Close encounters on P.E.I.

Sally Cole
Published on February 13, 2016

Artist Robert Milner shows his painting, In the Trees. It is part of A Brush With Nature, an exhibition running at the Gallery @ the Guild in Charlottetown until Feb. 27.

Artist Robert Milner catches nature unaware in his paintings on view at Gallery @ The Guild

P.E.I. artist Robert Milner has a passion for painting.

He also likes close encounters with nature.

“It’s important to preserve wildlife. That’s because if we lose wildlife, we lose ourselves,” says Milner who combines his passions in a new exhibition, A Brush With Nature, on display at the Gallery @ the Guild in Charlottetown until Feb. 27.

Whether it’s a doe resting under a snow-covered evergreen branch or a lynx peering out from its camouflaged den, Milner’s paintings leave viewers with the feeling they are catching nature unaware and watching something rare.

In fact, if one stares at his works long enough, one can begin to sense the animal’s feelings.

Empathy is the magic of Milner’s work.

“You have to look for their expression ... and their body language when you paint, just like you do with people. You have to watch animals closer because they might decide to attack you,” says the Kensington resident, with a laugh.

That’s why his advice to other artists is to draw the eyes last.

“I’ve painted hundreds of dogs. You have to stare the dog in the eyes to get their feelings. But, whenever I do, the German Shepherd and Rottweiler would always attempt to come off the table at me because they feel challenged.”

In this exhibition, his eye is on wildlife as well as landscapes.

The show is comprised of 30 paintings as well as two limited edition prints. The collection is a partial retrospective exhibit created between 2006 and 2016. It was created during, and inspired by, a painting trip to Yellowstone Park, using information from time spent in the conservation area and of time spent in the City of Kawartha Lakes in Ontario.

Other images were created while living on Prince Edward Island after Milner and his wife, Kathleen, moved here in 2010.

“I paint every day .... And I’m always looking for new and different subjects,” says Milner.

Take the Rhubarb Patch, for instance.

It’s a painting of a red fox, under a tree, behind the shed. Unlike other foxes along the roadsides begging for food, this one is unaware that he’s being watched.

“He’s not posing. He’s busy doing what he likes to do, foraging for food in the rhubarb and wildflowers.”

In another painting, Coming In For a Landing, a seagull spreads its wings as it flies over the water.

Still another, In the Trees, shows two American goldfinches and a house finch perched on a tree branch in the marsh.

“I love painting wetlands because there are creatures everywhere. And there’s lots of great habitat.”

The natural setting also allows him to be creative in his technique.

“I like to play with light and dark and positive and negative spaces. You’re pulling and pushing the picture plane.”




Artist fast facts

- Who: Robert Milner

- Where: Spends his winters in Kensington and summers in Malpeque where he and his wife, Kathleen, operate the Little Red Barn Gallery.

- Shows: The artist has shown his work in hundreds of exhibitions. In 2015, he was part of the group exhibition, Celebration of 150 years of the Journal Pioneer. He showed his work, It's Time to Go a Fishing.

- Paintings: Milner's paintings hang in private collections in England, Holland, France, Scotland, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and in Canada.