser, 20-year-old friend, told him “you can’t do real art with a small brush.”
He later became a cubist and enjoyed abstract expressionism, before settling on realism, which is the only style that suits a naturalist, he said.
Bateman, 82, was a teacher for 20 years and began selling his artwork while living in Africa. He was teaching in Nigeria at the time, and while on a safari saw a poster for a calendar competition. It would be both his first and last competition. Although he didn’t win, his work was very popular and attracted attention from an American art dealer in the area. She tracked him down and began selling his work in the United States, Britain and Germany.
“I had a wafer thin but very broad and quite high reputation, but no one ever heard about me at home,” he said.
When he returned home to Canada, his first art show celebrating the country’s centennial in 1967.
The show sold out within hours.
Today Bateman remains enormously popular, and doesn’t keep any inventory, despite his assiduous schedule.
Although he has created vast collections of paintings to date, he still finds each one a struggle, he said. Similar to writer’s block, he will get discouraged after starting a painting, so he’ll move on to the next one.
“By the time I don’t like the fifth one, the first one doesn’t look quite as bad as the fifth one, so then I go back. So I go back and forth on them.”
Painting is work and in no way relaxing, he said, but nevertheless he’s “not fully happy” if he’s not doing it, he said.
Bateman recently completed two paintings for Sir Edmund Hillary’s cause to put schools and clinics in the Himalayas for the Sherpa people.
His advice to new painters is to paint what they love and not for the market. He said to really look at what you’re painting, all the particularities and aspects of it.
At the Island Arts Expo, Bateman will give a lecture on painting nature. He said he will go through some of the problems he has encountered with his paintings and where he gets his ideas. He might also touch on some controversial questions in art, he said.
The Fourth Annual Islands Arts Expo will take place at the Lighthouse Community Hall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3 and Sunday Nov. 4. There will be over 20 West Coast artists showing and selling their work at the expo, with a number of guest speakers and as well as some workshops.
There will be live entertainment, and over $2,300 in prizes, including original paintings by Sofie Skapski and Therese Johnston. Entrance is by donation to the local food bank.
For more information on the expo visit www.islandartsexpo.ca.