**Part of a series of stories focusing on the producers and makers you’ll find at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market**
White Wolf & Friends: Original Wildlife Paintings on Wood and Moose Antler Carvings
For the past 51 years, wildlife artist Angus Burns has created intricate paintings and carvings using natural mediums such as wood and even moose antlers as his canvas. He enjoys working with the textures and grains of the woods, and says these natural mediums speak to his soul. “When I paint on a burl (a knotty tree growth), all the beautiful textures and grains in the wood just pop out, and that attracts people,” Angus explains. “And I don’t do much background painting, because the wood is good scenery in itself.”
Angus is a self-taught artist. He began painting when he was 17 and working in northern bush camps. Working in the camp kitchen meant he didn’t have much to do in the afternoons, so art provided him with something to do. One day he was approached by a gentleman who asked him if he could paint some ducks onto a tree burl for him, and Angus said yes (although he had never done anything like that before). That one project soon turned into more than 50 such paintings, and marked the beginning of Angus’ artistic career. Although he continued to work in bush camps, and later on the railway, Angus started to cut his own wood to paint. He also started carving after being approached by a train operator in Moose River (south of James Bay) who had found some moose antlers and wanted Angus to carve the rack for him. Although he had never carved before, Angus says he knew he could do it. “For me it’s like I look at something and imagine it finished: then I just take out all the parts that aren’t there (in my mind).”
Angus came to the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market approximately 14 years ago, when his partner, Sarah Spencer, told him she thought the Market would be a good fit for him. “I had been going to a lot of shows in different places, including the One of a Kind show in Toronto,” he says. “I wasn’t sure about it at first, but she persuaded me to apply so I tried it.” Angus likes the comradery and community that happens at the Market, and he loves being able to interact with customers as he works on his art.
“White Wolf & Friends is like my studio, and I can talk to people as I’m working so they can see that I’m actually doing the work,” Angus explains. “It’s important for people to know these aren’t pieces that I just buy and hang on the walls in my booth – these pieces are all handmade by me and my partner, who helps me out.”
He has customers who have bought pieces from him for years, and has a large client list. He calls the Market a gathering place, where people come from all over. One man told him he stopped by his booth seeing a sign at an airport in Holland telling people to go see Angus at the St. Jacobs Farmers Market (the man showed Angus a picture of the sign). He enjoys hearing the comments from people about his art, and feels his pieces speak to people.
“I believe each piece should talk to you,” he says. “I’m working on a piece for a woman who recently lost her dog. I’ve got to make the dog look like he’s looking right at her, so that when she looks at the piece, she can see him looking back at her. I put a lot of love and care into what I do: it’s important to me to touch people’s hearts through my art work.”
If you’re curious as to why Angus chose the name White Wolf & Friends for his business, there’s a story there too. It’s a story that’s worth stopping by his booth in Peddler’s Village at the Market to hear directly from a man who is happy to share his stories in person, and through his art.