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Canadian painter says it's good to feel small in a big place

When Canadian Cory Trépanier graduated college, he jumped into the world of commercial art. He did airbrush painting for ad agencies and magazines. A lot of work inside a studio.

Then when he was 33, he took a trip to Lake Superior to paint the natural landscape.

“That was a turning point for me,” he says. "All I could recall, with my wife in the vehicle, was talking about, ‘how am I going to spend more time painting my own work?’”


A few years later, Cory made that happen. He decided to start a project called “Into the Arctic.”

It’s a project that’s led him to regions all over the Canadian Arctic, painting landscapes and making film documentaries of his journeys. 


Cory typically spends a few days in a location taking photos, and oil painting on a small canvas.Then it’s on to the next spot.  

He and his small team travel by boats, planes and even snowmobiles wherever they can. But once they get to a certain area, much of their journey has to be done on foot with large packs. Not only are their packs loaded with camping gear, but also all of their painting, filming and photography gear as well.

But Cory says everything from the grueling hikes to getting swarmed by mosquitoes is a small price to pay for the beauty he captures. 

“I consider it to be a huge privilege to be in a position to experience these places,” he says.

If things go well, Cory starts an oil painting every 2-3 days.When he’s back home in his studio, he finishes his paintings using reference photos he took.But sometimes he does more than that.

"Great Glacier" is the centerpiece of Cory Trépanier's "Into the Arctic" exhibit. It's 15 feet long, and over five feet tall.
Credit Cory Trépanier
"Great Glacier" is the centerpiece of Cory Trépanier's "Into the Arctic" exhibit. It's 15 feet long, and over five feet tall.

“You know, this 16-inch canvas … that I brought with me in the field is not big enough to convey sort of the landscape in the scene that I had,” he says. “I might use those as source material to do a very large painting.”

One of those paintings is a called “Great Glacier,” and is the centerpiece of his exhibit, “Into the Arctic.”

It’s a painting of a large glacier sandwiched between mountain peaks.The painting is 15 feet wide and over five feet tall.

It took Cory about seven years to complete.People standing next to it look small, and that’s how Cory felt when he was standing in front of the glacier.

“I guess in the last number of years it’s felt like a responsibility to take that experience and share it with others,” Cory says. “And to me, that’s the beginning of any ... conservation, or proper looking after something, is that people need to be motivated on the inside to care for it. And if you care for it, you’ll take care of it.”

Cory Trépanier’s collection “Into the Arctic” will be on display at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City. The exhibit opens Sunday afternoon and will be open through December 31.

Also on Sunday, The State Theatre will be showing “https://vimeo.com/38387142">Into the Arctic II,” one of the films Cory made during his painting expeditions. Admission is free For more information, click here.

Dan Wanschura is the Host and Executive Producer of Points North.