Wandering Around Out There With A Canoe On My Head

2010 Portageur Favourite People Award

by Preston
January 3, 2011

Portageur AwardsIn today’s installment of the 2010 Portageur Awards, I’d like to look back at all the people I met this year and choose one to recognize as the most intriguing. Normally, I would never single out a particular person for fear of alienating all the great people I met this year, but I think everyone would agree that this person is deserving of some award, especially one as prestigious as the coveted 2010 Portageur Award. In November of this year, I was standing in a line at the front of the auditorium of the Dundas Valley School of Art waiting to talk to the speaker of an absolutely fantastic presentation. I had read everything I could find on him and his work, and even wrote a post about my attempts at following his accomplishments. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to ask him, and almost left because the longer I had to wait the more I realized that I had no idea what I’d say to him.

And The Winner Is…

I was waiting to speak with Jim Waddington. You’ll remember I wrote about Jim and his wife Sue’s adventures capturing the real locations of the Group of Seven paintings over the years, as well as my first attempt at finding a spot myself. I’ve been to their exhibit at the McMicheal Gallery, and read pretty much everything I could on the Waddingtons. After all that, you can imagine how excited I was when I found out they were giving a talk close by, but I wasn’t really sure how much more I’d get out of this presentation. If nothing else, I was pretty jazzed about seeing them in person.

Jim and Sue Waddington (center and right) searching Killarney Provincial ParkWhat we were treated to was a beautifully prepared presentation detailing not only his pictures, but the complete adventure this couple has been on for the last 30 plus years. Jim explained how it all started, showing pictures of their first trip. He told some very entertaining stories about how spots were located. My favourite was about searching the Northern Channel, looking everywhere only to come up short. As a last grasp while packing up they spotted some fishermen and Jim decided to see if some locals might be able to recognize the painting. They didn’t. Walking back to the car, accepting that they’d have to try again some other time, Sue looked out into the water and pointed, casually saying “Oh, there it is.”

The audience would agree

I was most impressed with how complete the presentation was. Jim took us through a discussion on the Group of Seven painters – stressing that while they appeared famously in photos wearing suits and ties, they were very rugged and adventurous. He then led us to the location of so many of the painting in Killarney Provincial Park, and the effort it takes to get out there. He would show us a painting, then the photo he took when they found its location. What hit it home was he would then use a transition effect to show the painting turning int the photo. That’s when we’d hear the whole audience “Ooh” and “Ah”. It was great.

When it ended, we all clapped in appreciation. I wondered if we clapped long enough there might be an encore. It was a great little talk, and Sue and Jim obviously had put a lot of work in their adventures, but also in the presentation itself. It was as entertaining as it was effective. I’m really hoping this wasn’t an isolated event, and I think they should take this show on the road. If they do, you have to make sure to check it out. You’ll want to get into the canoe and revisit Killarney with a new perspective.

I did finally get chance to speak with Jim, waiting because I had to take the opportunity to thank him for starting all this. I introduced myself and gave him a quick “Thank you”. He told me he had read the post about him, and that he was actually in Killarney at the same time I was, but further south.

A few notes on Jim and Sue:

Sue and Jim mentioned that they’re shopping around for a publisher, and are hoping to write a book documenting all that they’ve accomplished. I’ll let you know as soon as I know more.

Another great aspect of the presentation was that it included a lot of local paintings and sketches, in fact one that was done just down the street from where we sat. I have since found out that Jim and Sue customize their presentations for the local audience as they had also done for the Friends of Bon Echo Provincial Park.

Check out their Group Of Seven site with pictures, videos and commentary on their work.

What was also nice to hear that after all they’ve done, they’re still not slowing down. Sue and Jim have many more trips planned focusing on finding painting sites on Baffin Island and other arctic locations.

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Preston and Nancy the dog pose with a Paddle in the Park Contest paddle
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