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Emily Carr mural a lasting legacy for the South Cariboo

The colourful mural was touched up at the beginning of September

The Emily Carr mural on the walls of Parkside Gallery may have lost some of its lustre but it continues to be an inspiration for artists across the South Cariboo.

According to historical records, Carr came to the 100 Mile House area to visit friends in 1904 and an image of her on horseback was taken during her visit. That photograph later served as the basis for her mural.

Originally painted around 20 years ago, the mural received a touchup this summer to repair a few spots where paint had begun to peel along the wooden portion of the building.

Sheryl Fremlin, one of the original artists and Patsy Granberg, both members of the Cariboo Artists’ Guild (CAG), undertook the repairs.

“It was really nice to be able to do those repairs,” said Fremlin. “I noticed there was peeling paint and I said we really need to fix this before it gets any worse.”

She said Granberg did a lot of the ladder work. “I was trying to direct her but it was really hard to direct from the ground,” she said, laughing.

The entire mural might need to be gone over in the next five years, Fremlin said. “It’s probably going to continue fading so I’m just saying it might need another coat of paint. In that case, we wouldn’t be removing anything we would just be adding colour over it to brighten it up.”

Dianne Clowes, another of the original artists, now lives in West Kelowna. Her nephew was recently up in 100 Mile House and sent her a photo of the mural. She said she was amazed at how good it looked.

The original project used BeautiTone paint from Home Hardware on the advice of Clowes. “It’s thick and it keeps its colour for years,” she said. “So that’s why the rest of it is still in as good a shape as it is. It’s really good paint.”

“I’m really pleased that Sheryl and Patsy took the time to touch it up,” she said.

The mural was donated by the Cariboo Artists’ Guild as a way of giving back to the District of 100 Mile Arts Council in appreciation for all they do for the arts as well as being a gift to the 100 Mile House community. The supplies were provided by the 100 Mile House Mural Society.

Artists included Clowes, Fremlin, Grace Mills-Hodgins, Estella Erickson, Olaug Jaenicke, Carol O’Grady-Micklash, Mona Apps and Yoka L’oiseau.

While some of the artists were involved throughout the project, others contributed a day or two here and there.

Carr had been invited by a childhood friend to spend some time in the South Cariboo at their ranch in the 150 Mile House area in 1904. She learned how to ride a horse and explored the Cariboo for a month before returning to her home in Victoria.

“The painting was based on three or four different paintings of Emily’s which were incorporated into the mural,” said Fremlin.

They were not exact replicas but were taken as inspiration to do the mural in Carr’s style. The trees were painted in Carr’s signature style, tall and skinny and the sky with all those swoops, said Clowes.

A lot of research went into the mural design.

“We searched Emily’s paintings and put together the elements and what would work and of course it was to reflect 100 Mile as well because that’s where she was,” said Clowes. “So we always do it on paper first and do a scale model, map it out on a three-foot grid with chalk and then transfer it to the building.” Once the grid is done then the drawing can be outlined.

Clowes said she was afraid of heights but somebody volunteered a metal scaffolding to paint the sky portion. “And everybody else refused to go up and seeing as I had suggested it I figured I’d have to do it. And the darn thing shook. As you moved it would wiggle but then I got used to that, I knew it was going to do that. But it was safe.”

The sky was actually very challenging, said Clowes.

“Getting the rhythm of those lines right. People look at modern art, and they go ‘Anybody could do that’. But in fact, it still has to be balanced, the colours and shapes and especially for that being so swoopy. The lines had to be sort of in proportion, different sizes, but it was quite something to plan it out and get the lines smooth,” she said. “That’s, I guess another thing too, there’s some very rough areas in the brick. Get a smooth line over it.”

They worked on it the entire summer. Sometimes as a group and at other times, people worked solo.

There are only four signatures on the mural. The first was Clowes with the others painted in smaller sizes underneath.

She was disappointed that the signatures did not carry the same weight. When she asked why they signed it smaller, she was told it was due to her coming up with the concept and direction.

‘I felt strange about that,” she said.

Clowes told those who had not signed to “get their name up there” but they didn’t feel they needed to. It was a team effort.

“It was a collaboration,” said Fremlin.

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Fiona Grisswell

About the Author: Fiona Grisswell

I graduated from the Writing and New Media Program at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George in 2004.
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