BRACEBRIDGE - The Brown Baggers are talking a walk on the wild side of Muskoka. Whether it is encountering a bear beside a waterfall, wandering through a dark and mysterious forest or falling out of a canoe in the middle of a lake, the Brown Baggers are displaying their interpretation of the wild side of Muskoka at the Chapel Gallery beginning on April 28.
“As the group discussed possible themes for this year’s show, what started off as painting just wild animals in Muskoka soon exploded into anything relating to wild Muskoka,” explained Sandra Follis, the group’s chairperson for this year. “Through our art, we hope to explore what makes Muskoka matchless by emphasizing its wildness — the animals, flora, parties and the crazy things we do, such as regattas, boat races and special days relating to the area.”
The Brown Baggers was founded in 1985 by Jean Forder and Iris Gammon who one day packed a brown bag lunch and ventured outdoors to paint. It wasn’t long before a number of people joined them.
Today, with 38 members, the Brown Baggers make weekly excursions into the elements every Monday in the spring, summer and fall seasons to paint en plein air. Travelling throughout Muskoka, they paint everything from heritage homes in Gravenhurst, to the Oxtongue Rapids north of Huntsville, to gardens in Bracebridge.
The artists find that working outdoors on location gives them a better sense of the environment they are painting, whether it is the play of light on a meandering river or the moodiness of an overcast day. For each trip, the painters pack a brown bag lunch, all their painting supplies, a good chair and equipment to protect them from the environment — be it sun, rain or insects.
During the winter, when the weather is not hospitable to outdoor painting, the Brown Baggers organize workshops and share techniques with one another such as printmaking, colour theory, watercolour on canvas, acrylic and oil painting.
While it is possible for artists to paint on their own, the companionship of a group provides each member with advantages. More experienced painters can help newer artists who may be struggling with a technique, and all members can provide one another with critiques, giving one another thoughtful perspectives.
Wilma Brown, one of the Brown Baggers’ newest members said, “Watching and learning as well as being encouraged by everyone, this is very important to me and it’s one of the reasons I love being a Brown Bagger. Dedicating every Monday to improving my craft is an absolute thrill and being surrounded by such a wonderful group of artists is the best. Having the opportunity to work among such talented people is an absolutely amazing gift!”
Visitors to the exhibition will see a variety of painting techniques and mediums. “The gamut ranges from traditional to modern and realism to abstract,” said Follis. “This year, there will be fibre art, painted gourds and the ancient art of encaustic — painting with hot wax tinted with pigments. It’s always a pleasant surprise to see what everyone comes up with.”
“When trying to come up with ideas for Wild Muskoka, I realized how fortunate I am to live in Muskoka where there is an ever-changing land and waterscapes as the seasons go by. Muskoka is truly wild and wonderful with endless painting possibilities,” said Brown Bagger Georgina Winterburn.
Wild Muskoka opens with an artists’ reception on Saturday, April 28 between 2 and 4 p.m. Wild Muskoka will be on display at Muskoka Arts & Crafts’ Chapel Gallery until May 5.
The Chapel Gallery is located at 15 King St. in Bracebridge. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with admission by donation. For more information, please visit muskokaartsandcrafts.com, or call 705-645-5501.