an obstructed view of the bow river valley from the top of sulphur moutain

Sometimes I like to revisit places or experiences from my childhood to see if they are still as cool (or lame) as I remembered them. Memory is a funny, rather fluid thing. Two people can share the same memory and tell a very different story from it. Maybe you were going through a tough time when you visited a zoo for the first time, and that tainted the experience somehow. On the flip side, perhaps a restaurant you tried out on a first date was really great… but that was because you were excited about the date, and it turns out the restaurant wasn’t that amazing afterall. Or in this case, I think I amalgamated a few childhood memories into one memory. I thought I remembered visiting Banff one time as a kid and riding up the gondola to see what was at the top. Perhaps this did happen but a lot changes in thirty-some odd years. Anyhow I remembered the view and overall experience being alright but not too interesting. I remembered a small building at the top with a cafeteria in it and a bit of a walking trail outside. I also remember it being windy and a lot colder than it was when we got out of the car. When we were down in Calgary visiting friends a few weeks ago, we decided to spend a day in the mountains and take a ride on the gondola to revisit our memories, of it. The experience totally exceeded how I remembered it as a kid. The ride was really quiet and smooth and very steep. Myself and our friend Jordan are not a huge fan of heights, so when Jay threatened to make the thing start swinging we both glared at him a bit, and maybe held onto to the seats with white knuckles. The building at the top was very fancy, with lots of neat exhibits about the park and the history of the gondola. There were two restaurants and a gift shop and a patio at the top with a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view of the surrounding peaks and valleys. There was also an extensive wooden walk way which took you along the ridge over to Sanson’s Peak where the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station is located. The views were amazing and of course I took a lot of pictures. This was definitely not what I remembered. It was way cooler! I just put the finishing touches on a painting I made from my favorite photo from that little adventure.


I really like this photo for a few reasons. One: I like how the trees are slightly obstructing the sprawling view of the valley below. It reminds me of how many trees flanked the boardwalk, making it a slightly forested, mountain top walk. Two: I love the pink flagging tape tied to the trees and the hint of yellow from some random bit of equipment on the bottom left just peeking out of the snow. Also, the ‘no feeding the mountain sheep’ sign on the right. And three: I like to share what I saw with viewers of my work. In instances like this it’s so easy to get a great photo because of where you are. How can you possibly take a bad photo on top of a mountain, barring pocket photos and getting your thumb in the way of your lens in each shot and not noticing right away for some reason? And it’s going to be the exact same photo everyone else has. In this photo I really like how the behind the trees there is this empty space pulling your eye toward the horizon and down into the valley; like you are about to fly off the mountain top. It helps provide a little more interest to the context of the photo and the painting I think.

So here’s the painting and then a few detail shots of it so you can see some of the papers I used.

an obstructed view of the bow river valley from the top of sulphur mountain, banff national park   mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1800 + GST,  2019

an obstructed view of the bow river valley from the top of sulphur mountain, banff national park

mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1800 + GST, 2019


I’ve been using some new blues in my palette the last few months. The sky is a mix of cerulean blue chromium + phthalo blue + titanium white. It kind of glows like neon which is very fitting for the sky in this painting as it was a very clear day and the sky’s color was almost other-worldly to my eyes.

There was a fair bit of construction going on around the main building at the top. I think these particular trees were flagged for eventual cutting. I liked the pop of bright pink they provided in an otherwise very blue-and-white landscape. That is also why I left in the sign on the right and bit of yellow peeking out of the snow on the bottom left of the painting. I find these details both endearing and interesting and I don’t think it takes away from the view, it just adds a little something else. This is how I saw that particular view on that particular day, and this is how I would like to remember it. I figured I’d title it as I saw it as well, because not every painting needs a poetic title. Sometimes just the facts will do.