Into the forest with artist Jeremy Herndl

Into the forest with artist Jeremy Herndl

Outdoor locations a studio for his large canvases

  • Feb. 26, 2020 7:30 a.m.

– Story by Sean McIntyre Photography by Don Denton

Jeremy Herndl’s final piece of advice before providing the address of his Victoria studio is to dress for the weather. Unusual, perhaps, but not too surprising for someone who specializes in vast oil paintings of primordial forestscapes.

He works out of a nondescript, detached suburban garage behind his home. The space echoes with the song of winter birds floating in from the glade out back, and the cold winter air sinks into the room’s hard concrete floor. Jeremy’s paintings cover the walls, like windows to a lost and changing world. Clad to endure the elements, Jeremy sits at his desk, finishing up a conversation with a supplier about an order of new canvases.

“One day I just have to figure out heating because it’s so uncomfortable here for people,” he says apologetically when he gets off the phone. “I do bundle up when I’m working in here. It’s just like when I’m out there.”

“Out there” is where Jeremy finds inspiration and undertakes the bulk of his artistic work. It is the wooded spaces in and around Victoria, areas where pockets of ancient forest persist within an increasingly developed and industrialized landscape.

Dog walkers, bird watchers and hikers in Saanich’s Francis/King Regional Park or in and around Port Renfrew might have spotted Jeremy at work. Though he may work in isolated spaces, he’s hard to miss.

Jeremy scouts locations by walking into the forest and sketching his surroundings until he lands upon a spot where he feels compelled to settle down. Whereas many artists would then bundle up those sketches and work on them from the comfort of a sheltered and preferably heated studio space, Jeremy goes home to prepare his gear for a return trip to the woods.

“Within a kilometre walk is my limit because it’s a bit of a pain to carry all that stuff,” he says.

Jeremy will retrace his steps to set up his easel, canvas and oils so that he may paint throughout the day and pack things up at dusk, only to repeat the process the following day. The routine will continue for about two weeks, a period in which Jeremy feels he can adequately capture a setting’s changing form and its subtle effect on him as observer and painter.

“I’m out there and I can smell the trees and appreciate the light changes. I learn to really pay attention. In a way I feel like working outside is really special because these places get a chance to express themselves,” he says.

“Because I’m out there for days and days, I start to feel the little changes that happen and realize that maybe it’s not a one-way thing. It becomes a back-and-forth kind of thing. The weather starts to have an effect. It makes the paint thick or it makes the paint thin. Or the rain comes and it makes the paint slip off and stick somewhere else. It’s almost as if the place is participating. I really love the possibility that this process of making a painting feels collaborative.”

Years ago, when he was eight years old, Jeremy’s son looked upon his father’s work as short movies. These seemingly static representations of landscape encompass the continuous play of light, wind, moisture and growth found within each setting.

“I would hope that somebody could appreciate that liveliness,” he says.

In his recent works, Jeremy focuses largely on the natural. This new trail represents a transition from attempts to convey the liminal spaces between the constructed and the natural that have characterized much of Jeremy’s previous work. In his very earliest artistic efforts, undertaken as a young boy who’d moved from an off-grid family cabin near Squamish to downtown Toronto, Jeremy recalls painting many images of trains pointed towards the hills and forests. More recent projects comprise scenes of distant glass-clad condominiums glimpsed through ancient firs and swaying cedars, views that are characteristic of green spaces that endure amidst the built landscape of Vancouver, Surrey and other suburbs of the Lower Mainland.

“Where do we really draw the line? Where does nature end and the human start? Is there such a thing as wilderness or is wilderness something a human could never know because as soon we encounter it, it ceases to be wild?” he asks. “I’ve always wanted to draw that blur, to paint in that blur where humans and wilderness meet because I think it exemplifies the concept that humans are actually nature.

“I think that the old dualist thinking about humans and nature as completely separate has brought us to this situation now, where we find ourselves in such ecological trouble.”

The human element may persist in the guise of his presence as the artist and observer, yet the canvas is now exclusively dedicated to representing Jeremy’s close commune with the forest. It represents an opportunity for creative expression, spiritual fulfillment and existential satisfaction, however fleeting that may be.

“I really want to focus on the forest because it becomes a kind of meditation,” he says. “It’s a very satisfying experience to hear the creatures and the forest and to have a conversation with these places, and then to offer that conversation out to people at this stage, I feel, is an important job.”

People in the Victoria area can glimpse the result of Jeremy’s conversations when his work is presented at Oak Bay’s Winchester Galleries in May and June. Exhibitions are also slated for Calgary, Alta. and London, Ont. later in 2020. Further information about Jeremy’s current projects can be obtained at jeremyherndl.com or on Instagram at @jeremyherndl.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

Artartist

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Peter Flynn sits at the piano at a Christmas concert. Flynn retired at the end of 2020 and sat down with The Standard to reflect on his long career in the Hope area. (Photo/Peter Flynn)
EXTENDED INTERVIEW: Coquihalla’s longtime elementary school teacher retires

Peter Flynn reflects on decades as a teacher in Hope, teaching at school he went to as a child

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Feb. 28

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Alina Durham, mother of Shaelene Bell, lights candles on behalf of Bell’s two sons during a vigil on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO and PHOTOS: Candlelight vigil for Shaelene Bell of Chilliwack sends message of hope

Small group of family, friends gathered to shine light for 23-year-old mother missing for four weeks

The Great Bear Snowshed on the Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5) in British Columbia. Truck driver Roy McCormack testified in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack on Feb. 25, 2021 that his brakes started smoking in about this location, and soon after he lost all braking, which led to a multi-vehicle crash further down the road on Aug. 5, 2016. (GoogleMaps)
Truck driver charged in Coquihalla crash showed ‘wanton and reckless disregard for other people’s lives’: Crown

Despite already having brake issues, Roy McCormack tackled the steepest hill on the infamous highway

Abbotsford International Airport. Black Press file photo.
Abbotsford Airport had 4th highest traffic in Canada in 2020, and its number are down

Statistics Canada report describes a ‘devastating year’ for air travel

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Judith Uwamahoro is Black, approximately 4’7″ tall, 80 pounds and has short black hair and brown eyes. (Surrey RCMP handout)
UPDATED: Lower Mainland 9-year-old located after police make public plea

Judith Uwamahoro went missing Friday at around 4 p.m. in Surrey

Five-year-old Nancy Murphy wears a full mask and face shield as she waits in line for her kindergarten class to enter school during the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Variant of concern linked to COVID-19 outbreak at three Surrey schools

Cases appear to be linked to community transmissions, but schools will remain open

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Most Read