... Cory's wife, Janet, and their two girls, Andie, 7, and Sydney, 3. The children scramble up the rock to peer over their fathers shoulder as he paints against the fading light. Cory captures the perspective of the scene, fills in much of the colour, and snaps digital images before darkness falls. By the time paints, easel and canvas are packed, the moon is poking over the tree tops, illuminating the warm August night to guide the family back to their beachfront campsite.
This is the homestretch of the year-long Coast to Canvas Project during which Cory and his family have spent about one month of each season along the wild stretches of the 4,200 kilometre coastline. Their inaugural paddling voyage back in autumn of 2001 covered several points from Superiors Neys Provincial Park to Twelve-Mile Bay in Georgian Bay. Subsequent excursions in winter, spring and now summer took them along remote stretches of Lakes Superior and Huron. For the most part they camped in the wilderness, but their accommodations also included roadside hotels, rustic lodges, and an abandoned cabin. Travelling by helicopter, fishing vessel, canoe, snowshoe and on foot allowed them to experience remote sections of the coast in seasonal guises that relatively few have witnessed.
Cory has lived in the Caledon area since his teens and much of art has been inspired by the local countryside. He recently completed a poster commissioned to promote the Humber River, and he has just been commissioned to create another poster, promoting the natural significance of the Oak Ridges Moraine. Although he had also travelled and painted extensively across Canada, his first introduction to the rugged northern coasts of Superior and Huron came only a few years ago when the Ontario government hired him to produce a painting depicting the beauty and diversity of the newly christened Great Lakes Heritage Coast.
Cory spent two weeks travelling the region to gather reference for the Living Coast commission. However, although he injected as many of the coast's attributes as he could into the painting, he was struck by the great diversity of subject matter offered by the rugged beauty of the coastal landscape. "The introduction to this magnificent stretch of coastline really helped to chart my artistic and professional course for the next few years," he says.
Although he had an established career as a commercial artist, Cory was increasingly looking for opportunities to focus his efforts on fine art. The publicity around the Great Lakes Heritage Coast, designated as a featured area through Ontarios Living Legacy program, meshed well with his desire to paint it. With his artistic abilities rivalled only by his business savvy, the Coast to Canvas Project was born when Cory was able to partially finance his plans through private investors familiar with his art. "Some want more of my work, some think its a good investment, some want to be part of the project," he says.
The decision to include his family in the project was not a difficult one. "One of the most frustrating things is coming back from a trip and saying oh you should have seen this, you should have seen that. Now I dont need to do that." He admits that it might have been easier to get more work done if he had been in the field by himself, but it was not an attractive option. "I am not the solitary artist. I like to be around people."
Janet admits that during the initial leg of Coast to Canvas their youngest daughter, Sydney, would occasionally ask when they could go home, but Janet is sure the project will have a lasting and positive effect on the girls. "They love it and I think its a fabulous experience. I want them to appreciate this and not to think the mall is a cool place to hang around, and I think thats happening for sure," she says.
Cory agrees, citing an incident following their autumn trip. "It wasnt a week after we got back and Andie begged me to sleep out in the tent with her. It really made me realise that, as young as they are, these trips are having an impact on them."
Travelling and working as a family meant Janet played a huge role in the project. "I could not consider bringing the girls on a trip by myself if I was going to be doing a lot of work," says Cory. Janet's duties included home schooling Andie, keeping the family fed and clothed in the field, as well as shooting video and taking photographs.
Back at their home and studio on The Gore Road, Janet manages the affairs of their business, Trépanier Originals Inc. Its a role she accepts with enthusiasm. "I might be a bit biased but I think his art is fabulous and he is definitely going to go places," she says.
Corys highly accessible wilderness landscapes hover closer to realism than impressionism. "If you look closely at any of the paintings, they are not as tight as they might seem from a distance. My goal in a painting is to create an atmosphere and mood that represents the place I was at. Some pieces I leave a little looser if they accomplish the goal I want," he says.
Cory, 34, has that rare mix of artistic talent combined with the passion to pursue it. He says it leaves him little choice but to turn his talents into a career. "I know that if I didn't, I'd grow to be a very miserable old man."
Corys ability to sustain his creativity under a wide range of conditions has been key to capturing the coast through four seasons. I first witnessed the zeal with which he pursues his work during the late winter of 2002, when I joined him for a snowshoe to a looming bluff overlooking Lake Superior's Old Woman Bay. He laid oil to canvas in twenty-below temperatures for several hours before ambling stiffly over to the fire with a partially completed canvas under his arm. Other seasonal challenges included spring bugs, summer sun, rough water, and the constantly changing light and weather conditions along the coast.
In recent months, Cory is seeing much more canvas than coast. In spite of the challenge of painting outdoors, he surpassed his original goal of forty to fifty pieces and he has been hunkered down in the studio putting the final touches on the remaining few of what will total close to 60 canvases.
Cory will exhibit his Coast to Canvas paintings at an inaugural show to be held September 12-14 in the Caledon Log Home, located at the southeast corner of Airport Road and Old Church Road. A full-scale exhibition, including larger canvases and a video record of his travels, is scheduled for the summer of 2004 at Dufferin County Museum and Archives. Cory also plans to show the collection in communities along the Great Lakes Heritage Coast at such venues as Old Fort William in Thunder Bay.
For more information about the project, visit www.trepanieroriginals.com.
Reprinted from In The Hills Magazine, Summer, 2003 issue. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
James Smedley is an outdoor writer based in Wawa. Contact: email@example.com