A Sweetheart of a Polar Bear

The sweetness of babies is universal. Whether human, or animal, it seems we are all struck by the cuteness of the young. If you have been fortunate, you will have seen a polar bear cub. They are so cute, playful and funny, it almost hurts! So why, you wonder, does this portrait of a dear little polar bear cub have a baby's breath (gypsophila) flower crown on its head?

Well, the flower crown is a symbol of nature, tribute and celebration. It reminds us that our lives - nature and humanity, are as intwined as the flowers in the crown. ( For another flower crown painting visit here)

The white gypsophila represents the innocence of the young bear, and well, that its English name is “Baby’s Breath” is symbolic in itself. Not only do we want that little bear to keep breathing for many year’s to come, but also it’s a reminder, we all share the airspace here. We are connected, that what is important for the polar bear’s survival is also important to our quality of life, too.

Do you know, that my realistic polar bear paintings are all inspired by the photographs I have personally taken of polar bears? This cub is Juno who was born at The Toronto Zoo. I think she is now at the beautiful Assiniboine Zoo, Winnipeg, Manitoba. I have not exaggerated the fur - it quite naturally formed the shape of a heart!

Sweetheart Bear  . 12” x 12” x 1.5” original oil painting on wood panel. © Christine Montague For more information, please  contact me.

Sweetheart Bear. 12” x 12” x 1.5” original oil painting on wood panel. © Christine Montague For more information, please contact me.

In the Pink - A New Polar Bear Sunset Painting

Fresh off the easel, fourth in the Polar Bear Sunset Series. In the Pink is a 24” x 24” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. This beautiful bear is both literally and figuratively “in the pink”

In the Pink.   Sunset Polar Bear Series . ©Christine Montague Please contact Christine  here

In the Pink. Sunset Polar Bear Series. ©Christine Montague Please contact Christine here

A Polar Bear Spring - Into the Sunset 2

Here is the second new polar bear painting of the Into The Sunset - Spring Series.

If you’ve been following me on social media, you may have noticed some inconsistency in the titles of this series, as they vary from post to post. The titles for this body of polar bear oil paintings are evolving along with the theme and the work itself. (read more http://www.christinemontague.com/blog/into-the-sunset-1 )

My concept is clear enough. The polar bear, the sky, nature, the expansive vista - all are beautiful and inspiring, The arrival of spring, brings an end to the long , dark arctic winter days. Daylight returns and with it glorious big sky sunsets.

My winter has certainly been a long one, but our weather here in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada is nothing compared to the far north. I started this series in January, and it was a joy to paint bright skies, pretty colours, and of course, these beautiful polar bear faces , as the weather outside my cozy studio hovered well below zero.

We universally love a good sunset, don’t we? In art, a sunset can symbolize contracting themes - finality and the end of the story, or the promise and hope of a new day ahead.

So, no wonder I struggle with what to call the series and each painting - when the polar bear/climate change story, as well as our own, is equally “up in the air” as to a happy or sad end of the day.

Into The Sunset 2.    A Polar Bear Spring Series. For more information on this painting   http://www.christinemontague.com/polar-bear-paintings/sunset-polar-bear-2  ©Christine Montague 2019 24” x 24” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas.

Into The Sunset 2. A Polar Bear Spring Series. For more information on this painting http://www.christinemontague.com/polar-bear-paintings/sunset-polar-bear-2 ©Christine Montague 2019 24” x 24” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas.



Into the Sunset - A New Polar Bear Series

In this new series of polar bear portrait oil paintings on canvas, a beautiful polar bear is portrayed against the setting sun, and the arctic sea.

It is spring. The polar bear’s solitary journey in search of seals, a mate, and shelter on the sea ice is coming to an end for another year.

The darkness of the arctic winter day vanishes along with the sea ice. Sunshine returns and so do the glorious big sky sunsets.

As the day draws to an end, the sun’s glory is reflected off the open water, the remaining ice, and the polar bear's translucent fur - sea, ice and polar bear connected by its light, colour and warmth.

We can reflect, too. What will we lose under the threat of climate change? A setting sun offers hope with a new day ahead, but "into the sunset" can also signify the end. 

This is the first polar bear painting in the new series . Let me know what you think.

New! Into the Sunset 1. 24” x 24” x 1.50” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague 2019  ChristineMontague.com

New! Into the Sunset 1. 24” x 24” x 1.50” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague 2019 ChristineMontague.com




From Polar Bear to Pet Portrait - It's All in the Eyes

Although I am an experienced portrait artist, over the past few years, my online presence has evolved to that of polar bear artist. Recent followers do not know about my portrait painting service. And so recently, when out of the blue, I was contacted to paint a portrait of a very lovely Labrador Retriever, it was interesting for me to learn that one of my polar bear paintings had inspired the commission!

