ERIN LINN MCMULLAN
Special to the Westerly
Mark Hobson proves what science suggests—that the making and viewing of art raises our endorphins and creates happiness.
“I’m happier than I’ve ever been,” says Hobson, who is living his dream as a full-time artist and whose gallery celebrates its fifth anniversary in Tofino on July 26th. “The biggest difference is the time it gives me to paint.”
The internationally acclaimed artist has doubled his production thanks to manager Rino del Zoppo, a “magician in arts administration” and the staff he considers his “little family”.
Hobson’s passion for the West Coast not only attracts hundreds of visitors each month, but was recently recognized with Artists for Conservation’s Simon Combes Award in November and with International Artist Magazine’s Grand Prize for Seascapes, Rivers & Lakes in December, for his painting, ‘View from Black Rock: The Survivor.’ Pull up a comfy leather chair to contemplate this masterwork, showcased alongside other originals in the gallery’s expanded space—a milestone in its first five years. Fortitude is the theme linking lone Sitka Spruce in ‘The Survivor’, its rocky islet refuge battered by translucent light-infused green waves, with the seabird colony perched atop limestone bluffs in ‘Tufted Puffins: Arrivals Lounge, Coronation Island, Alaska.’
For Hobson, who often paints at his remote floathouse studio amidst “super-inspirational” Clayoquot Sound, the gallery remains a “lovely way to connect with people.”
During Canada Day weekend, he chatted over his easel with visitors from Malaysia, South Africa, Australia, Ukraine, and Belfast.
“The truth is this is a rare place. Nothing comes together as it does here in one beautiful package,” says Hobson. “The more you appreciate its beauty, the more likely it is to be saved.”
“He captures the wonder of the environment magically. It’s as if you’ve encountered a special window to an illuminated moment in the marine environment,” says Hon. Naomi Yamamoto, a frequent visitor here since childhood, who felt privileged to meet the artist. “I admire his passion for making the rugged West Coast more accessible to so many of us.”
“Mark has joyously shared his passion for all that is apparent and hidden in nature,” says Councillor Dorothy Baert. “His paintings have opened a way of seeing the coast that has been one of the gifts of his work and it is fortunate that visitors and locals can experience this readily in the gallery.”
When the gallery launched in 2013, nearly 30 years after his arrival in 1984, it leveraged Hobson’s infectious enthusiasm shared over decades of traveling to art shows across North America and internationally.
“Once I decided to become an artist, I never had to go back,” says Hobson, recalling one close call earlier in his career. All set for an 11 a.m. appointment with Don Travis to take him up on an offer to drive boats and offset $16,000 in start-up costs, Hobson sold $14,000 worth of paintings – in the nick of time.
Local artist Norma Dryden credits his “amazing legacy in our community with his style and vision of the coast, and by generously sharing his lifetime’s work and skills,” including “in support of countless local functions.”
“Hobson’s work has been an inspiration to painters across the country” and his sought-after workshops “also launched a number of local painters and helped to create a community of artists that thrive here today.”
“I spent my whole life trying to get here,” Hobson says, still challenging himself and approaching each new piece with excitement.