Artist Robert Bateman will be in Campbell River on Friday.

Robert Bateman sure to attract flock of admirers

One of the country’s most internationally-celebrated artists and naturalists

One of Canada’s most celebrated artists will be in Campbell River Friday.

Your chance to meet Robert Bateman, have him sign a work of his that you own or even add a print, book or calendar to your collection will be brought to you by John Westergard, owner of the new Pier Street Gallery.

“The beat still goes on,” the 84-year-old Bateman told the Mirror. “I am still getting wonderful lineups of people.”

Bateman will be at the Pier Street Gallery, 910B Island Highway, from 7-9:30 p.m. on Friday. There will be Bateman books, calendars and prints available and Bateman is happy to sign them. He’s also amenable to people bringing anything they already have for him to sign.

“I will sign pretty well anything,” he said.

Bateman should require no introduction. He’s one of the country’s most internationally-celebrated artists and naturalists.

His honours, awards and honorary doctorates are numerous: he was made Officer of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian award in 1984. He has also been given the Rachel Carson Award (1996), the Golden Plate from the American Academy of Achievement (1998) and the Order of British Columbia (2001), and Human Rights Defender Award from Amnesty International (2007); he was named one of the 20th Century’s Champions of Conservation by the U.S. National Audubon Society (1998).

This will be Bateman’s first visit to Campbell River. He’s passed through here before, speaking occasionally at Hollyhock on Cortes Island as well as visiting Hornby Island regularly.

Bateman has known Pier Street Gallery owner Westergard for many years, having appeared at his Prince George gallery. But Campbell River has never been a specific stop for Bateman.

“I haven’t lingered nearly long enough,” Bateman said.

But the Saltspring Island-based artist is always on the move.

“My lifestyle is never lingering long enough,” he said with a laugh. “I have been doing this since 1981, that’s when my first book came out.”

Since then it has been years of gallery sales and book tours. But Bateman said what he loves most about it is meeting art lovers.

“Mostly to me it’s about meeting the people,” he said. “I am just delighted with the opportunity to meet people.”

On Friday night Bateman will bring along his sketch book which he bases a presentation on.

“I am carrying my little sketchbook with me,” Bateman said.

Bateman prefers to use a sketchbook in the field more so than a camera because it focuses his mind, it allows him to experience a setting in a deeper, more meaningful way. A photo happens so fast you don’t get to linger in the moment the way you can when you are sketching a scene.

On Friday, Bateman will have two recent trips recorded in his sketchbook that he will delve into. In May, he went to Japan on a birdwatching trip which he spent with a member of the Japanese royal family who is also an avid birder. Then later in the year, he sailed on the Maple Leaf, a wooden sailboat built in 1909, to the Great Bear Rainforest, which will also be the subject of many of the sketches in his book.

Not long after his Campbell River visit, Bateman will travel to the Gallapagos Islands, which will undoubtedly fill another sketchbook.

When not travelling, Bateman continues to paint in his studio on Saltspring.

“I paint every day, all day until 10 o’clock at night, seven days a week,” Bateman said. “Except when I am interrupted. I am interrupted a lot.”

Part of his daily routine are two 40-minute sessions of just being out in nature.

To get a real sense of the artist, you can visit the website for his Victoria-based Bateman Centre (www.batemancentre.org). Located in the Steamship Terminal on Victoria’s Inner Harbour, the centre displays the definitive collection of Robert Bateman’s work, which is used to support a dynamic program of public events.

But if you want to meet him face-to-face, swing by the Pier Street Gallery on Friday.