Golden Lab Commission. 24” x 24” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me  here , or visit  Commission a Portrait .

Golden Lab Commission. 24” x 24” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me here, or visit Commission a Portrait.

How does a polar bear painting possibly relate to a portrait of a beloved pet?

It lies in that fact that I regard all my subject matter as portraiture, and my polar bear art is no different. I paint with the theory the eyes are the “mirror to the soul”. Until I get the eyes “right”, until they feel alive to me, I personally don’t connect to the painting. When that magical moment of connection happens, then the painting is on its way!

All artists have their own way of approaching a painting, especially when painting from photographic reference. Some artists apply the paint inch by inch, finishing each section completely before moving on to the next.

I use the more “whole painting” approach in my technique, but I start each session with the eyes and work out from there. As each new layer of paint is added, my focus remains on the eyes, until finally, the portrait comes to life in my imagination.

I have a biology degree, a fine art degree and most of an illustration degree. As a result, I like my portraits to be realistic and anatomically correct, yet emotional, too. But my ability to draw from my imagination, honed from my illustration studies, plays an important part in this process, too. One learns to be a bit of an actor - to feel that emotion and spirit of the subject and to try transfer it to the canvas.

For example, when I was commissioned to paint Dr. Oscar Peterson (Living Arts Centre, Mississauga, ON, Canada), I was honoured and thrilled to paint the jazz great’s portrait, but I had also never seen or met him in person. This was a larger than life portrait and I was working from someone else’s photographs. .

How was I to connect to the subject and make it more than a copy of a photograph?

First, I brought the whole painting to the edge of completion. It was a large painting (larger than life) and a complex one , as in fact it was multi-portraits.. Dr. Peterson’s piano was to be accurately represented. His hands were a portrait in themselves. And his face was clearly selected in the piano top!

So with the face roughed in, I began the final painting of it as I listened to the emotion- filled, heartfelt tribute of music and song that aired on CBC Radio that day. As his teenage daughter spoke lovingly about Oscar Peterson, the father, I did the final paint of his eyes and face.

So, when I began to paint polar bears, I wondered, how to bring the bears alive? How to make them more than a reproduction of a photo I took of a polar bear at the Toronto Zoo?

So for the painting below, Polar Bear Portrait Study 1 (Wistful Bear) ( and a couple of others in this earlier series) I placed my laptop on a stool in front me, as if a portrait model on a chair. One of my polar bear photos was up on the screen. I then created the polar bear portrait as if the bear was seated there in front of me. (wouldn’t that have been fun, although short lived.) Once again, the eyes say it all in this painting. (Read more about this painting here)

Wistful. Polar bear portrait. 12” x 12” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me  here

Wistful. Polar bear portrait. 12” x 12” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me here

So when Ottawa’s CTV news reporter and anchor, Christina Succi contacted me to paint a portrait of her beloved dog, I was flattered, but also surprised to learn that it was one of my polar bear paintings that inspired her request. But then I learned which painting and then saw a photo of her dear doggy,

Can you see the connection?

Wistful Bear      and the  dog portrait  it  inspired  side by side. ©Christine Montague

Wistful Bear and the dog portrait it inspired side by side. ©Christine Montague

If you would like to know more about my polar bear art , or info on how to commission a portrait, please feel free to contact me here.

Beauty in Suspense

A flash of northern lights reveals a beautiful polar bear suspended beneath the surface of the sea. A buoyant animal, and a strong swimmer, it is comfortable in this underwater space.

But the frozen sea is its true place, vital to travel, hunting, mating, denning.

Due to climate change, sea ice forms later in the fall, and melts too soon in the spring, leaving the fate of the polar bear species, in suspense.

But for the time, in this painting, we can admire the beauty, and power of the bear, envy its solitude, see the intelligence in its bright eyes. Beautiful deep blues, green, and unlike the situation, black and white.

Contact me here more more info about Polar Bear Beauty in Suspense.

Beauty in Suspense . ©Christine Montague 2018 30” x 30’ x 1.5” oil painting on canvas.

Beauty in Suspense. ©Christine Montague 2018 30” x 30’ x 1.5” oil painting on canvas.

Detail of  Beauty in Suspense ©   ChristineMontague.com

Detail of Beauty in Suspense ©ChristineMontague.com

Beauty in Suspence  was recently on exhibition at  In Situ 2018,  an exciting multi arts festival held at CreativeHub 1352 (Small Arms Inspection Building), Mississauga, ON. Canada. Although this photo is anything but exciting (I don’t have permission to publish the works it was hanging by.), it does give a good representation of how it looks on the wall, and how the edges are painted.

