Channeling your inner artist 

WAC’s annual Art Workshops at the Lake allow artists and non-artists alike to harness their creative power


For most people, their artistic careers wrapped up at the end of high school; and though many genuinely enjoyed exploring their creative side, dabbling at an easel and mucking about in paints, it was game over as soon as the school bell rang.

It can be an intimidating prospect for a "non-artist" to take their smock out of retirement and pick up a paintbrush or pencil again, especially when they've been on a lengthy hiatus. Niggling self-doubt creeps in: "Where do I start?" or "I'm just not creative enough," or "Everyone else will be so much better than me." It also isn't easy to get motivated and teach yourself the basics at home. But if you're among the many people who yearn to exercise the right side of your brain once again, the Whistler Arts Council (WAC) may have just the way for you to get your feet wet: Art Workshops on the Lake.

While most people head to the lake to simply worship the sun or jump in and cool off during the balmy summer months, there's a more artistically inclined set that can be found gathered around the shores of Alta Lake from June to August. This is the fourth summer for the Art Workshops on the Lake, a series organized and hosted by WAC at the Resort Municipality of Whistler's Alta Lake Station House - a rustic heritage home that offers an inspiring view of the Alta Lake waterfront with Whistler, Blackcomb and Wedge Mountains in the background.

The series has actually grown to become quite a popular event, attracting participants from within Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton, and even farther afield each and every year. They offer a pretty impressive range of two- to four-day sessions in a variety of mediums - life drawing, oil, acrylic and watercolour painting - that cater to people with a range of artistic abilities. The classes cost between $170 and $425, and are taught by some very well-known local and national artists, including Suzanne Northcott, David McEown, David Langevin and Isobel McLaurin.

This year, the artistic action kicked off with a two-day workshop on acrylics and colour theory hosted by Whistler's very own Chili Thom. Something of a local legend in his own right, Chili has made quite the name for himself with his vibrant, stylized, fresh take on the traditional landscape. A successful self-taught painter with just one year of formal training, Chili has been painting for 12 years and has been a full-time artist (quite a feat, these days) for 10 years. This is only the second year he has taught at the Art Workshops on the Lake, but he seems to have a natural knack for it: he's patient and explains things in a simple, straightforward way, shying away from technical terms and focusing, instead, on making the experience fun and accessible.


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