Lighting up the landscape

Libby Dulac can move mountains. With the sweep of her paintbrush, she has changed entire landscapes in Kluane National Park.

Libby Dulac can move mountains.

With the sweep of her paintbrush, she has changed entire landscapes in Kluane National Park.

But the artist, who has been based in Haines Junction for 32 years, doesn’t allow herself to get carried away.

“I like to be fairly faithful to the real scene so that my friends, who are mountain climbers or pilots, recognize it and don’t tell me I’ve missed a mountain here or there,” Dulac said last week while installing her most recent show in the Yukon Art Centre’s cozy community gallery.

Dulac spends her summers snapping photos of the Kluane wilderness.

“Composition is something that the photographer’s eye will see first, but sometimes I need to use a composite of several different pictures to make the painting,” she said.

During the winter she holes up in her studio translating the images to canvas.

“It’s my cluttered space where I’ve got paintings all over the walls and paintings on easels — especially in the winter,” she said.

“In the summer there are other things to do.”

Dulac’s son and his wife, who also live in the Junction, have six kids.

And that keeps us pretty busy too, she said.

Dulac has a strong Christian faith, and it shows in her work.

There’s a tiny cross hidden in each of her paintings.

“This is a tribute to the Lord and a thanksgiving for having so many blessings in my life,” she said.

And finding the secret symbols has become a game for her grandchildren, who often spend time in her studio.

Dulac exploits the contrasts in nature by accentuating the differences between the light and dark areas of her canvases.

“Our light is different here — it doesn’t matter what season,” she said.

She has a friend who wants to write a book on her paintings, and he already has a title picked out — Kluane: For the Love of Light.

“I found that a great compliment for my work.”

Donjek Sunrise portrays a favourite camping spot the family has in the Donjek Valley. Around the corner, is a gold mine run by her son.

Another painting nearby depicts snow hanging heavily on Mount Steele.

“This is the famous mountain that a great big chunk fell off of a few months ago,” she said.

“So I’m told this is now a historic painting,” she added with a smile.

Brightly coloured northern lights snake through the skies of a couple canvases.

“Several years ago I had a painting of northern lights on our dining room wall, and I had an aunt visiting from England so she said, ‘I quite like that painting and I like the lake and the ice and the trees, but how come you went abstract in the sky?’

“She couldn’t get it.

“She was here in the summer and had no idea of what the northern lights would be,” Dulac said with a laugh.

“If you haven’t seen the northern lights yourself it’s a bit difficult to imagine them.”

Dulac began painting three decades ago, on gold pans.

“It was kind of a trendy thing to do at the time — you would paint a scene on a gold pan and the tourists would buy them.”

In 1992, she won the Yukon coin contest with her image of the Kaskawulsh Glacier.

“It was wonderful because the prize was $5,000, and the motor had just gone on the truck that we always go camping and Skidoo-ing with,” she said.

Over the past few decades, she’s honed her skills at depicting the landscape closest to her heart.

“Kluane is my home and my passion, actually. The scenery in Kluane is just awesome and if you can capture the light on the right day there’s so much variety.

“I don’t think I’ll ever run out of inspiration.”

Dulac’s landscape paintings will hang in the Yukon Art Centre’s community gallery until the end of September.