Buckhorn | Ontario | Canada
by Gary McWilliams (aka The Festival Nomad)
Traveling to Buckhorn and visiting...the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival is always a great experience! Even though we have visited it many times, the experience never becomes “old”. It’s amazing how many long-time friends and acquaintances we see there each year! For me, it’s always the joy to see what’s new, both in the art of our friends and acquaintances and the new artists that are being featured. If you have never been to the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival, I would suggest you are missing a really great event! Buckhorn is easy to get to and is only a few hours drive from Toronto.
Back to the Beginning…
Over 30 years ago Judi and I were introduced to the "Buckhorn Wildlife Art Festival". We were living in the Toronto area at the time and a friend, who lived and worked in Peterborough, suggested we visit them and visit the festival with them. We accepted and that was the real start of our love for festivals. We had a great time on that first visit, so much so that we have only missed visiting the festival two times in 23 years. That first visit was the start of collecting fine art and becoming friends with many artists. Attending the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival has become a yearly ritual for many people. Although the festival has changed over the years, the quality and integrity of the art has not. The Buckhorn Fine Art Festival is located in the heart of the Kawarthas, near the tiny village of Buckhorn. You know you’ve entered the village when you pass the “Buck” statue that was presented to the village by the festival committee so many years ago. Each year the festival is “kicked off” with a Grand Opening on Friday night. In 2007, Buckhorn celebrated their 30th anniversary and in a fitting tribute they honoured the man who started it all, Edwin Matthews. Unfortunately Judi and I could not be there, but we met Ed the next day (Edwin passed away a few years ago). Seeing Ed brought back many fond memories of visiting his beautiful creation, “Gallery-on-the-Lake”. It is still operating (with different ownership) and is as beautiful as ever.
Driving to the festival was like putting on an old comfortable pair of shoes. It was like driving back in time. We passed our old home located on Upper Chemong Lake (AKA Mud Lake) and then drove into Buckhorn, where we had passed through Lock 31 so many times. Shortly after we had left “Downtown” Buckhorn, we reached our final destination, the festival “off-site” parking lot. The shuttle bus was there waiting to take visitor to the festival grounds…
Art and Artists…
The shuttle bus dropped us off right at the main entrance. There is a back way from the parking lot to the festival grounds, but we chose the bus. We paid our admissions and went through the gate in to the festival. From experience, we turned right and headed for the Community Centre building. This is the largest of the buildings and holds the most artists. The Buckhorn Fine Art Festival is all about artists and their art. It is a celebration of the talent and effort that goes into each creation. Over the next few sections I am going to introduce a few of the artists and their art. Most of the artists I have chosen to talk about are known to both Judi and me. We have watched them grow and develop over the years. As artists, we appreciate their talents. As friends and acquaintances, we appreciate their comradeship and advice. Our first artist is Julia Conlon. We met Julia at the Cobourg Waterfront Festival many years ago. She was a fresh and eager artist ready to please festival visitors with her depictions of every day occurrences. Julia and her husband, Marty, traveled to Buckhorn from their home and gallery which are located in Windsor, Ontario.
Next is Marilyn Mercer. For a number of years Marilyn’s Cobourg Waterfront Festival was next to Judi’s. Over the course of several days and years we had the chance to become familiar Marilyn, her art and her humour. Marilyn’s home and studio/gallery are in Bobcaygeon, Ontario. Marilyn experiments with different media and subjects, but she is best known for her floral paintings which are absolutely amazing.
"Main Festival Gallery building"
More Art and Artists…
Our next stop was at Glen Loates booth. Glen is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. Although he is best known as a wildlife artist, his very inquisitive mind takes him into many areas of interest, a writer, a cartoonist, a collector, a model maker and he was the first artist to descend 5,117 feet in a submersible, to study and record deep-sea life in the Atlantic Ocean. My most vivid memory of Glen was at a friend’s home in Pittsburgh. We were sitting at the kitchen table looking out the window, Glen, as usual had a pencil and paper in his hands. A male cardinal had just landed of the branch of a nearby tree and Glen started furiously to sketch the bird’s image. It took him only a few minutes to complete, but piece would have been a wonderful addition to anyone’s art collection. Glen and his wife Sally live north of Toronto.
"Artist, Glen Loates"
Our next artist is Paul Murray. I first met Paul years ago at the Cobourg Waterfront Festival. I was introduced to Paul by a mutual friend. I have admired Paul’s work ever since. Paul and his with Cathy divide their time between Windsor, Ontario and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Paul’s depictions of the people of the Smokey Mountains are truly extraordinary. His paintings capture the wonderful character of the people who live there. When viewing Paul’s art you want to dig deeper to find out the true story behind each image.
"Paul Murray's Art"
Our Journey Continued…
Johannus Boots... Each of John’s works tells a story both in the actual image and the hidden images scattered throughout each piece. Some are easier to see than others. The skill and thought that goes into each of his paintings is truly inspiring. The stories that he tells are of nature and the human spirit. Judi and I have admired Johannus’s work for many years and given several prints to our family. Even his website is spiritual. John currently lives in Burlington.
"Johannas Boots Art"
We left the community centre and moved on to the artist huts. There are 11 huts in total and form an irregular ring around a pavilion. Entertainment is on-going in the pavilion throughout the festival.
