The other voice - Kathryn Hart

The Extraordinary 'Journeys' of Artist-Explorer Tony Foster Remind Us That Every Day is Earth Day

  • April 21, 2019 20:49

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Tony Foster speaking at The Foster in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2017.
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Two of Tony Foster's complete watercolor 'Journeys' are on view at The Foster, Palo Alto, Calif.
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“It was about the human need to revere certain natural places in the world.”— Tony Foster says of his art.

British artist-explorer Tony Foster (b. 1946) might seem like a relic of the past with his 19th-century style of highly-detailed watercolor landscapes. Yet Foster's work has special resonance today when the impact of human-influenced climate change threatens life on our planet. Since 1982, Foster's multi-year excursions into some of the world's most exquisite places has yielded something of a modern treasure -- a singular vision and artistic record of Earth's wild places.

In numbers, Foster has created some 532 paintings in 16 'journeys' to 15 countries in 35 years. Based in Cornwall, he has ventured out to many remote, wild and extreme spots to paint en plein air in all kinds of weather with a paint box, drawing board...and a big stash of tea. 

Foster's thematically-related series of paintings, or journeys, of wilderness landscapes are highly detailed, at times surprisingly enormous in scale, and often include meaningful momentoes, such as an arrowhead, along the bottom edge. Destinations have ranged from the rainforests of Costa Rica to the American Southwest, and Andes peaks to 'Thoreau's Country.'

A deep appreciation of the natural beauty of wilderness, and a pressing need to share this spendor with others, informs the artist's ouevre. Some of Foster's painted places are endangered. Notes Medium, "The Borneo rainforest, painted by Foster for his latest series [Exploring Beauty], faces increasing risk of destruction due to deforestation and land conversion for palm oil plantations." 

“My work is not simply concerned with describing the landscape, but is about travelling slowly, living in wild places, and about encounters with people, objects, flora and fauna," says Foster.

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After showing in a variety of locations, the journeys were broken up and the individual paintings sold. Two complete journeys: Exploring Beauty: Watercolour Diaries from The Wild (2007–2016) and Sacred Places: Watercolour Diaries from the American Southwest (2010–2012) were purchased in their entirety by Jane Woodman's Foster Art & Wilderness Foundation to keep them intact and these works are available to the public at The Foster in Palo Alto, CA. Other works reside in public institutions and have been exhibited widely.

Gallery view at The Foster, with a work from Tony Foster's 'Sacred Places: Watercolour Diaries from the American Southwest.'
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Foster is currently working on a 17th journey.


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