Updated: Mar 9
~I treasure this valuable lesson, which happend to me years ago~
After a week traveling in British Columbia towards Vancouver with a friend, we wanted to visit Vancouver Island aswell.
The beautiful greens just before the summer, were magnificent.
Driving, hiking and driving again to the next place to, you guessed it.. hike again.
I remembered a letter I send a long time ago to an Canadian artist I admired. In the letter I said, ‘when I am close, I will try to find you and meet up,... if thats okay☺️’
No respons, but that wasn’t a surprise... such people get loads of these questions surely.
However, I am Dutch and have some bold ideas now and then. Bold not cheeky I think personally.
So I found out on which Island he lived on, and tried to find an address.
After getting in a plane, car and boat we arrived on the island still without any idea were to look, because it was not easy to find this address.
Untill after asking random people, we came across a former neighbor of this artist. He moved houses! 🤦🏻♂️
The guy smiled and asked if I had an appointment or made contact.
My reaction was: ‘yes I have had contact and an appointment, only I yet have to tell him that’
Tha smile got bigger and he told me, the move was to another property on the same island! Lucky break, because he even told us how to get there.A short drive, the quickly drawn map was a big help, and yep... here we were.
Just a number on a plate, just like the guy told me. But driving towards, what must be the road to the house, there were signs.
Like, private property, own road, keep out... hmmm my english became instantly worse and I couldn’t read the signs any more.
After a while a big beautiful new wooden cabin style house appeared.
We parked the car and walked up to the house armed with some flowers (this is how we do this in Holland) and a drawing, feeling like a 10 year old.
Just some carpenters around, so we walked slowly around the house, when a backdoor opened. And there was Robert Bateman himself in person. After explaining myself he thought is was quite funny, but unfortunately he had to leave for Vancouver.
To receive an award of some kind of course!
But... he said, are you guys still here in two days, because maybe I have a little bit of time to invite you and chat a bit.
My respons, ‘I think we will be around’ (I wouldn’t miss it for the world, even if I had to book another flight!)
The next 1,5 day we killed some time driving around on Vancouver Island, watching a group of 52 orcas around our zodiak boat. Meet up with some bears and saw dozens of bald eagles fish at the same time.
The next morning I had to call Bob Bateman’s assistant, for a maybe appointment.
Only he picked up the phone himself and instantly invited us over.
This time just a little less nervous we drove up to the house and he was waiting all ready.
(Two days earlier he told us maybe to have half an hour when we would meet up)
He greeted us very warmly, and began to tell us about his new home.
That the wooden loggs were out of his own forest.
How he made the rocks in his front garden, showed us the bronze sculpture of a native american, his massive handcarved wooden front door found in another continent.
That only took about 20 minutes, so I got a little worried about that half hour.
But I would not interrupt him of course.
He introduced us to his wife Brigitte and we spoke a little bit German with her, just because we could ☺️ while enjoying some tea together.
We talked about nature and art of course!
About the market, but more interesting... we talked about choices in subjects, composition, color etc.
Quite an honor that he wanted to see my work and was even truly excited about it. But what really struck me,.. he showed me one of his sketchbooks.
Which for me is one of the most personal things, you can show someone.
Think about it, all the try-outs, little mistakes, searching lines etc.... a sketchbook is the ideabox and maybe even the soul of the artist.
The next thing made me feel even more humble.
This famous 75 year old artist with all his knowledge asked me what I would do in a painting he was working on.
A small work with a grizzly in a river were he struggled with the hind leg. His words: ‘it looks like a baboons leg, what would you do?’
I responded when I found my breath, saying: ‘well since the grizzly stands in a river, I would cover it up with some splashes, which creates some dept at rhe same time’.He looked at me and said, hmm interesting.
What he exactly thought about my suggestion I found out a long time later when I saw the painting on the internet.
Splashes it was.
The only moment I did kind of interrupt him was, when I looked out of the window while we kept chatting. My eye catched something I never saw untill than. Hummingbirds! Attracted to the birdfeeder right in front of his window. So for a second I was distracted and in awe, not for the first time that day.
Most astonishing, he treated me as equals.
Age, succes or status didn’t matter.
From one human being to the other with the same inspiration and interest in nature and conservation.
Only he was the Robert Bateman.
After more almost three hours, he let us go. On the way to the car I asked him, what he actually thought of me standing in front of his door without an invitation two days ago.
He smiled and sayd; ‘I must admit you you something and it is a really funny story... I did the same in your country years ago, visiting Rien Poortvliet univited, so I know how you feel, and also now I know how Poortvliet probably must have felt.
After a small pause he even thanked me for it!
As we waved goodbey, I said to my friend; I better write this all day down.
It was one of the best lessons I have ever had. Not even so much on art, but more on friendliness, openness, humbleness and connection.
I will treasure this fantastic moment for ever.
Ask anyone who knows or have met ‘Bob’... they will all say the same, that he is a kind, intelligent and wonderful person and an example for many.
At a campfire that evening at the hotel, some other guests asked me what I was up to the last two days.
I said; ‘some grizzly’s, 52 orcas and visiting the artist Robert Bateman’.
A guest spoke; so you had a good couple of days!
Me; yeah... pretty good!
(Big thanks to Birgitte and Robert Bateman)