Robert Huffman readily admits there is something innately familiar in some of his paintings.
In fact, some have been compared to the best-known Canadian works of 100 years ago. But, he explains, he comes by it honestly.
“I have roots in the north country,” Huffman says, adding that while much of his youth was spent in the Huntsville and Algonquin Park areas, a decade working as a commercial artist in Toronto after two years at the Ontario College of Art allowed him an even greater appreciation for nature and the great outdoors. And perhaps unsurprisingly, many of Huffman’s familiar haunts over the course of his life were those shared a century ago by members of The Group of Seven, along with their colleague Tom Thomson. The Group created numerous images of forests, lakes and trees that have become synonymous with Canada.
And Huffman’s work is reminiscent. And, he says, it’s simply the way he paints.
“By the time I knew that there were other kinds of art,” he says, “it was too late.”
Huffman is the featured artist at the Stirling-Rawdon Public Library art gallery for the month of April, where many of his recent works are now on display.
The images will be familiar to art enthusiasts and gallery visitors in the area, having been the subject of showings at various venues throughout the county, and the exhibition in Stirling is one of four Huffman has had here in the past decade. As well, a September exhibit at Wellington’s SideStreet Gallery is also in the works.
But Huffman has no trouble keeping up with the demand. Always working and attentive to his surroundings, Huffman says there is no shortage of inspiration in the area and the process of painting has been easy for him.
Since returning to the area in the early 1980s, Huffman says, he has been able to earn a living as an artist while at the same time having the freedom to travel the country in pursuit of that perfect picture. But even that can be tricky. Admittedly, he explains, he has often been unaware of the striking beauty of a scene until a subsequent visit. “You might go past it a dozen times,” he says. So even the ability to properly observe the landscape, something key to an artist’s work, he suggests is a skill that continues to develop. And while it is not as often as it used to be, Huffman adds, he still finds time to get out in a canoe or plan a hike just take it all in.
Paintings in the current exhibit also include coastal scenes from Cape Breton, providing a stark contrast to those from Ontario.
But for Huffman, art is all about making a connection, whether between the artist and his audience or the artist and his subject.