Beauty in Suspence was recently on exhibition at In Situ 2018, an exciting multi arts festival held at CreativeHub 1352 (Small Arms Inspection Building), Mississauga, ON. Canada. Although this photo is anything but exciting (I don’t have permission to publish the works it was hanging by.), it does give a good representation of how it looks on the wall, and how the edges are painted.

Color Fun

Curious about how well you see colour?

No matter how you spell it - color or colour - I think you will enjoy these fun, challenging, and informative  links!

I found this color test from Xrite (a global leader in color science & technology) particularly interesting . Allow yourself some time.

http://www.xrite.com/custom_page.aspx?PageID=77

From Method of Action  (upcoming site for peer to peer education for people who want to get things done design wise). This also works on an iPad. And, don't worry! You are not alone if you find you find the "Triadic" & "Tetradic" tests more physically challenging than the color test itself. (You'll see, she says smiling) .

http://color.method.ac/

And now that you’ve seen color?

Jen Reviews Color Meaning.jpg

Image from JenReviews.com

Color has meaning, too. Artists, designers, architects, all put great thought into the color they use in their work. For some more color fun, and understanding, (as well as some practical help in decorating), Jen Reviews interprets the meaning behind each color. Visit Color Meaning, Symbolism, And Psychology: What Do Different Colors Mean

You’ll see in my polar bear painting The Blue Prince here that I applied the theories of the color blue that JenReviews.com writes about.

Please note: This is a revised & updated repost from my previous blog post Color Test Fun.

The Fall

The Fall is a portrait of a polar bear on its solitary journey in the arctic night, unaware that a red maple leaf (Canada’s national symbol) falls before it from above. The fall colour of the maple tree isn’t part of this bear’s autumn landscape, but the frozen sea, so vital for its survival, is. Increased periods of open water from spring to fall, due to climate change, increases the polar bear’s vulnerability.

Painted in wonder and warning,The Fall pays tribute to an iconic Canadian animal, and connects Canadians in the responsibility to protect it, thereby protecting and saving ourselves.

The Fall. An original oil painting ©Christine Montague 2018

The Fall. An original oil painting ©Christine Montague 2018

Why the Canadian connection? Although one of the world’s most favourite animals, polar bears are only found in Canada, Alaska (USA), Russia and Norway. 60 - 80 % of the world’s population are found in Canada. The Fall has a “sister” painting, the award winning “The Canadian Flower Crown”. Read about it here

I am pleased to announce The Fall has been accepted into ARTWORKS 2018, the OCADU Alumni Show, December 2 -8, 2018. The Great Hall, OCADU. 100 McCaul St., Toronto. More Info and opening reception date & time here

In Honour and Celebration

Polar Bear Painting About Tribute Wins an Award of Its Own

My polar bear oil painting Canadian Flower Crown was accepted in, and was awarded 1st prize, The Jurors’ Award, the respected Headwaters Arts Annual Juried Art Show, (on until October 8, 2018) Headwaters Arts Gallery, Alton Mill, Caledon. It was an honour for me, that my polar bear painting about tribute and celebration of this magnificent animal, received a tribute of its own!

Jurors  Sue Powell ,  Regan Hayward , artist  Christine Montague,  and juror  Jill Price  with   Canadian Flower Crown     at the  Jurors walk,   Headwaters Arts Gallery , Alton Mill, Ontario, Canada.

Jurors Sue Powell, Regan Hayward, artist Christine Montague, and juror Jill Price with Canadian Flower Crown at the Jurors walk, Headwaters Arts Gallery, Alton Mill, Ontario, Canada.

It was especially gratifying and encouraging that not only did the accomplished jurors, Sue Powell, Regan Hayward and Jill Price, accept my polar bear painting into the show, but that they so clearly understood its message.

The effect of climate change, particularly vanishing sea ice is central to all my art work. In this polar bear portrait, a solitary bear is adorned in honour and celebration with a flower crown composed of the flowers of the Canadian provinces and territories, as well the nation’s symbol, the maple leaf. The polar bear is one of the world’s most loved animals, but it is Canada, that is home to 60 - 80% of the polar bear population. This magnificent, highly intelligent bear is significantly intertwined with the Canadian identity, and yet, its status in Canada, is vulnerable. 

Canadian Flower Crown, although a recent creation, was one I had in the works in my head for a few years.

(See more polar bear art here)

I was often surrounded by beautiful flowers, especially magnificent flower crowns, as my daughter was a floral designer. Keeping her company I would doodle, and flower-crowned polar bears made their way on the page.

