The Art of Trees

The ART of Trees

Story by Katherine Fawcett


Attitude – Dana Irving - Adele Campbell Fine Art

In Japan, there is a term for immersing oneself in a forest and finding peace and tranquility among trees. Shinrin yoku, or forest bathing, can inspire a sense of both calm and awe. Whether you’re walking in a pine forest, lying on the ground gazing up at the leaves of an aspen tree, or leaning against the giant trunk of an ancient cedar, there’s something sacred about being in the presence of trees.

Bringing the image or representation of a tree into your home, whether as a sculpture, a painting, or a drawing, may not be an exact translation of forest bathing, but it is certainly one way to honour and celebrate trees and their life-giving beauty.


Dana Irving

Landscape painter Dana Irving grew up in Prince George, B.C., and spent a lot of time hiking and camping in Northern B.C. and the Rockies. After moving to Victoria to attend art school in her teens, the West Coast has become her home. With inspiration from the Canadian painters of the 1930s and ’40s, such as the Group of Seven and Emily Carr, Irving enjoys painting beautiful places. Her work is often described as “Emily Carr meets Dr. Seuss.” Her highly stylized paintings of trees, clouds, rocks, swirls of water, and swaths of shoreline have a whimsical, velvety quality, full of movement and personality.

In the work Attitude, she was inspired by the isolation of the pandemic, “being confined to our little groups in the middle of a difficult time. My trees are often personified and, in this case, they are making the best of it on their own little island amid wild water and stormy skies,” said Irving.

“I am completely dazzled by the enormous trees of the Pacific Northwest,” Irving said. “To me, these giants with their conical shapes and sculptured trunks have a presence, a gravitas. As I began to express this in shape and colour in my paintings, they slowly became more and more animated, personified, expressing style and emotion.
Often, these trees strike me as being feminine, with flouncing skirts and waving scarves. I like to think that, like a walk in the forest, my interpretation of trees conveys their slightly magical power.” She said it is an ongoing ambition and challenge to find new ways of expressing her reverence for trees as they move in the changing weather and reflect the varying, seasonal light.

Holloway Falls is a joyful, gratifying piece, “a reward for hiking to Upper Joffre Lake, near Pemberton. You have to pass by the falls as they spill from the upper lake into Middle Joffre Lake,” said Irving.
Liz Harris, owner and director of Adele Campbell Fine Art, said that people have even commissioned Irving to paint their “family portraits” with the trees representing people... sometimes even pets.


Midnight Sorbet – Dana Irving - Adele Campbell Fine Art


Holloway Falls – Dana Irving - Adele Campbell Fine Art

Janice Robertson’s style of painting trees is vastly different from Irving’s. The trees in Robertson’s work look magical in their interplay with light, wind, the earth below, and the sky above. There is a breathtaking yet tangible quality to the forests in Robertson’s paintings; it’s almost as though the viewer can hear the wind rustling through the leaves and smell the pine or cedar.

Her piece, Reflecting Light, depicts a scene just minutes from her home in Langley. “The water is clean and shallow, and on a sunny day, the light filters softly through the trees that line the river’s edge and create magic,” said Robertson.
“Robertson’s work is largely a reflection of her abiding love for the beauty of the West Coast forests and beaches that she has known all her life,” Harris said.

“I have been lucky enough to live near the forest all my life,” Robertson said. “It just feels like home to me. At our summer cottage in the Gulf Islands, I got to know arbutus trees — they are such magical beings. I love them all — pines, cedars, fir, each one beautiful and unique. If I’m feeling troubled, I head to the woods, and there I find a place of solace and healing. I hope my paintings convey that same sense of peace to the viewer.”

In her work, Tiny Dancer II, Robertson feels a strong bond with this little tree. “She lives on Pender Island, in a place called Roesland, and I have photographed her many times. Her shape is strong and lyrical, and I never get tired of painting her,” expressed Robertson.

Robertson is an award-winning artist and signature member of the Federation of Canadian Artists, Landscape Artists International, and the Northwest Watercolor Society. In addition, she is a highly acclaimed painting teacher and workshop instructor and the author of numerous books on painting. Her work is found in collections around the world.

Irving and Robertson’s work is displayed at Adele Campbell Fine Art in the Westin Resort and Spa in Whistler. | 604-938-0887


Janice Robertson

Tiny Dancer II – Janice Robertson – Adele Campbell Fine Art
Alta Lake Isle – Janice Robertson – Adele Campbell Fine Art