Harold Klunder Mentorship: Transformation & Reorientation

This journal post is about my participation in a 9 day art residency from June 23-July 1, 2018 with visual art mentor and well-known Canadian painter Harold Klunder. There are a lot of things I want to say about this experience but I won’t be able to get it all in. I am sitting here at the laptop over 3 months later and having a lot of revelations to say the least.

This mentorship was hosted at the Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts (MISSA), a program that has been taking place for 34 years on the stunning seaside campus of Pearson College UWC (United for the World), just 8 minutes from my studio. I have lived in Metchosin for 19 years and never took at workshop at MISSA – although I have wanted to there was always some reason not to – work, conflicting holidays, kids, money whatever. Stupid excuses were always handy.

This year when I checked out the website I saw that Harold Klunder was going to be the mentor for the 9 day independent studies group and I committed right then to apply. I first met Harold when I was the running the Toronto School of Art and several years later when we moved back to Ontario from Haida Gwaii, we stayed with Harold and his artist wife Catherine Carmichael in Flesherton while we hunted for our property in nearby Durham.

During this time in Durham I undertook the LabourArt Project with James Masters and both Harold and Catherine were participants. We moved to Victoria, BC in July 1999 so I was looking forward to reconnecting.

The following is my visual diary of the 9 days.

DAY 1 – The campus, some shots from my studio and the draft of my first painting.


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DAY 2 – Harold’s feedback to me is that he wants to see more of the brush. He is drawn more to the monochromatic piece that has more brush detail – no surprise there and a challenge for me.


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DAY 3 – I am dead after the first two days. I contemplate my work in the studio and make notes. Nap and talk to the cat. I go back and forth to the campus for meals and chats with the 12 other artists in the mentorship. These women are awesome; all so different, creative and talented. We meet at the end of every day for ‘happy hour’ outside Elaine and Barbra’s studio. It’s magic. I haven’t felt this kind of freedom in too long!


DAY 4 – it’s so hot and I want more room so I move my set up outside. Opening the French doors is amazing. I love this hand-made easel that my partner Michael made for me years ago. By adding the cardboard at the back I can put up to 5 of the 9″x12″ panels on it and work them all at the same time. I work quickly and intensely and after lunch get another set of 3 panels done as well.

I am clocking more steps than ever. Typically at work I might get in 3K; during this mentorship I am getting over 10K every day – that is definitely better for my health and stamina against the vertigo. I don’t want to stop but happy hour back at the college is calling me – I want to hear how my fellow artists have done today and chat with Harold and of course have some drinks. Tomorrow we will have our mid-week show and tell and share what we have been doing. We will tour all the studios on the campus and finish here at my studio. Everyone will bring refreshments to have happy hour here. Can’t wait!


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DAY 5 – I work on a new canvas in the morning and head back to the campus for lunch and then the studio tours. It’s so amazing here – the studios are generous and beautiful. One is even on the boat dock right on the water. Everyone has what they need and more. I don’t feel left out being the only ‘off campus’ participant though and feel blessed to have this opportunity. Everyone’s work is different and their unique perspectives make it all the more interesting.

When we are back at my studio we talk about orientation and the committment one must make to orientation. Harold maintains that one must be intentional and commit to the orientation of a work; it is not good enough to just randomly land on it. It is also wrong when other suggest that a piece might work better if turned upside down for example. I agree and keep it top of mind now.


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DAY 6 – the key message from my peers is: Go big! If I want to do that I won’t be able to on canvas right now. No problem – I already had big roll of 250gsm Stonehenge – 50″x10 yards. Let’s go! Before Harold’s opening at Winchester Gallery in the evening a bunch of us stopped by Opus Art Supplies for a refresh. I had to get more India ink!



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DAY 7 – working on drawing #3. Stopped in at Metchosin Country Store on the way back from the campus after breakfast and our morning meeting. They had some huge rough brushes (one is 6″ wide) and a paint trough that would be perfect for today. The Speedball inks are intense black, almost cartoon-like. There are moments at the beginning as I put down my initial structure that I could stop and say “done”, but I go on. I know it can’t end there. I can only get one drawing in today; it’s intense.


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DAY 8 – the last production day. Tonight we will have our last happy hour. Tomorrow a final share.



DAY 9 – we have our final share in the morning. Some of the artists are staying on for another blissful week on campus, working at their own stuff. The rest of us return to our homes and Harold is on his way back to Montreal and then Newfoundland. This has been an incredible experience. One that will keep inspiring me, but can I keep the momentum going? was this just a blip?




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Another thing I learned by doing this mentorship is that it is important for artists to take care of their development by sharing and learning from others and building new relationships. I haven’t done enough of that since leaving art school and it created a void. This interaction helped to transform and reoirient me in ways I could not have predicted. Feeling a lot of gratitude and inspiration!

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