But it wasn’t until I started to create my work for my 2018 Dark Water solo exhibit, that a flower crown polar bear insisted it appear on canvas. It became a mental block to my creating new paintings that were to be of polar bears in dark water. The only way to solve this, was to paint it, so I could get on with the show!

Canadian Flower Crown took more research and planning than most of my paintings. I had learn what the flowers of each province and territory are, their size, and their proportion in relation to a polar bear’s head. It would be so easy for this bear to be “cute” or “pretty” in a flower crown.

By showing its very large teeth, this polar bear remains the powerful animal it is.

Canada, We're In This together

Canada, We're In This together

Months ago, when the Artworld Fine Art Gallery and I planned the opening date  of my "Dark Water" solo art exhibit (March 24, 2018, on until April 3rd) we had no idea it was the same date as the 2018 Earth Hour.  the world's largest grass roots movement for the environment, co-ordinated in part by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF). 

Dark Water is an show about the wonder of polar bears, and the threat posed to them through climate change. Polar bears are the world's largest land predators, the only bear that are a marine mammal, are highly intelligent, playful, strong swimmers, devoted mothers, and are beautiful, too....

Read More

Toronto Dark Water

You are invited! Below is the invitation to my solo show of new paintings about polar bears and climate change. Special Guest: James Kushny, a University of Toronto researcher, and Board Director for the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, the remarkable, Leed certified centre in Churchill, Manitoba, where scientists from around the world, study northern sustainability . A portion of sales will be donated to this independent, not for profit, Canadian research centre. 

An RSVP for the opening night would be appreciated. For more info, directions or to RSVP please click here

Polar-Bear-Flower-Crown-invitation-sm.jpg

Polar Bears in Williams Mill. Etobicoke, too

Halton Hills Bears

The weather has been great here in the Greater Toronto Area, and for that I am grateful.

It meant that I could journey to the Williams Mill Gallery in Halton Hills, for the opening night of The Joy of Art, snow, and anxiety, free.  Opening nights are always anxiety filled for us introverted artists, even if a happy event in which I have 6 large paintings and a selection of little polar bears on panel on show.

The Joy of Art exhibit continues until Christmas. And not only would I love if you could see my polar bear paintings in person (and perhaps make one your own),  but I'd also love you to experience the beautiful venue in which I once had my studio, and resided on the Board. The historic Williams Mill Visual Arts Centre, that houses the gallery and a multiple of working artist studios, is centre to the unique picturesque hamlet of Glen Williams.  

Williams Mill is located at 515 Main St., Glen Williams. Only 20 minutes north of Mississauga. 40 minutes north of Toronto. The gallery is open Wed. - Sun., 12 - 5 pm. The 25 + artists studios are open Fridays to Sunday 12 - 5 pm.

As well as myself, other guest artists include Tina Newlove (painting), Naomi Assenheim (jewelry), Bonnie Glass (couturier), are a few of the names that come to mind. 

Visitors to the Williams Mill Gallery discussing Christine Montague polar bear paintings.  ©Christine Montague

Visitors to the Williams Mill Gallery discussing Christine Montague polar bear paintings.  ©Christine Montague

Upcoming: Polar Bears to Artworld Fine Art Gallery

On Saturday, December 9th , 1 pm - 4 pm - I will have sneak preview of two of my new polar bear paintings for my upcoming solo show of polar bear art (March 2018) at the  TWAC exhibit and meet the artists, which is just part of the creative holiday fun at the Artworld Fine Art Gallery Holiday Open House. If you would like to participate in the "Paint with Briar Edmond" event please be sure to RSVP with the gallery.  NHL legend Red Kelly will be signing his book "The Red Kelly Story". A portion of proceeds will go towards St. Joseph's Health centre in Toronto. 

I hope to see you there!

Artworld Fine Art Gallery is located at 365 Evans Ave. Toronto, ON M8Z 1K2

Cape Dorset Walkabout

Follow the Yellow (make that ochre) Dirt Roads

I visited the Canadian Arctic for the first time in May, 2014. After a day in Iqaluit (Nunavut's capital) I flew to Cape Dorset (pop. approx 1300) at the southern tip of Baffin Island. 

Although the landscape surrounding Cape Dorset is stunning, it was the ochre ribbon-like roads looping through the hamlet, and the constant activity on them, that intrigued me most.  Most people walk or drive ATVs (skidoos in winter) to socialize, shop and work. There are few larger vehicles, but the school bus seems always on the go, as are the trucks that deliver fresh water and empty the septic tanks. Thus my first steps out on the town (well, hamlet) were a delightful contrast to my city experience, where the roads are hectic and the sidewalks empty.

