Endless Summer: Art of Margarethe Vanderpas

Summer never ends in a Vanderpas painting. The artist—on display now at the Muskoka Arts and Crafts Summer Show — captures the light, colour, and flow of lake water in a way that makes you feel you could step right into it. It may be autumn or a frigid day in February — no matter. With a Vanderpas on your wall, you’re at water’s edge on a summer’s day, regardless of season.

From inside a Vanderpas painting, you can hear the sound of waves lapping.

“I’m capturing how the light moves through water and the reflections on the surface. It’s about light and water — the dance between the two.”

Margarethe Vanderpas
Dancing Light on Water by M Vanderpas
“Dancing Light on Water” by Margarethe Vanderpas

Margarethe Vanderpas was raised, in part, along the shores of Muskoka lakes. Her parents — Ontario tobacco farmers — sought respite at the end of each harvest by escaping to a landscape very different from their own. The family’s annual autumn trips traded sun-scorched fields for the cool rock, warm birch, and silver blue water of Muskoka. As a child, Ms. Vanderpas would pass hours sketching its shorelines, its pebbles, its waves, and its trees – all those windswept branches. She’d tuck a sketchbook into her pocket, then pull it out and set to work when an image struck her. While most kids her age were skipping stones or reading Nancy Drew novels at the edge of Muskoka’s lakes, Margarethe was painting.

Scenes from a Water Series

Water Music by M Vanderpas
“Water Music” by M Vanderpas

Fast-forward to this summer. You’ll find Vanderpas passing her summers much the same way. With a kayak strapped to her car, the artist ventures from her home in Stratford, ON, toward the crystal waters of Georgian Bay. She paddles the kayak — solo or with friends — on expeditions to seek out summer scenes.

"Autumn on Fraser Bay" By Margarethe Vanderpas
“Autumn on Fraser Bay” By Margarethe Vanderpas

With names like Water Music and Light Dancing on Water, the painter’s Waterscapes series is especially alive and vivid. Its re-creations of shallow water, soft waves, and the sun’s reflection, play with light and movement in a way that can make you blink at the brightness and beauty of it. From inside a Vanderpas painting, you can hear the sound of waves lapping.

“When I’m painting those waters I’m really painting light,” says Ms. Vanderpas. “I’m capturing how the light moves through water and the reflections on the surface. It’s about light and water — the dance between the two.”

Of Paddles and Pictures

“Reflections Johnnie Lake Killarney” by Margarethe Vanderpas

Vanderpas describes her process as simple. Scenes are caught with the camera on her cellphone. Essentially, she paddles and takes pictures — of the trees, the islands, the rocks, or the water itself as it appears at the bow of her kayak. As the light fades, the artist sets up camp on the shoreline, then sketches her images. Later, back in her Stratford studio, the sketches transform into oil paintings.

“I’ve always been attracted to painting water,” says Ms Vanderpas. “I’m fascinated by the complexity of it. I’ve studied mathematics – I’ve learned to love patterns.”

The artist has become skilled at applying mathematics to render water’s motion and reflection. Writes art critic Lorie Lee Steiner in Arabella Magazine: “Seduced by the mysteries and mathematical properties of water, (Ms. Vanderpas) manipulates rich oils into ‘come hither’ landscapes.”

Using Colour To Intensify Nature

"Entangled Pines" by Margarethe Vanderpas
“Entangled Pines” by Margarethe Vanderpas

Beyond movement and light, Ms. Vanderpas is a master at capturing colour. Her paintings are full of it: blues, emerald greens, yellows,  turquoises, brilliant oranges, and deep, moody purples.

“I love colour,” she says. “I’m interested especially in colour combinations – for example, I’ll play with vibrant red and emerald green. They make each other more intense.”

“If you saw one of my nature photos compared to the final painting,” she continues, “you’d see that I’ve intensified what’s there. I switch out colours – I’ll use purple for rocks and bold orange for lichen. It’s a unique composition that works well for me.”

Indeed, colour in a Vanderpas painting pops off the canvas.

Vanderpas Appearances at Galleries and Festivals

"Autumn Splendor" by M Vanderpass
“Autumn Splendor” by Margarethe Vanderpas

There are a number of way you can experience the art of Margarethe Vanderpas.

As a noted Canadian artist working in land and waterscapes, Ms. Vanderpas has been invited to join Artists for Conservation.  It’s a prestigious group of nature artists donating portions of their sales to support wildlife and habitat conservation. Vanderpas paintings are sold through the group’s website, Artists For Conservation.

Ms. Vanderpas is also busy with private commissions, as well as showcasing her work at various Ontario galleries and summer festivals. You can view a schedule of installations on her website (www.margarethe-vanderpas.com), including her annual appearance at the Muskoka Arts and Crafts Summer Show (www.muskokaartsandcrafts.com).

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