Painter’s heart is in Sea to Sky Country 

New technique adds many dimensions to Gildersleeve’s canvasses

Sea to Sky Country is Rod Gildersleeve’s "wheelhouse."

The North Vancouver artist, who just completed a highly successful show of his paintings, called Sea to Sky, at the Ferry Building Gallery in West Vancouver, spends virtually all of his spare time in the corridor, hiking mountains, walking trails, and exploring the Squamish estuary.

His acrylic paintings reflect what he sees, from the ever-changing beauty of the Pemberton Valley to the tranquil beauty of Copper Cove and the majestic beauty of Brunswick Mountain.

"The corridor is my personal landscape, my touchstone landscape," said Gildersleeve, who was born and raised in West Vancouver. "I’m very loyal to my roots. Anyone who has ever driven the Sea to Sky Highway knows it is never the same drive twice. The different seasons, times of day and weather make me so sensitive to the nuances of that landscape."

Gildersleeve finds many of his subjects through hiking. Over the years, he has trudged up virtually every mountain between North Vancouver and Whistler. And given good health, he plans to continue that pursuit into his 70s and beyond.

"I was hiking up Brunswick Mountain one day, panting and sweating, at the start of the season, and I was just blown away by a hiking party of seniors who were coming down as I was going up. They were in their early to mid-70s, and were laughing and singing, having a great time. I plan to do that."

Climbing Brunswick Mountain has been an annual rite of passage for Gildersleeve for the past 30 years, to see if his legs will still take him to the top.

The sea portion of Gildersleeve’s inspiration comes from his other major pursuit, building landscape features such as fences, gazebos, decks and other structures. He gathers the wood he uses from the beaches of Howe Sound, cutting cedar planks for fences and rails by hand with sledges and froes.

"A lot of the beaches I paint are my wood gathering spots. The cedar is such a beautiful wood. It looks like a big shake but it’s a fencing board. To start with, it’s like an old slab of nothing. But if I see an old stump with 10 feet of good wood in it, I’m all over it like a wet rat. It’s feel-good work, and that’s the kind of experience I want in my paintings. I put paint on the same way I cut and build."

After spending most of the 1970s travelling, painting, writing and exploring his place in the world, Gildersleeve received his degree in art history from UBC in 1984, and earned his professional teaching certificate, also from UBC, the next year. Since 1987 he has had dozens of solo shows throughout the Lower Mainland, including the Foyer Gallery at the Squamish Public Library, and some of his paintings can be found at the Outpost Gallery in Squamish.

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