An upcoming show at Bracebridge’s Chapel Gallery celebrates Muskoka in the style of Van Gogh.
Jean Forder and Iris Gammon, both from Port Carling, founded the Brown Baggers Artists of Muskoka in 1985. Brown bag lunches in one hand and art supplies in the other, they headed outdoors to paint.
More artists, both established and amateur, joined them to paint en plein air. Before long, they named themselves the Brown Baggers, and an active art group was formed in Muskoka.
They met weekly to paint outdoors when weather permitted and indoors when it didn’t. Each year they ventured outside of Muskoka for a painting get-away, with the first trip being to Algoma, Group of Seven Country.
Now more than thirty years later, the group has grown to about 35 members with some original members still active in the group. They still paint en plein air in the warmer seasons to feed their need for inspiration and plan for a painting get-away each fall. In the winter, they get together to share knowledge, and explore new and old techniques. The group hold workshops and encourage creativity in the company of like-minded artists. New members are supported in their artistic endeavors.
Each year the Brown Baggers challenge themselves with an annual theme, culminating in a group showing of their artistic visions. Always looking for a challenge, these artists strive for originality in their art as they work within the theme of the exhibition. For this year’s theme, the Brown Baggers voted by ballot to choose an art theme from a submitted list of about 12 suggestions. Muskoka in the Style of Vincent Van Gogh was this year’s choice by the membership. The choice was not unanimous and met with mixed enthusiasm. This was definitely going to be a challenge for the group.
Vincent Van Gogh progressed through his artistic journey in much the same way most artists in Muskoka have. Honing skills by learning to draw in black and white then proceeding by adding colour to those drawings with watercolours and gaining confidence to discover colour applied with bold brushstrokes. Each member of the Brown Baggers found their medium of choice for expression.
“We and Vincent have been influenced by art movements, the old masters, the impressionists, and also other cultures – we have developed our own styles while building on the techniques of others,” remarks Georgina Winterburn, one of the Brown Baggers who was instrumental in organizing this exhibition.
Vincent’s subjects were people, including himself, landscapes, cityscapes and still life, and his muses changed as he moved from the Netherlands to Paris and on to Arles in southern France. Muskoka’s Brown Baggers have settled here, mostly in their mature years, after having moved from various locations and experienced much that has influenced their art.
The Brown Baggers, like Vincent, enjoy painting outdoors and are always looking to be inspired by the light and vibrant colours of their Muskokan surroundings.
Van Gogh did drawings in pen and ink. He made prints. He used watercolours and oil paints. His techniques varied, as did his subject matter. His most recognized techniques include his characteristic strong brushstrokes and use of bright colours. He often outlined his subjects in strong black lines. Sometimes his art could be realistic and sometimes it was more impressionistic. How to apply this all to Muskoka!
This year’s Brown Baggers show at the Chapel Gallery in Bracebridge has a varied interpretation of Vincent’s subjects and style of painting that the artist’s feel pay homage to this artist and to Muskoka. Many of MAC’s member artists were inspired by particular Vincent’s paintings like the Yellow House in Arles, Chair with Pipe, or a self-portrait.
Visitors to this show will see how the Brown Baggers used these inspirations to paint the light, colours and personality of Muskoka.
Influenced by Vincent’s techniques, the Brown Baggers have portrayed Muskoka in ways that they feel pay homage to this artist. “Vincent would have loved to paint Muskoka,” Georgina speculates.
A public reception for Muskoka in the Style of Vincent Van Gogh will be held on Saturday, April 22nd from 2pm to 4pm. The exhibition continues at the Chapel Gallery until May 6th.
The Chapel Gallery is located at 15 King Street in Bracebridge. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm until 5pm with admission by donation. For more information, please visit www.muskokaartsandcrafts.com or call (705) 645-5501.