Gibsons artist Ed Hill does not mince words. The retired RCMP staff sergeant understands that artists have a voice and will express themselves through their art, especially when they are painting their passions.
Last month Hill walked with other artists, musicians and writers through the Wilson Creek forest area that was slated for logging (cut block EW002), opening himself up to inspiration from his surroundings. A rudimentary trail wound through the woods, and along the way the group read informational signs about the local flora and fauna. It was not a protest, but simply a gathering on a Sunday of creative people looking for emotion and inspiration.
Hill and his wife Joy have spent much of their time outdoors on the Coast, fishing, canoeing, picking berries and mushrooms and interacting with First Nations on their land.
“We’ve walked, driven, hiked and fished these mountains from Langdale to Egmont, but this community forest was the most beautiful Sunshine Coast forest walk that we’d ever done,” Hill said. “It was unique, so lush and green and with such diversity.”
Hill took more than 100 photos that day and afterwards attended a protest against logging the area.
“I was not carrying a placard,” he said. “That’s a pretty loud voice and loud protests turn off the public and politicians.”
But he did come to an understanding of how an artist’s voice could be crucial. “I’m going to paint this,” he decided, “and show the people.”
He was obsessed, Joy remembers. “He doesn’t usually paint that fast!” she said.
Within two weeks Hill had created the image titled The Community Forest. But it was not a pretty painting of the forest’s glory. Instead what emerged was a true artist’s statement — a logged landscape painted in brown tones, the colour of the autumn of its days. He was painting the future.
Hill has been an artist since the mid-1980s and he always attaches a story to each painting describing how it came to be. He calls these stories “emotional hooks,” believing that art comes from the heart.
In this instance, he writes: “My artist’s brush took me in a completely different direction. For me as the artist, I find my painting of The Community Forest dark, foreboding and ominous. Art isn’t always beautiful. Sometimes it has to speak about facts, and these facts aren’t beautiful.”
Hill acknowledges that some may find this painting beautiful in its own way. It represents progress, jobs and money for the local economy. He’s happy to hear other views. “If you don’t like it, talk about it,” he said.
This is not the first time Hill has used his art to bring attention to an environmental issue. He’s painted other threatened areas of B.C. and Ontario. Lovely Fish Lake in the interior was slated to be used as a mine tailings dump before public protest saved the lake. In that case, Hill chose to paint a scenic landscape showing the pristine beauty of the area. He donated the image to First Nations protesters to help them raise funds for the campaign.
In this case, Hill’s community forest painting has been reproduced in cards and can be had for a donation at the Copy Shop in Gibsons. Larger prints will be reproduced later as an awareness tool.