The hope and promise of Cape Dorset is represented in it's wonderful children. Photo: ©Christine Montague www.christinemontague.com

The hope and promise of Cape Dorset is represented in it's wonderful children. Photo: ©Christine Montague www.christinemontague.com

Next to my hotel (Dorset Suites), and across from Tellik Inlet, is the world-renowned Kinngait Arts Studio, the oldest printing studio in Canada.  The distinctive red-roofed, green and yellow buildings (seen below), have been around since 1957. This summer (2017) work has begun on the new cultural centre and studios. To see larger images please click on the photos below. 

Panoramic view of Kinngait Arts and kellit bay, Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague 2014

Panoramic view of Kinngait Arts and kellit bay, Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague 2014

Below:Tellik Inlet by Kinngait Arts. Turn right to go to the two grocery and supply stores, and the RCMP station. Turn left to find the Wildlife Office, the municipal pier, and the gazebo on the hill.

Christine-Montague-tellik-inlet-1
Christine-Montague-tellik-inlet-1

The gazebo, seen from most vantage points of the hamlet, is an unusual landmark for such a northern community, but, hey, I loved it. A sheltered bit of architecture, where I could start each day and take in the glorious landscape. In the picture below, you can spot the gazebo above the Wildlife Office (the building on the left ). Click on the picture below to see a larger image

Wildlife Dept.building.  Cape Dorset. Photo:Christine Montague
Wildlife Dept.building. Cape Dorset. Photo:Christine Montague
Huge. and I mean,  huge , polar bear skin dries on stretcher. Photo: ©Christine Montague 2014

Huge. and I mean, huge, polar bear skin dries on stretcher. Photo: ©Christine Montague 2014

The polar bear hide seen above was huge. I mean hair-raising, goose bump inspiring big. I wish I had thought to put my hand or iPhone by a paw for reference.

Meanwhile, on the same day I happily arrived in Cape Dorset,  a polar bear attacked two Arctic Bay hunters as they slept in their tent.  They survived, but only after a fight for their lives. For a dramatic account of the attack, and some equally dramatic polar bear facts, read http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/stories/article/65674nunavut_polar_bear_attack_survivors_thankful_to_be_alive/

I love polar bears, and my polar bear paintings are portraiture tributes to these great mammals whose future is of concern. But up north? One can never forget these beautiful, intelligent, powerful kings of the arctic are dangerous.

Big Bear Passing (48" by 36" polar bear oil painting by Christine Montague )

Big Bear Walking  . polar bear painting ©Christine Montague

Big Bear Walking. polar bear painting ©Christine Montague

So, up the hill to the gazebo.

Up to the gazebo. Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

Up to the gazebo. Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

Gazebo. Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Gazebo. Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Looking down at pier on Tellik Inlet from gazebo. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

Looking down at pier on Tellik Inlet from gazebo. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

Kinngait mountain as seen from the gazebo. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

Kinngait mountain as seen from the gazebo. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

 Below. Snowmobilers travel on frozen Tellik Inlet to get to open water beyond.

Inuit hunters head out on the land. As seen from the gazebo in Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague www.christinemontague.com

Inuit hunters head out on the land. As seen from the gazebo in Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague www.christinemontague.com

Christine-Montague-cape-dorset-gazebo-view_edited-1
Christine-Montague-cape-dorset-gazebo-view_edited-1

I was forewarned to expect roads thick with mud, but they were dry and solid. Later in summer, when the roads become too dry, passing ATVs and the odd car send up clouds of pervasive dust. But for now, as it was the first week of sunny, cheery weather, children, especially boys, were out on their bikes, pedalling uphill with admirable ease.

Bicyclist in Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Bicyclist in Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague

To be continued...

Note: I use a Sony A7r with 35mm Zeiss lens.  iPhone 5s was my back up. 

On to Cape Dorset, Nunavut

On to Cape Dorset

The great expanse between Iqaluit & Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague   www.christinemontague.com

The great expanse between Iqaluit & Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague www.christinemontague.com

In late May 2014, I travelled from my home in the Greater Toronto Area (pop. 8,000,000+) to the Canadian arctic. I flew first to Baffin Island in Nunavut, the largest and northernmost territory of Canada. I stayed overnight in Iqaluit, Nunavut's capital, and had a good look at that city's public art (Read Brush with Beauty: Part Iand Brush with Beauty: Part 2.).   But my true destination was Cape Dorset, on Dorset Island, near the Foxe Peninsula and on the Hudson Strait.

Cape Dorset (map https://goo.gl/maps/Ycjoz) is an Inuit community of about 1300 people (our local high school has more people). The Inuktitut name for Cape Dorset is Kinngait (high mountain) as the hamlet sits by the magnificent Kinngait mountain range.

