Faces of Friends: watercolorist Dale Whittaker to join Friends cruise as Artist in Residence

Faces of Friends title graphic - watercolorist Dale Whittaker

May 16, 2024

Creative inspiration can happen anywhere in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. On the sparkling water. On the singing sand beaches or near the rugged sandstone caves and cliffs. Or on a winding trail deep in the island forests. Watercolorist Dale Whittaker says he finds inspiration for his paintings in the islands; not in the grand vistas and postcard views but in the small moments in this special place.

Friends is pleased to announce that Dale will be an Artist in Residence on the 2024 Friends of the Apostle Islands cruise on August 8th. He will speak informally about the role of art in connecting people to the islands. Dale will be sketching, drawing and painting while on board, with one of his works to be auctioned at a later date to benefit Friends. Sign up for the cruise here.

In this interview with Friends Executive Director Jeff Rennicke, Dale talks about how he discovered painting and why the Apostle Islands inspire his work.

Jeff: When did you start painting and why?

Dale: I experimented with painting and drawing as a child, but shelved it until my 50s.  I painted daily during COVID and would mark that as the time I really started painting.  Why?  For me, when I paint, I lose track of time.  I am totally oblivious to the world around me and totally focused on the subject.  It is meditative in some ways.

Jeff: What are the qualities of the Apostle Islands that draw you to focus your work there?

Dale: Golden light, reflections, trees and cliffs with a spirit and character that has been developing for hundreds or thousands of years.  The rapidly changing moods of the sky and water.  To be honest, there is a spiritual energy in the islands that is palpable.

I believe it is why civilizations have landed here over time.  I find that when a moment excites me, I have more fun and it is more natural for the painting to capture that mood.

Dale sitting in the cockpit of Little Dipper, observing the scene he's painting - Jeff Rennicke photo

Dale painting an island scene – Jeff Rennike photos

Paintbrush lays down the first vibrant colors on paper - Jeff Rennicke photo

Jeff: What is the role of mystery in a painting and do the Apostle Islands have that sense of mystery you are seeking?

Dale: Mystery creates the story of a painting.  It pulls you in.  It challenges you to complete the story, to imagine what is through that window, through those trees.  The Apostle Islands are FULL of mystery and magic. 

Dale Whittaker's finished work

Jeff: When a viewer steps up to one of your paintings framed in a gallery, what is it that you hope they see in it?

Dale: I hope they feel more than they see.  I hope they feel the mood of the moment, experience a sense of awe, and are taken to a wild, beautiful place that is much as it has always been.

We look forward to Dale’s Artist in Residence presentation and being able to watch him work during the upcoming Friends Cruise. We’ll keep you posted on the auction of one of Dale’s wonderful paintings. Learn more about creative ways to support Friends of the Apostle Island by visiting the “Support Us” page on our website. And watch for the next Faces of Friends feature in the weeks to come.

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