John Boivin Gives Significance to the Unremarkable

John Boivin Gives Significance to the Unremarkable

Traveling to the northern part of Canada confirmed what I knew to be true all along; the north flows through my veins. I really felt at home there. Many people think of the south when travel whispers in their ear, but for me I think of the breathtaking north. It is a place that in large part is untouched by humans and therefore makes it undeniably special. It’s mystique has an allure all it’s own. The land is large and sweeping, free from man-made scarring for as far as the eye can see. By today’s standards it is not heavily populated with the two-legged species but is home to a significant number of caribou, moose, and large predators such as black bear, grizzly and wolves. Of the 37,000 people who call the Yukon their home roughly 28,000 live in the Territory’s capital city of Whitehorse. This is where we met up with John Boivin; our first of seven interviews in the Yukon’s capital.


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John was waiting for us at our designated rendezvous spot; a bustling Starbucks. After our handshakes and introductions I asked John how Whitehorse got it’s name. Who does that these days? I could have googled it. Nevertheless, John was very helpful and if he was wondering about whether or not I had ever seen a computer he didn’t let on. What I learned was Whitehorse gets its name from the White Horse Rapids on the Yukon River, which were a major obstacle for prospectors during the Klondike Gold Rush. The frothing rapids were said to resemble the manes of white, charging horses. But alas, the horses are no longer there. With the construction of the Whitehorse hydro-electric dam in 1958, the rapids were covered by the Schwatka Lake reservoir.

After my appetite for historical facts was satisfied we convoyed over to Yukon Artists @ Work, a local artist co-operative gallery and where John had a showing of his latest work. John is an acrylic painter with his eye on what he refers to as the “unremarkable”. I kind of chuckled to myself when he said this because to me everywhere I looked seemed remarkable. John went on to explain that he can’t help but be inspired living in the Yukon as beauty is infused within the landscape. His curiosity is piqued not necessarily by the land at large but by the two or three feet on either side of his easel when he paints en plein air. My thought was he must have incredible discipline to be surrounded by 360 degrees of beauty but to maintain a focus within the parameters he set for himself.


While I was listening to John talk I surmised that he takes an integrative approach to his work. When the urge for a new painting starts tugging on his paint brush he hops on his bicycle and starts out for a ride. He doesn’t force his senses to be on alert but rather takes in his surroundings as it comes. When he feels the tingle on the back of his neck triggered by the sound of rushing water or a sunbeam dancing on the silk of a spider web he knows that special spot has revealed itself. It may not be the time to set up a canvas but his mind’s eye is already painting away, preparing for his return to that spot which intrigued him. If not painting en plein air, John likes to sit and imprint his memory with every little detail of his intended subject and then transfer what he remembers onto his canvas. His choice not to take a photograph is part and parcel to his technique. He feels it gives his paintings more of an authenticty because it forces him to really be present and in the moment in order to represent the scene just like he remembers it. In return, nature in conjunction with his art gives him the gift of glimpsing the tiny changes that occur after his painting has long been completed; something that, for most of us, goes unnoticed.


It is easy to feel awestruck when we see something unusually beautiful, something peculiar or something elusive. Spend a few minutes with John as he shares with us the significance of the unremarkable. We appreciate comments and taking the time to share John’s story on social media. Thank you.

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