Cape Dorset is the self-proclaimed "capital of Inuit art" and home to the world-renowned Kinngait Studios, the oldest professional printmaking studios in Canada. It is the most artistic community in Canada with over one fifth of the population employed in the arts (printing and carving). Walk the streets, and it is guaranteed you will meet carvers, either at work in their yard, or on their way to Kinngait Studios to sell the work they've completed.

Reaching Cape Dorset

Cape Dorset, on Dorset Island, can only be reached by plane, or when the ice breaks up by ship.  The turbo-prop planes of Canada North Air and First Air make the daily flight in (there may have been a merger since I first wrote this?) . Below is a Google satellite view of the hamlet and runway. The narrow grey bar on the right is the small Cape Dorset runway.  To the left of the runway, are the few roads of Cape Dorset, about 4 kilometres worth.

The airplane will only take one try to approach the runway and will return to Iqaluit if unsuccessful.  This means sudden fog, snow, and winds blowing in the wrong direction (wouldn't be good to be pushed back into the sea!) can result in the return to Iqaluit.

The Infamous Green Sticker

As a newbie to travel in the north, I didn't know to look for the infamous green sticker on my boarding pass.  The green sticker, for that is exactly what it is,  indicates the airline is not responsible for any expenses occurred when, if turned back, one  waits for the next day's flight (or the next day's flight after that, or the next day's flight after that...).

Google satellite view of the runway in Cape Dorset.
Google satellite view of the runway in Cape Dorset.

On the late May morning I made the flight to Dorset, I and the other three passengers seated in the sun-filled plane, thought the very personable steward was joking when, as we began our descent to the Cape Dorset runway, he announced we were turning back. Ha, ha, ha...no, wait, you're serious?! 

A sudden snow squall below made landing risky.

The others on the plane, regular travellers to the north, wildly looked at their boarding passes and proclaimed gleefully "No green stickers!".  And with relief,  I saw there was no green sticker on my boarding pass either.

Back in Iqaluit, my good fortune held. The other airline had room for me on their flight that day, and to the relief of the young clerk who had originally assigned me my pass without the sticker, I happily declined the hotel and food vouchers.

How can you not love the north?!! It gets in your blood immediately. ©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-plane-blog-3

How can you not love the north?!! It gets in your blood immediately. ©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-plane-blog-3

Approaching Dorset Island. Photo: Christine Montague   www.christinemontague.com

Approaching Dorset Island. Photo: Christine Montague  www.christinemontague.com

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-landing-blog-3

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-landing-blog-3

Landing...  Photo Copyright ©Christine Montague 

Landing...  Photo Copyright ©Christine Montague 

Down! My first gravel runway. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

Down! My first gravel runway. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

I like small planes and found landing at Dorset exciting. Like the roads, the runway is not paved, so the surface is rougher. And the wind pushes the plane. I have never been on a flight where the plane wagged (the only word I could think of) as it came to a stop. 

I am a big city girl who always flies out of Pearson International Airport. Pearson is Canada's largest airport, second only in activity to the JFK Airport in the USA.  In 2013, it handled over 36 million passengers. It  directly employs almost as many people who live in Cape Dorset and if you include all the other employees at the airport,  you have 40times Dorset's population). So, I found it a memorable and favourable experience to disembark a 20 seat plane, have my large luggage in hand, and be on the road to the hotel in about 5 minutes.

My first view of Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague

My first view of Cape Dorset. Photo: ©Christine Montague

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset

Cape Dorset Walk About

I shot the photos above about 6 p.m. shortly after I arrived in town. (FYI Nunavut uses EDT in the summer and EST in the winter). The skies were overcast, as they had been apparently for days before my arrival.

But when I stepped out the door early the next morning, the weather was glorious!  Since my itinerary was to consist mostly of me exploring and photographing the hamlet, alone and on foot, what more could I have asked?!

Approaching the road from the entrance of Dorset Suites. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

Approaching the road from the entrance of Dorset Suites. Photo: ©Christine Montague 

So that first morning, glove and care free, and my Sony a7Rin hand (my iPhone 5S camera served as backup), I turned right at the road towards Kinngait Studios, and the water beyond. 

Walking Around Iqaluit, Nunavut: Qikiqtani Hospital Mural

In 2014 I had the good fortune to spend a day in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, before heading off to the smaller northern Arctic community of Cape Dorset. In my walk around Iqaluit's city centre, art was everywhere. The mural at Qikiqtani General Hospital is a joyous, colourful celebration of the north created under the theme of "Come Together". Created by Iqaluit artist Jonathan Cruz, his  NuSchool Design Agency team, guest artists and community members.

