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Gathering Inspiration in Jasper National Park

We just got back from a five day family camping trip in Jasper National Park. While the Rocky Mountains are nothing new to us (they are practically in our backyard), the trek further north was made absolutely worthwhile by the stunning scenery, the abundant lakes and the glaciers.

There was not a ton of time to create on this trip, as we were busy exploring, canoeing, hiking and biking. Plus camping (with all its rustic charm) is a ton of work, especially with young kids in tow. So I didn't even bother to bring my plein air kit (acrylics, pochade box, etc.) and settled for a basket of watercolours, pens and my linocutting tools. This turned out to be a good decision, because I know if I had packed and lugged all my gear and not had a chance to touch it, I would have left disappointed.

I did however find time in the evenings to practice linocutting, something brand new to me and the act of carving outdoors was so cathartic. I made sure to use lino (not any of the other types of materials) to carve out of, because it is compostable and made of flax, so I didn't feel bad if a few pieces of the shavings got left behind. I had two elk wander through our campsite one night as my husband was putting the kids down to bed in the trailer, and I was so engrossed, when I looked up, I had an elk looking at me from 5 feet away!

I will see what these linocuts actually look like when I print with them, but I have visions of a cute little card series once I have a bunch of outdoor themed blocks ready to go...

I always travel with a small watercolour sketchbook and I have filled a few of these sketchbooks with images of our excursions over the years. They remain a treasure trove of memories, and as a family we remember the details much more than if we took a photograph as we all sat and took in the colours, smells and sounds. I've now learned to bring supplies for my kids as well, because when I stop to sketch and paint they often want to join in, and my art supplies are not something I like to share with them (as much as I love them).

There were some challenges to our trip, we had to make a dash into the Jasper hospital when one of our kids rubbed bug spray in his eye (swollen eyeballs are gross but all was okay in the end), and the crowds were crazy (being self-employed at home for the past 6 years has not exactly increased my ability to handle large crowds), but the there were some huge highlights as well:

-a campsite by the river at the Wapiti Campground (we had to book it in January)

-all the friendly people we met from all over the world

-Bentley dog got his first ever ice cream cone

-the glaciers were breathtaking

-we had our maiden voyage with our new (to us) canoe, Gertie

-we saw a grizzly and two black bears (luckily out of the car window)

-my husband did the cooking

-flush toilets at our campsite (I hate outhouses)

-finding some private little beaches to hang out on

All in all, we came home grateful to have made new memories, adventured in a new place and really happy to see our beds! I have a bunch of inspiration to paint from now as well.

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