A paintbrush in the bush

When inspiration strikes on a hike, Faro artist Horst Berlow trades his walking stick for a paintbrush. He's been doing this for 15 years. He sets out on wilderness adventures with his wife and, when he comes across a Yukon landscape he likes, he photographs it and then paints it when he gets home.

When inspiration strikes on a hike, Faro artist Horst Berlow trades his walking stick for a paintbrush.

He’s been doing this for 15 years.

He sets out on wilderness adventures with his wife and, when he comes across a Yukon landscape he likes, he photographs it and then paints it when he gets home.

He’s had thousands of adventures in the bush, he said.

And several were misadventures, he added.

“I’ve fallen, broken through the ice three or four times. I sank a snowmachine. I upset a canoe.”

Berlow recalled a week in the Tombstone Range last year. He was on a strenuous hike. It was extremely cold, raining and foggy.

“It really was disappointing, but I still came back with a few good pictures and I painted, hopefully, a few good pictures.”

Despite the hardship, “I really fell in love with the scenery and the country,” said the Germany-born, Montreal-raised painter. “A lot of the Yukon is untouched wilderness, remote areas – very scenic.”

That’s why he moved up here in 1969.

He loved the ruggedness so much he slept in a tent for a whole summer while he built a cabin in the woods on Tagish Lake. When it was complete, there was no running water and only a generator for energy and propane for heat.

“The lifestyle, I think it was beautiful because living in the bush is really time for yourself. If you get along, it’s wonderful for your marriage because you have time for each other.”

They did have a lot of time for each other – Berlow and his wife lived in the 1,200-square-foot cabin for 33 years and were often isolated for three to four months during the winter.

It was also then that he started his career as an artist.

He got tired of the sound of the chainsaw and felt the need for a new hobby – a quieter one.

He’s now 70, “unfortunately,” he added with a laugh and, though he abandoned the cabin, he hasn’t given up his canvas – Berlow paints from his Faro home.

It’s closer to civilization, but he still gets a taste of the outdoors.

“It’s a very nice community, very quiet, wonderful surroundings, lots of mountains and woods,” said Berlow.

And, though he loves the Yukon scenery, it challenges his creativity.

The hardest part of his work, he said, is finding and creating diversity within the landscape and his paintings. It’s hard to make one mountain or one tree differ from another.

“The Yukon scenery is basically the same over and over again. Not that I’m criticizing, but it makes it hard to come up with new ideas and with new pictures,” he said. “It’s very hard to make an interesting painting out of a basically monogamous landscape.”

He would love to paint tropical scenes for a while but that wouldn’t work in the North.

“Nobody would buy it,” he joked.

So instead he places native wildlife in his paintings.

“They’re just in my imagination and I put them where I think they should be in the picture.”

When he runs out of bears and bison, he plans on painting two-legged creatures into his work.

“Maybe I’ll eventually add humans to my paintings for human interest,” he said.

In the meantime, his paintings of mountains, lakes, leaves and flowers are hung in the Chocolate Claim and will be on display until the end of July. He also has permanent exhibits in Copper Moon Gallery and Arts Underground.

Contact Larissa Robyn Johnston at

larissaj@yukon-news.com

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