A few years ago, I had the chance to spend a quick 36 hours in Waterton, Alberta. Stay at warp speed in Calgary or wind down in Waterton – even for a short time? The choice was clear. All I wanted was a little fresh air to blow the city from my brain. Little did I know I’d meet a great plein air artist – Dean Tatam Reeves – in my travels.
In this post, I’ll tell you more about the day we met and the workshops he’ll be offering this summer.
Wandering along to Waterton
We got up early on a Saturday morning and headed south out of Calgary. The Livingstone Range with a shawl of grasslands covering its rolling eastern slopes was ever present as we sped down highway #22, the famed Cowboy Trail. Soaking up the scenery, spotted with herds of grazing red and black angus, made for relaxing two and a half hour drive to our destination.
The day was a stunner. There was only a light wind out of the south when we pulled into the hamlet and national park that is Waterton.
In case you think I am a stereotypical Canadian commenting on the weather, I want you to know that wind is always something you remark on in Waterton. Gusts of up to 150 kilometers/hour have been recorded and special boats were designed to cut through the whitecaps for the trip down the lake to the U.S. border. As my husband went off to the appointment that had inspired our trip, I unfurled from the car and headed to the lakeside trail that hugs the periphery of this four by four block village.
Two cherry red Canada Parks Adirondack chairs sat empty facing the historic Prince of Wales hotel. Resisting the temptation to just grab a coffee and park there for the day, I let my curiosity lead me south to the town’s beach instead.
I passed an artist on my way. He was using pastels and from afar I liked the look of his style. I smiled when I passed but didn’t want to disturb him. On my return, about a half hour later, he was still there so I got up my courage to introduce myself and ask if I could take a closer look at his work. It was lovely.
I found out his name is Dean Tatam Reeves. We traded info and have been following each other ever since on Instagram. People scoff at social media, but for a booster like me, its a fantastic way to support others, to share and to hopefully, inspire.
And now my friend has a busy summer of workshops planned. Let me tell you more about his life and work and how you can join the workshops.
Let’s start with his style – Plein Air
Plein Air is a style of painting developed mainly in France in the mid-1800s. It refers to paintings done out of doors and in direct response to the scene or subject directly in front of the artists. Most notably, its about the ability of the artist to capture the luminous effects of natural light.
Dean says his studio is under an open sky, wherever he plants his painting chair. His work is produced exclusively on location, year-round, where he can directly observe and record the effects such as ever-changing qualities of light on terrain unique to southern Alberta.
He’s spent two decades devoting his work to southern prairie landscapes from the Cypress Hills of Southeast Alberta westward to the front range of the Rocky Mountains – where I found him. He finds this vast region, visually rich and enjoys exploring sheltered river environments and sweeping panoramas, but also many remote areas rarely visited by visual artists.
More about the artist
Born in England, Dean has lived in Western Canada since 1956. After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Alberta in 1978 Dean established an ongoing art practice while serving in roles as an art educator, arts administrator and curator. His paintings are found in numerous public and corporate art collections across Canada.
Dean has recently begun an exciting new series of Canadian landscapes completed during driving tours to the East Coast and back to Alberta. That’s another bond I feel with this artist. He spends time each year painting the Bay of Fundy shoreline where I grew up in rhythm with its mighty tides. When I look at his paintings of that area, I feel it in my bones. He’s truly captured the essence of the area’s red sandstone cliffs and shores carved by the twice daily surge and retreat of the Atlantic Ocean.
And now, for those of you with the inclination and ability, there’s an opportunity for you to workshop with this Canadian master artist.
These one-day drawing and painting workshops will be held at the Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage, near Nanton, Alberta. They are intended for anyone interested in drawing and watercolour painting in a heritage prairie garden set in open farmland with foothills and mountain views.
Participants can hone existing skills or try fresh approaches to working directly from nature. Dean will share a range of useful drawing and painting techniques developed from his 40 years of experience teaching classes and workshops.
Whether you end up taking a workshop with Dean Tatam Reeves or not, it is very fun to follow along on his Instagram account and see the world through his camera lens and pastel and watercolour works of art.
You can also follow his blog and if you are really inspired by his work, you can support him the best way of all, by buying one of his works of art.
Note: This post is not sponsored. I am truly just a fan of this artist’s work.