Red Deer College Visual Art Instructor James Trevelyan, left, has installed an exhibit of his paintings at the Welikoklad Event Centre Gallery in Red Deer. The show entitled Falls will be on display until April 23. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

RDC instructor paints the mountain waterfalls his father loved

James Trevelyan goes from abstraction to realism in his art exhibit at the WEC

James Trevelyan’s art exhibit, Falls, is permeated with memories of his late father.

The artist first glimpsed the mountain waterfalls he depicted in works hanging in the Welikoklad Event Centre gallery while he was a boy, hiking alongside his dad and four brothers.

“The five of us would follow my dad like little ducklings,” said Trevelyan, who’s now been instructing visual arts students at Red Deer College for 30 years.

His father, Harold George Trevelyan, is remembered as an outdoors man, who co-founded the Alpine Club of Canada and the Calgary Camera Club. The senior Trevelyan also worked at the Lake Louise power plant for years, getting to know such epic characters as Jimmy Simpson, one of the first white guides and outfitters in the Canadian Rockies.

His son soon realized that Harold’s appreciation of Alberta’s mountain scenery went beyond a mere enjoyment of its physical beauty — there was a spiritual connection.

“I remember the look of transcendent happiness on his face when we would hike up to the falls,” Trevelyan recalled in his artist statement. “This memory was constantly in my mind as I was making these pictures.”

The 22 acrylic paintings and charcoal drawings were created during and after his two artistic residencies at the Leighton Artists’ Colony at the Banff Centre in 2015 and 2016.

Trevelyan, who’s always been attracted to water, hiked to the falls in Johnston Canyon and Sundance Canyon. He took photographs after an early attempt at plein air painting went disastrously wrong, with the wind toppling his easel, sending his art supplies flying.

He began recreating the landscapes he saw in the studio. Trevelyan initially intended to take an abstract approach — and he did complete several angular acrylic-on-paper constructivist works, reminiscent of the paintings of Férnand Leger.

He was soon led to more realistic renderings, however, by the sheer splendor of the landscape he was depicting. Some of his charcoal drawings give the scenery a historic look, like in old photographs.

But even Trevelyan’s more colourful paintings — some impressive canvases are couple metres in height — are a fairly spare portrayal of flowing water and rock.

The artist, who was influenced by the late Banff-based watercolourist Walter J. Phillips, said he wanted to keep it simple, focusing on “the rhythmic tumbling of the falls, the forms of the rock shapes.”

He hopes viewers will come away with “the feeling of the waterfalls, the freshness of the air… the mist of the water, and the piney smell of being in the woods…”

The exhibit continues to April 23.

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