"One of the numerous Festival Gallery outbuildings"
Michael Dumas is the next artist to be featured. I have known Michael and admired his work for many years. Michael is an artist’s artist, his innovative techniques and attention to detail is second to none. His knowledge of his subject matter is amazing. Several years ago, when I worked for Edwin Matthews (founder of the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival) at Buckhorn Publishing, I had the opportunity to travel with Michael to Banff, Alberta. We were there for a formal presentation of Michael’s work to the Canadian Park Partnership, a group that represented all the Friends of National Parks. Due to travel pricing, our stay was going to be for a few days but our official duties were going to be only a few hours. This left us with a lot of free time. We had rented a car, so we decided to go exploring. Exploring with Michael is quite the experience! By the time we were through, I knew more about wildlife and their habits than I thought possible. It certainly gave me a new level of appreciation for Michael, his expertise and his talent. Michael and his wife Ellen live in the Buckhorn area.
"Judi with Artist, Michael Dumas"
Brent Townsend… Brent is a wonderful wildlife artist known for his expansive canvases whose scenes depict the “intimate connection the animals have with their habitat”. Although Brent has been appreciated worldwide by art collectors, he is likely best known in Canada for his Polar Bear design that can be seen on the back of Canada’s two dollar coin. His hometown of Campbellford has erected a monument to his accomplishment.
"Artist, Brent Townsend"
Our Final Three Art and Artists…
Eddie LePage and I have been friends and business associates for a long time. Our friendship has transcended time and change. Eddie is recognized throughout North America for his inspirational paintings of First Nations people, animals and their relationship with one another. A number of years ago Bradford Exchange used an Eddie LePage image called “Retreat” on one of their collector plates. The plate quickly sold out (very rare!) and a whole Eddie LePage “Wolf” series was born. From that humble beginning Eddie’s wolf images have been used by Bradford on many different collectible items. So much so that Eddie is one of Bradford’s most collected artists. Eddie and his wife Kim live in Peterborough, Ontario.
"Artist Eddie LePage at work"
Many years ago Judi and I purchased a small Paul Brunelle limited edition sculpture. It was of four chickadees. It was one of our first art purchases. We loved it when we first purchased it and it remains one of our favourite pieces. Over the years, we have attended many Buckhorn and other art shows and have seen Paul’s work many times. I have always marvelled at Paul’s talent and the precision of his work. Unfortunately since this article was written, Paul has passed on.
"Sculpture artist, Paul Brunelle"
Our final featured Buckhorn artistis Mia Lane. Mia is best known for her wonderful paintings of “man’s best friend”, our beloved dogs! Over the years Mia has likely painted or thought about painting every breed. Mia does not just paint dogs, but raises them and has many of her own. Every time I visit Mia and her family, I know I will have a friendly, if not noisy, welcome from her furry friends. What I admire most about Mia is that she is always trying to improve on what and how she paints. She is a student of fine art. Whether it’s taking classes to improve her skills or experimenting on some new techniques, she is always committed to craft. Mia and her husband Robert live south of Belleville, Ontario.
"The art of Mia Lane"
This is the end of talking about some of Buckhorn’s great artists, but not the end of our visits to the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival. 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of this amazing festival and Judi and I are proud of our long association with the festival, its organizers and the many artists who have participated over the past 40 years! Here’s to 40 more!
"Gary with Edwin Matthews, one of the Founders of the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival"
In 2012, Jon Law, Festival Nomad Correspondent visited the Festival's 35th anniversary. The following is Jon's article.
2012 Buckhorn Fine Art Festival
by Festival Nomad Correspondent, Jon Law
For Art Lovers...
I have been to the Buckhorn Fine Art Festival once before, but only to perform so I didn’t get a chance to look around. After getting that chance this year, I certainly wish I had. With over forty exhibits and live music, the B.F.A.F. is definitely a must for lovers of the arts.
35th Anniversary Gala
The Buckhorn Fine Art Festival Gala Preview Night was a great chance to explore the festival without such a large crowd. Each artist was asked to submit a piece for a the 35th Anniversary Exhibit along one end of the Community Centre, however this exhibit was rather dark, had minimal signage, and could easily be missed if you were keeping your attention on the artists’ booths. There was art for just about any budget, from free samples right up to a $35,000 soapstone carving. The live music at the Gala, a Spanish group, was fun and at just the right volume so you could hear it but still be able to hear yourself think and speak at a comfortable volume. The entrance gate on Gala night seemed a bit disorganized. If you had your tickets you went one direction, but those who wanted to purchase or pick up reserved tickets had to go the other direction and then back in the other to pick up the free tote bag and program. The organizers put together a scavenger hunt; get your card signed by thirty-five of the artists and receive a free print of the art from the front of the program. This was a good way to encourage people to visit the entire festival, but the artists, especially on the Gala night, were often busy talking with patrons and other artists and I’m sure most people wouldn’t interrupt the conversations just for a print. The Gala night also featured a wine tasting featuring wine from Colio Estate Wines in Essex, and Casa-Dea Estate Winery in Prince Edward County. I don’t drink wine but those who did seemed to enjoy the nine wines offered. All in all, the 35th Buckhorn Fine Art Festival was a great show with only a few very minor hiccups.