Fort St. James rancher paints what she sees

Inspiration for art can strike anyone at anytime, even while baling hay.

Pat Gauthier is seen holding one of her paintings on her back porch overlooking her ranch.

Fort St. James – Inspiration for art can strike anyone at any time, even while bailing hay.


Fort St. James resident Pat Gauthier enjoys both her work as a cattle farmer and as a painter. However, she is even happier when she can combine the two.

“The fresh in-the-moment inspiration gets translated onto paper and people can see it,” said Ms. Gauthier.

By painting right as inspiration strikes, Ms. Gauthier has found herself walking, hiking, boating and even bailing before stopping for a few minutes to paint. Not all of her paintings are en plein air, which is a French expression meaning to ‘paint in the open air’, but it is her favourite way to capture natures beauty.

“The sense of land is strong in me because I grew up on a farm,” said Ms. Gauthier, who has over 30 nature paintings hung at her home studio depicting images from all over the Fort St. James area.

Ms. Gauthier has been recognized locally and internationally for her work on scenic landscapes capturing the essence of western Canada. While many of her plein air paintings are completed in only  a few minutes, it’s not as simple as just painting outdoors considering all the constant element changes, said Ms. Gauthier.

“If you’re not fast enough a cloud could come over causing the shadows to change. When the lighting changes the colours change,” said Ms. Gauthier.

Deciding what exactly to focus on while everything is changing is another factor that makes painting outdoors more difficult.

“I take my fingers and make a box and move it around until I find that specific area I want to capture, like a photo [filling the frame],” said Ms. Gauthier.

Although painting in the moment continues to have a great response from fans, Ms. Gauthier still likes to paint inside her studio sometimes using pictures she has taken as inspiration.

“I can take a picture and look at it to remember how I felt in the moment and use that feeling to paint with,” said Ms. Gauthier.

She recognizes not all of her paintings come out perfect, but says it’s always a learning experience. She has always taught herself by doing, but still occasionally attends other artist’s workshops to further her artistic learning.

Summer time does bring Ms. Gauthier a full-time ranching job tending to over 250 animals, but somehow she has still found time for various art projects around town.

As the artist in residence for the National Historic Site in Fort St. James, she provided complimentary painting demonstrations at the site’s aboriginal days event last month and will be doing demonstrations at the sites Caledonia Days event July 19 to 20.

“I would eventually like to see the site develop a program where every year they have a new artist of residence come and inspire the community,” said Ms. Gauthier.


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