LUNA Art Fest: Meeting Rob Buchanan

Revelstoke artist and LUNA Art Festival contributor Rob Buchanan discusses collaboration, process and community art with contributor Sarah Spurr.

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Rob Buchanan pictured in his downtown studio space with a Zoetrope prototype, resurrected from local antique farm equipment. The work will be on display at LUNA Art Festival this Saturday. Photo: Sarah j Spurr

If I were to draw a cartoon to characterize meeting Rob Buchanan, it would look like shaking hands with the tip of an iceberg. He’s got sunglasses and sips a coffee steaming with the words “but first, the Modern Cafe.” My first impression was followed by a tour of his downtown studio space where I caught a look into his working portfolio. This part would be the icebergs counterweight and it would be drawn as a flickering zoetrope propelling him along in a giant whirligig of images, some place cool like the Western Arctic. Photography, illustration, painting (in various mediums and style), sculpture and graphic design. Everything from stylized Art Deco posters to crafty tinfoil prototypes — it’s all unapologetically there. Whether you’ve stepped into a hero’s pair of oversized, custom-fabricated breeches or gripped the label of a cold Mount Begbie Brewing Co. beer, when in Revelstoke you will likely set eyes on something that has emerged from the mind of celebrated artist and for many the mentor, B u c h a N a N.

An interactive statue to commemorate Georgia Engelhard, a female mountaineer from the Victorian Era who refused to let a skirt weigh her down. She wore breeches and abandoned the conventions of another era so she could discover the “beauty and exhilaration” of mountaineering. Leading the way for future generations of women exploring the mountains. Created in collaboration with Robert Maraun. Photo: Rob Buchanan

Rob has worked as a photographer, designer and graphic artist for Parks Canada over 18 years. He currently creates educational exhibits for both Revelstoke and Glacier national parks. You can find his visual narratives trailside and as interactive public installations. In addition to a 25 year career of travelling with photography and art he has been drawing an editorial cartoon once a week for the Revelstoke Review for 23 years. He’s earned two provincial awards here and tells me that he has learned the most from this weekly practice cartooning for Revelstokians. He’s continuously challenged to reset the stage so something clever, clear and relevant can present itself. To pull this off, credit goes out to a rich supply of local subject matter, all one has to do is fill up at a downtown coffee shop to find the humour beside the news.

A teaser of Stellar Times, a projection project created by Frank Desrosier, Mary Clayton, Rob Buchanan, and the staff and families of Avalanche Canada for Luna Fest. It is based on photos of Avalanche Canada Staff and their families depicted as snowflakes. Photo: Rob Buchanan

Much of his work is devoted to promoting and preserving cultural and natural history. He’s gained traction animating legacy projects such as the commemoration sculpture for the nationally significant Nels Nelsen Ski Jump site in Revelstoke National Park. While he doesn’t spare us much in the Coles Notes of his own social media, he understands how designs that engage today mean people connect over interesting photo opportunities and a good hashtag like #nelsknickers. Visitors experiencing an exhibit space designed by Rob will enjoy outdoor physical activity and leave with a lasting impression of local history.

Today, he’s busy cranking out drafts of renderings for a city sized collaboration project. The up and coming festival, Luna — Nocturnal Art and Wonder is approaching it’s premiere. Twenty five local artists and special guests have responded to the call to create unusual visual or performance art installations. The showcase will begin this September 30 through October 7 in a public art walk set downtown. Luna was first imagined by Victoria Strange, Executive Director of Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre, and Miriam Manley, Executive Director of Revelstoke Arts Council. The idea became possible by assembling a team of local arts and tourism ambassadors, including Buchanan, Jana Thompson, Nico Leenders, Pauline Hunt and dedicated volunteers.

Leaning forward in the Nels Nelsen Ski Jump installation. A designated Nationally Significant exhibit designed to honour a local 1920s ski jump champion Nels Nelsen. Photo: Rob Buchanan

When it comes to collaboration,  Rob says he’s switched on by the experience of process. There’s a huge resource of energy when gathering ideas, learning from and trading skills with one another. Anybody can be an artist if given the opportunity and he is tapping into the momentum of a growing arts community. Creative thinking is everywhere … your trusted avalanche forecasters, bakers, home builders, welders, seamstresses or enthusiastic documenters of awesome. There are endless possibilities mixing forces of old school with the new school as increasingly diverse backgrounds are drawn into the community.

In addition to the cover design and the festival map in the September issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine, Rob will be contributing in collaboration with other talented idea generators to produce four distinct projects for Luna. Keep your eyes peeled for these and much more:

*Powder Slug Returns: Trent Kappler, Rob Buchanan, Sarah Peterson; pilots: Brent Strand, Dave Pearson, Dean Prunkle

*Stellar Times: Frank Desrosier, Mary Clayton, Rob Buchanan, and the staff and families of Avalanche Canada

*Persistence of Vision: Jess Leahey, Natalie Harris, Rob Buchanan and the Modern bakeshops’ Josee Zimyani and Duane Ducart

*Snowglobe: Jess Leahey, Rob Buchanan and Tree Construction’s Greg Hoffart

Finally, when I asked Rob to share a couple of career highlights, he sent back this list (and that’s not all). If you are reading this and you are looking for some reassurance as you break off into your own increasingly creative waters, this might serve as a good reminder to keep the wheels turning.

* photographing the efforts of Canadian Malaria doctors in Malawi Africa with Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief

Revelstoke artist Rob Buchanan pays homage to the Powder Slug chairlift in his exhibit for the LUNA Art Festival. Read up on this exciting new festival on pages 19-29 and check out our profile on Rob Buchanan on pages 28-29. Image: Rob Buchanan/LUNA Art Festival

* working with Inuvialuit elders in the Western Arctic to develop a visitor centre

* getting published by the National Geographic Society (He photocopied and framed his first cheque)

* creating sculptures for two window displays for Patagonia’s flagship store in California

* having two award winning photos travel the globe with the Banff Film Festival

* guiding around Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar on a mountain photo adventure

* getting a photo displayed on the Jumbotron in New York’s Time Square

* having legendary ski jumper Nels Nelsen’s 84-year-old daughter officially open my Nels Knickers’ sculpture

* having work hung in the prestigious McMichael Art Gallery

* helping the Modern Bakeshop team design a cake for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

*creating a public art installation out of 17,000 folded origami cranes (from all over Canada) to commemorate the victims of Canada’s worst avalanche accident.

* and of course, teaching my son and daughter how to draw and love art

Introduce yourself to Rob and visit revelstokeartgallery.ca/luna for more festival info. Follow along with @lunaartfest on instagram and share your one-of -a-kind visual perspectives with #revelinluna.

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Sarah Spurr
Sarah j Spurr is a mixed media visual artist originally from the 705 / Kawartha Lakes Ontario, and has been a Revelstoke resident for the past three years. Heavily inspired by the natural environment and her relationship with it. Stoked on all the things she's discovering in British Columbia and the way these fresh influences have found ways into her home, heart and art-making.