A Yukon Senior Remembers the Art Community circa 1960’s

I suppose no current young artist could relate to the rather amateurish Whitehorse arts community way back in the ’60s.

Our little Whitehorse Sketch Club gathered weekly in Diana and Ken Mulloy’s basement on Black Street (they still live there). We usually brought our oil or watercolours to the meeting after working on a piece at home while the kids slept.

This was a wonderful way to socialize and to meet other artists. I wish we still had the same opportunity to meet together and enjoy new work.

There were no galleries available, but we did enter the main art show of the year during Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous. We managed to sell quite a few paintings, mainly to arriving and departing Canadian Forces stationed here.

When Dr. Maurice Haycock, a government mineralogist, who had extensively travelled all over the North, came to Whitehorse in 1965 someone asked him to visit our art group. He and A.Y. Jackson, a member of the Group of Seven, had a stunning sold out show at the little library on Wood Street the previous year.

Haycock was a “Sunday painter” until a chance meeting with A.Y. Jackson changed him into a fine painter through Jackson’s generous companionship on numerous Arctic painting trips. Jackson developed a unique method of outdoor painting through his studies in France, which adapted Impressionism to the rugged Canadian landscape.

We lined up our pictures in anticipation of Dr. Haycock’s visit. One from our group, Barbara Wilson, a landscape artist who was more advanced than the rest of us, had just completed a large oil of the mountains of the Skagway Road.

Quick and efficient, Haycock had hardly come down the steps when he remarked that her painting of the mountains looked like toothpaste. Wilson took the criticism and turned into a notable outdoor landscape artist; her painting “Shipyard Squatters” can be viewed in the Whitehorse United Church office. After the Wilsons moved to Lethbridge, Alberta she achieved admittance to the Alberta Society of Artists.

We pushed Haycock to take us out on a sketching trip the next afternoon. He agreed to meet us up on a bank across the river from the boat yard. He gave us an unforgettable demonstration. He had a lap paint box of Jackson’s design holding an 11×14 birch panel and about six oil colours.

He was very aware of what to leave out of the painting and immediately drew in, with dark brown paint, the outline of design, the shadows and the rhythmic patterns of the ice in the foreground.

He used one brush, no turps, but cleaned the brush on an old pulp novel. He encouraged us to appreciate the wonderful “homely” subjects that were fast disappearing.

As a result, many of us set out to sketch and paint the riverboats, shacks and our ruggedly beautiful landscape.

Most of us left some reasonable paintings that may be worthy of future collections.

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