Local artist and naturalist, Aleta Karstad, has won the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s (CWF) Robert Bateman award. Founded by the Ontario-born naturalist and painter, Robert Bateman, in 2013, the award has been given out every year to an individual or group that brings awareness to conservation through an artistic medium. This can be in the form painting, sculpture, photography, writing, song, or choreography.
Aleta is the first landscape painter to win the award. Through her impressive body of work, she brings the natural world to life, and advocates for conservation. “If you know Aleta’s work, you will know why she was an obvious candidate for this award,” says past President of the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club, Fenja Brodo. “Her exquisite use of pencil, watercolours and oil to depict the natural world, from the microscopic to encapsulating broad landscapes, puts her at least on a par with Robert Bateman himself.”
Aleta says she was very surprised when she got the letter informing her that she would be honoured with the award at the Canadian Wildlife Federation AGM in June. “I had no idea that I had been nominated for it,” she says.
She was flown from a conference she was attending in New Brunswick to the CWF banquet in Regina on June 16, where she accepted the award. In her acceptance speech, she spoke about her beginnings as a naturalist, and about her husband, Dr. Fred Schuler, who continues to inspire her to illustrate the natural world. “Throughout our 45 years together, Fred’s knowledge and passion have inspired and informed my art,” Aleta said in her speech. “It’s an exciting and fulfilling life, but not a secure or easy one.”
Aleta is particularly honoured to receive this award because of the respect she has for its founder. She met Robert Bateman in 1981, when she was invited on a week-long canoe trip with him in the Ogoki-Albani wilderness near Thunder Bay. “Bateman and I became fairly well acquainted, being bowsmen in our canoes,” she remembers. “We talked about choosing subjects, and how we would go about painting them. It was truly inspiring!”
Aleta is currently organizing an art retreat to the Dumoine River, where artists from across Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec, working in different mediums, will create works of art, share stories and be inspired by the landscape. Each artist who attends will donate one painting to help raise funds for nature conservation.