Paddle Art Contest – Peter McBurney

I have been travelling to the Muskoka/Algonquin Park/Haliburton region for over a half century. My Great-grandfather bought a cottage on Lake of Bays in 1920 and my family has been travelling to this area ever since. It holds a special place in my heart.

Wolves have always been fascinating to me. They are a frequent topic in my artwork. All paintings that I create are from photographs that I have taken in the wild and at Rehabilitation centres. I also had a mentor in R.D. Lawrence who allowed me to photograph his wolves on many occasions. My aim has always been to educate people on wolves and to dispel any negative feelings for this beautiful animal.

Every year I always visit Algonquin Outfitters and this July noticed the “Tom Thompson Paddle Art Contest”. Recently, I learned that my Great-grandmother, Amy Barnard-Turbayne, an artist in her own right, was friends with Tom Thompson! He even gave her a small painting on glass called “River Scene”.

My friends encouraged me to enter, so without hesitation, I bought a paddle. I knew right away that I was going to paint a wolf on it. It takes a couple of days for me to study the paddle and start to visualize what the final painting will look like. During this time, I will look at all of the wolf photos that I have taken over the years and select a few that I can work from. The eyes of the wolf have always amazed me, so I decided to do a close up of one wolf.

The painting starts with a pencil sketch on the paddle.

Paddle Art Contest - Wolf by Peter McBurney

After the drawing is complete, I use Payne’s grey with a brush to go over pencil lines.

Paddle Art Contest - Wolf by Peter McBurney

Although I have been painting for most of my life, I am still very slow and these first stages took a day to complete. The next day, I used washes of Burnt umber to fill in the wolf and to stain the rest of the paddle.

Paddle Art Contest - Wolf by Peter McBurney

After this stage I completed the eyes. If I can get the eyes right, then I know that the painting will work.

Paddle Art Contest - Wolf by Peter McBurney

I used Cadmium yellow, Cadmium orange hue, Payne’s grey, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt umber, and Titanium white to complete this stage. Day three I started working with Titan buff to work in detail in the fur.

Paddle Art Contest - Wolf by Peter McBurney

Once I am happy with this stage I will alternate between dark and light colours. I work in the details with Burnt umber and then take a break before working with light colours. The painting looks more realistic with each pass of colour. I will use washes of various colours to blend in details. Finally, I use Titanium white to add details.

Paddle Art Contest - Wolf by Peter McBurney

The last step is to varnish the paddle, wrap the handle with leather, and have my picture taken with it at the cottage!

Paddle Art Contest - Wolf by Peter McBurney

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Peter McBurney

Peter McBurney is a High School Biology Teacher, self-taught artist, photographer, and guitar enthusiast. He lives in Niagara Falls, Ontario with his wife Robin.


  • Heather MacAdam says:

    Amazing! Beautiful. Love the eyes!

  • Jules says:

    WOW It’s amazing!
    Thanks for sharing the stages of your work Peter!

  • Thanks for sharing your creation story. Your paddle is absolutely stunning!! Wolves are graciously beautiful and full of mystery…just look at those eyes! Its a one of kind piece and a treasure I wold be thrilled to have in my home! Great work Peter!!

  • Carol Cameron says:

    This is the first time that I have seen your art work and find it so wonderful you are very talented. as an aside we lived across the street from each other as children on Rosedale Dr At the age of 10 we moved to Valley Way. I remember your father Walter , your Mother and your sister Linda. It is so nice to see your amazing gift Peter.

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