Revisiting Glen Loates’ 1985 exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum

Revisiting Glen Loates’ 1985 exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum | The Glen Loates Gallery

In 1985, a solo show of Glen Loates's art was exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum titled ‘Glen Loates: A Brush with Life.’ This was three years after ‘The Bald Eagle’ had been presented to President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office, and was loaned to the Royal Ontario Museum for this exhibition. 

Above: Former President Ronald Reagan receiving ‘The Bald Eagle’ from Glen Loates in 1982

This exhibition presented a selection works by the artist exploring the beauty of nature and wildlife. In our archives, we discovered the artist statement Glen Loates originally wrote for this exhibition:

"All artists have their own reasons for painting, but there is, I believe, a universal experience and understanding in the painting of animals that everyone can share. I am a self-taught artist who enjoys experimenting and accepting new challenges with every painting I create. I am constantly striving to improve my technical skills and continue to learn as I interpret nature on paper.

In my father’s studio, I made my first attempts to draw what I had actually seen in nature. There was a light on the back porch that used to attract moths. I was fascinated by the delicate structure of their wings, so I captured some specimens and tried to sketch the intricate patterns using pencils and crayons. As an exercise, it was the best thing I could have done. I drew the moths over and over again until they looked right to me.

By 1954, I was making [a] little “flipbook,” in which I drew the progression of an animal’s movement on consecutive pages of a notepad. When quickly thumbed, these created a nice approximation of movement. I wanted to get the feeling of how a bird flies or mammals walk and jump.

To this day, I try to portray this send of animation in my art. As many as forty-five rough pencil sketches may be necessary to record the movements and anatomy of an animal or bird.

For the details of feathers and fur, I use skins and pelts loaned to me by the Royal Ontario Museum. Many curators of the museum’s life sciences departments deserve much credit for their endless encouragement and help. Terrence Shortt, the museum’s past chief artist, shares his experiences and knowledge with me.

I always start each animal painting by completing the eye of the subject first and painting the background detail last. I prefer to use watercolour paint, but occasionally I work with pastels and ink. While it may be necessary to use photographs for reference, I avoid it if possible. My field sketches and colour notes, as well as my sensory experience on location, have the greatest influence on the quality of the pictures I make..”

Above: Photograph of Glen Loates artist statement from 1985


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