Mural at  Qikiqtani General Hospital . Iqaluit. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Mural at Qikiqtani General Hospital. Iqaluit. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Detail. Mural. Qikiqtani General Hospital . Iqaluit. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Detail. Mural. Qikiqtani General Hospital. Iqaluit. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Artist Jonathan Cruz  created the beautiful tribute to mothers and children above, inspired by Sula Enuaraq and her two young daughters. Jonathan, has Greater Toronto Area roots including studies at Sheridan College.  Learn more about this  artist designer , illustrator, youth mentor and entrepreneur here.

Whale Detail. Mural Qikiqtani General Hospital . Photo: Christine Montague

Whale Detail. Mural Qikiqtani General Hospital. Photo: Christine Montague

Jonathan Cruz, Alexa Hatanaka, and Patrick Thompsoncollaborated to create the Bowhead whale mural above.

Faces. Mural. Qikiqtani General Hospital. Iqaluit. Photo: Christine Montague
Faces. Mural. Qikiqtani General Hospital. Iqaluit. Photo: Christine Montague

For Smiling Faces (above), Gene Pendon of Montreal was the guest artist. The community laid down the layers of base colours.  Artist, designer and NuSchool employee, Patrick Beland, coordinated the youth who worked on the mural, and taught them safety guidelines for spray paint.

To read more about the Smiling Faces phase of the mural please read here 

Kamatik (sled). Mural. Qikiqtani General Hospital. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Kamatik (sled). Mural. Qikiqtani General Hospital. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Polar Bear. Mural. Qikiqtani general Hospital. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Polar Bear. Mural. Qikiqtani general Hospital. Photo: ©Christine Montague

A Canadian Feast For the Soul - An Arctic Visit to Iqaluit & Cape Dorset

I had the sudden good fortune to travel to Canada's arctic in 2014.  From the Greater Toronto Area (GTA),  I flew first to Iqaluit, Nunavut's capital city on Baffin Island, and after a day's visit, was off to Cape Dorset, a hamlet just over an hour's flight away on Dorset Island. My learning curve about Inuit art and culture, the arctic landscape and environment, and how to travel in the north was steep (as was food and travel expenses), but oh, what a wonderful, worthwhile feast for the eyes and mind.

©Christine-Montague-Iqaluit-panorama

©Christine-Montague-Iqaluit-panorama

Iqaluit

One of the many art showcases in Iqaluit airport.
One of the many art showcases in Iqaluit airport.

With about 7,000 people, Iqaluit is Canada's least populated capital city. It is the only Canadian capital not connected to any other settlement by road.  Travel to Iqaluit is only possible by plane, or if ice conditions permit, by boat.

It is a new city, declared such in 2001 after quickly rising from its status as a settlement (1970),  village (1974), and town (1980).

Iqaluit serves as the gateway to all the Baffin region communities (such as Cape Dorset), as well as to Greenland, Yellowknife,  Northern Quebec, Montreal and Ottawa. So it is only natural, that art about the Inuit culture, history and Nunavut's wildlife is evident the moment one steps off the plane.  

And, yes, like any place that is building a tourism industry,  much of this panders to what tourists want, and expect to see - polar bears, inukshuks, and romanticized Inuit life. But, that doesn't mean it isn't a joy to see, which it was, it's just that I expected to find art representing modern-day life in the north as well (note: this may have changed in the past 3 years).  

Below, is just a sample of what I saw - all in my first hour of strolling through Iqaluit!

Polar on the exterior wall of new office building in Iqaluit, Nuanvut, Canada. ©Christine Montague 

Polar on the exterior wall of new office building in Iqaluit, Nuanvut, Canada. ©Christine Montague 

Iqaluit. Stone Park. Photo ©Christine Montague

Iqaluit. Stone Park. Photo ©Christine Montague

©Christine-Montague-Stone-park-iqaluit-caribou

©Christine-Montague-Stone-park-iqaluit-caribou

©Christine-Montague-Stone-Park-Iqaluit-pipes

©Christine-Montague-Stone-Park-Iqaluit-pipes

©Christine-Montague-Stone-Park-iqaluit-raven_edited-1

©Christine-Montague-Stone-Park-iqaluit-raven_edited-1

©Christine-Montague-Stone-Park-iqaluit-

©Christine-Montague-Stone-Park-iqaluit-

Me, looking self conscious, but spiffy in my newly gifted hat  (made by a textile artist  from Pangnirtung). In front of public sculpture. Created co-operatively by multiple carvers.
Me, looking self conscious, but spiffy in my newly gifted hat (made by a textile artist from Pangnirtung). In front of public sculpture. Created co-operatively by multiple carvers.
Polar bear cubs. Public sculpture. Iqaluit, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Polar bear cubs. Public sculpture. Iqaluit, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Public sculpture. Iqaluit, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Public sculpture. Iqaluit, Nunavut. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Bear and Chairs ourside Igluvut Building. Four corners of Iqaluit. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Bear and Chairs ourside Igluvut Building. Four corners of Iqaluit. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Vertical wood trim like runners of a komatik, the Inuit sled. © Christine Montague

