Painter in a ghost town
April 25th, 2016
Jim Less painted the mountains of British Columbia for two decades just prior to the rise of the Internet and therefore web searches about him produce precious little.
A book of his art, with text by Michael Collins, is now being published to fill a missing gap by providing a glimpse into Less’s life and work. Jim Less: The Mountains of Western Canada (Michael Collins $95) is largely composed of reproductions of Jim’s paintings with some biographical detail from Collins.
“The landscape I paint is completely overwhelming in scale,” Less wrote in his artistic statement. “As one climbs from the forest to the sub alpine there is a sense of excitement as the landscape opens up. Whenever I am in the alpine, out of sight of man’s disturbance, there is an exhilarating sense of well-being. The universe is on course. It is this feeling of exuberance and energy, and of the loneliness, that I try to suggest in my paintings.”
Jim Less was born in Clinton, Iowa on April 17, 1951. Shortly after receiving a degree in chemistry from Michigan Tech University, Less emigrated to Canada. When he arrived, he wanted to do some exploring, and in the summer of 1974, Jim and Michael Collins met an old bush pilot named Ralph Hathaway, then living on Vancouver Island. Hathaway told them about a place called Trout Lake in the middle of the Selkirk Mountains in B.C.’s southeastern interior. Once there, Less and Collins travelled up the road alongside Lardeau Creek to Ferguson, a community which had thrived in the early years of the 20th Century until the price of silver collapsed in the wake of World War I. Afterwards, the place became a ghost town, reduced to seven standing buildings with the rest of the townsite surrounded by meadow, forest and mountains.
In Ferguson, Jim Less made his home. To support himself in order to keep painting and exploring, he took teaching jobs away in Prince Rupert, Mt. Currie, Revelstoke, the Okanagan, and various other locations in British Columbia. Over time he was able to devote more of his life to painting. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Less exhibited at galleries in Nelson, Revelstoke, Banff, and Calgary. He died in 1995.
The 79-page hardcover book will soon be available in a limited edition of 1,000 copies, signed by Michael Collins, via:
Please contact me. I was a dear friend of Jim in 1970-1971
I am replying to the story of Jim Less. I was Jim’s friend, of which he had few. I climbed with him into the different mountain ranges around Ferguson on numerous occasions. He would bring back wild flowers from the alpine and plant them around his home. He had over 50 varieties of alpine flowers growing in his “garden”. I am privileged to own three of Jim’s original paintings. I have one of his very first paintings of the range above Ferguson, into Circle City. I also possess his #21 painting which is Moby Dick of the Battle Range. I was with him when he sketched the range as we sat on a distant peak, on his tiny little sketch pad, in pencil. I also have a picture of the Thompson Glacier which is above the Arrow Lakes looking north towards Revelstoke. My three paintings represent the transformation of Jim’s work, from his earliest, dark shades of the ominous Selkirk’s to the Thompson Glacier picture which incorporates colorful alpine meadows in the foreground. Just thought you might want to know. Keith Chancellor