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Don't mess with a soprano  

Hemingway with a brush

I’m not succinct with words.

I love fat, bulging words that run all over the page. I wallow in words; rich, descriptive words oozing with oodles of meanings, much to the chagrin of my editor.

“If you can say it in two words, Sue, why use 14?” he thunders at me. There are usually a few expletives in there I won’t repeat.

I find comfort in groups of adjectives and exposed, dare I say naked, without them.

When I meet an artist like Wayne Wilson, I am intrigued. He uses lines in a drawing like Ernest Hemingway used words in a story. The drawings are complete, yet paired to the essential elements.

He finds joy in finding “How few lines can you use to get the idea across." He then highlights the drawing with watercolour.

He was born in Lillooet and lived in a house his dad built. In the late 1960s, his family moved to Kelowna when his dad got the principal’s job at Central Elementary School.

His fascination with drawing and painting came from his mom, also a teacher. Today, at 91, she still paints and draws cards for the family.

Wayne always loved art, history, and geography. He graduated from Dr. Knox High School in 1971. He took art from Ben Lee, a former city councillor for whom a Rutland park is named, who he characterizes as a very open-minded teacher.

Wayne received a Bachelor of Arts in 1980 and a Masters of Art in 1989 from the University of British Columbia.

His master’s thesis — irrigation of the Okanagan — combined his love of art, history, and geography. The changing from brown to green.

“Irrigation is not a dry subject,” he assured me.

He worked for Kelowna Museums for 34 years and was executive director for the last 12.

No matter what he was doing or where he was going, he always had a sketchbook. "You have to have a pause when you sketch.”

In the 1970s, he added a camera to his drawing-and-painting arsenal to aid him when time was scarce.

He didn’t always draw so sparsely. He dabbled with watercolour for 15 years, but a job in a bindery exposed him to old paper. He loved the feel of it and found drawing and painting on it enchanted him. Antiquated paper combined with botanical illustrations inspired him to re-purpose both.

I bought one of his paintings for my husband, Rick, for Father’s Day. It is a picture of a fishing plug — a lure that is buoyant — off a troller out of Prince Rupert in the 60s. For those non-fishermen, a lure is artificial bait colourfully painted to attract fish.

This artwork is unique because he painted on a 1940s spent cheque. These particular cheques are special because of the stamp.

Who knew you needed a stamp for cheques in the ‘40s.

On the back of this painting he wrote, “The combination seemed like a good way to celebrate my love of fishing.”

His paintings are a great way of combining the present with the past, and most of them have a personal note on the back explain the subject.

He loves fly-fishing, as does my husband. Me, I flunked out with my one try. I guess you can’t talk or sing while casting, evidently fish don’t like it.

It is way too quiet for me. But for Wayne and many others, it is a serene hobby, a real escape from their busy world.

His work area at Folls and Ages Art Studio, an artist collective, is full of his work. I especially like the botanical paintings. His collection is a fisherman’s delight, a Mecca for a savvy wife searching for the perfect Father’s Day gift.

Along with his love for art, he is passionate about nature and preserving it. He regaled me with stories about a canoe trip he took in July 2014, travelling 1,200 miles in some of the most remote parts of Canada.

The trip began at Fort Province, N.W.T., and ended in Inuvik in the McKenzie River delta. There were 12 in a party and they travelled in three 26’ voyageur canoes. Voyageur canoes were used to transport supplies and goods a few hundred years ago.

2012 was definitely a pivotal year. He retired from the museum and began work as a part-time executive director of the Central Okanagan Land Trust. He is still working there, helping to ensure lands are preserved and protected.

What will you find him busy with these days?

He is putting the finishing touches on a course about travel journals.

I was privy to seeing one of his journals for the canoe trip. It was informative, yet beautiful.

His course will contain:

  • Five videos on sketching small
  • What to put in your journal kit
  • What to put into your journal
  • What not to.

He showed me his travel kit, which is tiny, but, oh, so efficient. Watercolour paints are a great take along. They are inexpensive and take no space. They are the perfect addition for a trip into the wilds or carrying on a hike.

I will never canoe down a river for a month. That canoe has shot the rapids. I will definitely travel, and taking such a kit will help keep the memories of that trip alive. I can’t wait to enrol in his upcoming class.

Some people paint with huge strokes on big canvases. Wayne’s paintings are on old, forgotten papers. They speak of history and yet are part of today’s world. They are huge in their smallness. A lovely combination. A lovely artist.

If you drop by and see he has gone fishing, persevere, his art is worth it.

www.WayneWilsonArt.com; [email protected]

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About the Author

Sue Skinner is a singer of opera and musical theatre, a choral conductor and a teacher/coach of voice. 

She has travelled the world, learned many languages, seen every little town in Alberta and supported herself with music all her life.

She has sung at weddings, funerals, musicals, operettas, opera, with symphonies, guitars, jazz groups, rock bands and at play schools. 

Skinner has taken two choirs to Carnegie Hall, sung around the world, and teaches for Wentworth Music on Zoom.

[email protected]



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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