Vertical wood trim like runners of a komatik, the Inuit sled. © Christine Montague

Sign outside the Nunavut government building ©Christine Montague

Sign outside the Nunavut government building ©Christine Montague

The People. The other side of the Nunavut Government sign. Photo: ©Christine Montague

The People. The other side of the Nunavut Government sign. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Nunavet Government Building. Stair railings shaped like kayaks. Perdago over entrance like komatik (sled) runners. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Nunavet Government Building. Stair railings shaped like kayaks. Perdago over entrance like komatik (sled) runners. Photo: ©Christine Montague

"No parking" sign in shape of polar bear. Photo: ©Christine Montague

"No parking" sign in shape of polar bear. Photo: ©Christine Montague

Nunavut Vistas: 10 Panoramic Cape Dorset Landscapes

Inspired by family members who loved working in the Canadian Arctic,  I jumped at the chance to visit the tiny hamlet of Cape Dorset, Nunavut when the opportunity arrived in late spring (May 2014). My trip wouldn't allow time for me to paint, but there was endless opportunity for me to use my camera (new at the time)  the very small, very light, but full frame Sony A7r with a 35mm Zeiss lens. This was also my first camera to have a panoramic feature. It was tempting to make every photo a panoramic one, such was the breadth of the landscape before me.

©Christine Montague photographs of Cape Dorset, Nunavut

©Christine Montague photographs of Cape Dorset, Nunavut

©Christine Montague Cape Dorset in the evening sunlight. 

©Christine Montague Cape Dorset in the evening sunlight. 

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-RCMP-pano

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-RCMP-pano

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-park-pano. 

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-park-pano. 

©christine-cape-cape-dorset-park-pano

©christine-cape-cape-dorset-park-pano

©Christine-Montague-rcmp-pano

©Christine-Montague-rcmp-pano

©Christine-Montague-Gazebo-outside-pano

©Christine-Montague-Gazebo-outside-pano

©Christine-Montague. Kinngait Studios, the famous print shop. Construction begins on the new cultural centre and studios the summer of 2017. 

©Christine-Montague. Kinngait Studios, the famous print shop. Construction begins on the new cultural centre and studios the summer of 2017. 

©Christine-Montague_Cape-Dorset-school-bus. Sadly, for the community, the red and blue high school seen on the left, burnt down. 

©Christine-Montague_Cape-Dorset-school-bus. Sadly, for the community, the red and blue high school seen on the left, burnt down. 

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-Black-Roads-white-water

©Christine-Montague-Cape-Dorset-Black-Roads-white-water

Polar Bear in Dark water

Dark Water 1 is an oil painting portrait of a beautiful polar bear swimming.  The water is dark, as daylight is diminished in the arctic fall.

Polar Bear in Dark Water. ©Christine Montague Available at  Artworld Fine Art Gallery  until July 20, 2017. 365 Evans Ave. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

Polar Bear in Dark Water. ©Christine MontagueAvailable at Artworld Fine Art Gallery until July 20, 2017. 365 Evans Ave. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

But dark water has another implication. The earth’s bright white polar ice cap, which serves as a giant reflector for the sun’s heat, is being diminished by climate change from carbon emissions. The melting polar ice increases the darkness of the planet’s surface (hence “dark water”), decreases the sun reflected back into space, and increases the heat absorbed by the earth. More ice melts, which creates more dark water,  and so the loop continues.

This loop of sea ice loss and increased dark water endangers the polar bear. Although this magnificent bear is a highly intelligent (think great ape), top-of-the-arctic-food-chain marine mammal (the only bear that is such), and is a powerful swimmer (slightly webbed front paws, highly insulated and buoyant body), it is dependant on the frozen sea for hunting (only seal fat sustains them, not berries or birds’ eggs), resting, feeding (can’t nurse in water) and denning (necessary for mother bears with cubs, semi-hibernation, and to ride out storms).  The increase of the period of open water from spring to fall, and the distance between ice tops in winter, leaves the polar bear and its cubs vulnerable to starvation, attack, and drowning.

The polar bear in Dark Water 1 gazes back upon her path, her body twisted as if in question.

It is up to the viewer to imagine how far outside the picture frame the next ice floe waits, and whether or not, until this moment, her journey was a solitary one.