“One of the hardest breaks is to go from doing commercial art, where people are paying you to solve a problem for them visually, to doing your own work, which is doing what you love – and then finding a market for it,” says Trépanier, a 1990 Illustration alumnus.
He began his transition by creating fine art on a subject he adores – the outdoors.
Boosted by the confidence that came from selling paintings through studio tours, and motivated by a desire to spend time with his family, he launched a project called Coast to Canvas. It resulted in 33 paintings, produced after he and his family went canoeing and camping off Lake Superior for one month of each season in 2001-2002.
Trépanier decided to document the four journeys through video and blog posts to lend authenticity and understanding to his art. But he never imagined it would lead to a parallel career as a filmmaker.
“When Bravo bought my film, that was a real turning point,” says Trépanier. “I now had the blessing of a major network saying that what I created of my own passion and interest was good enough to acquire.”
Trépanier’s second project, Into the Arctic, combined filmmaking and painting from the outset. Reflecting his love for adventure and his goal to connect people to Canada’s remote places, his aim was to create 50 paintings. It was a journey split over three trips that brought him to “endless” glaciers and mountains and encounters with Arctic wolves. His painting of Wilberforce Falls was shortlisted as an official gift for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. His second film, Into the Arctic II, resulted in a nomination for a 2013 Canadian Screen Award.
In collaboration with Parks Canada, Trépanier recently launched his new multi-year TrueWild: A Legacy For The National Parks project. In the coming years, he aims to mount month-long expeditions into Canada’s wildest national parks, and from each journey create new paintings -including an 8 – 10 foot-wide legacy canvas – and a new film.
Trépanier is now an invited member of The Explorers Club (whose rolls include James Cameron and the late Neil Armstrong), a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society and a sought-after speaker. “I hope that in some way, what I do can have an impact beyond my own self-gratification,” he says. “There are only so many days that I will be walking on this Earth and I want to make every one of them count as much as possible.”
Learn more about Sheridan’s Bachelor of Illustration program.