Doris Laner lives and paints the incredible wild places that are Wells Gray Park and the North Thompson Valley. In her studio, situated at the entrance to the park, she creates detailed and sensitive portraits of our local landscape. Filled with life and luminosity, her paintings are the result of many hours of quiet reflection both in and outside of the studio.
“Most of my paintings start with sitting outside and just being captured by a certain play of light,” Doris explains as she describes her process. While in the field, Laner takes her camera along with her sketching materials. Together they serve as reminders of the details and colours that inspired her at the moment. Back in her studio Doris creates larger, more detailed studies based on her sketches and photographs.
“If I’m home for the day I start my day with painting. I paint in the morning, that’s when I am my freshest.” Doris’ studio is just steps from her house.
Currently she’s working on a painting titled “The Gift”. It portrays a woman on the bank of the North Thompson River picking up a white feather. This project is steeped in personal meaning and features a stretch of the river near Avola, which is very personal to her family. Doris has learned valuable lessons in discipline throughout her career. She will sit down to paint even during times when she doesn’t feel like it.
“As long as you’re painting that’s what’s important.”
Within minutes of beginning she finds herself completely drawn into the process even when she hasn’t been in the mood.
“It’s always worth it even if you have to change something; sometimes it even works better.
”Success is counted by the atmosphere she is able to create with a painting, rather than the image itself. Doris doesn’t suggest we should feel or think in a prescribed way when we view her artwork.
“That’s up to their imagination what a particular painting makes one feel.” She adds, “It’s better to get a reaction than indifference.”The process is more important to Doris than the finished product. The actual painting becomes a reflection of what she has learned along the way and while she says there are always things she feels she could have done differently or better, she values them as a reminder of her journey.
While Doris is most widely known for the paintings, drawings and public murals that feature local landscape, her subject matter has changed throughout her career. As a very young artist she was focussed on horses and other animals. Strongly influenced by teachers throughout high school and university, Doris developed an interest in portraiture.“Everybody has a different spark behind them and sometimes a painting is more accurate than any photograph.” Doris says.
After moving to Clearwater in 1979 and discovering she had enough space for horses, Doris returned to painting them as her subject matter, which naturally led into painting the landscape surrounding them. The idea of connection is one of the reasons why Doris paints this area; she wants her paintings to remind us to look at nature and be connected to it, though she is not trying to make people feel anything specific. She began painting people within her landscapes so people can better imagine themselves in it.
“Having time totally by myself to breathe and just be calm for an extended period of time is rejuvenating.”
Every summer Doris packs up her camping gear and some art supplies and travels deep into Wells Gray Park by motor boat. She takes her canoe and spends a week by herself to recharge on all levels – physically, mentally, and creatively. Doris has made this trek for the past 12 years.
At the end of Azure Lake, one of Clearwater’s valued and well respected artists retreats into some of the most spectacularly wild places within relatively easy access. She returns to her home loaded with materials, ideas, and renewed connections. She is not simply documenting nature as it is, but through these portraits of the wilderness, building a channel through which her viewers can remind themselves to maintain their own connections to the wilderness on our doorstep.
Touched by the feeling of place: Upper Clearwater artist Doris LanerDoris’ work can be viewed at Wells Gray Gallery and on her website: dorislanerart.ca.