460 Portage Avenue
This unsigned nature scene was composed and painted by Mike Valcourt in 1999 for United Surplus store, with sponsorship by Take Pride Winnipeg and Downtown Winnipeg BIZ. The building was demolished in March of 2009, and the Mural was still in good shape on its very last day when this last wall came down in April, 2009.
Original notes follow:
Mike Valcourt: "This is the first Mural I had pretty much free reign of; I could do pretty
much anything I wanted. I did up one sketch, pretty much exactly what is there now, and
it was approved! I love painting nature, and this was a good chance get back to doing
that. All the other Murals I had done up to this point were for other people, other peoples
ideas and agenda. So this one was just me, my heart coming out. It just flowed out of me
onto the wall. This time, I did have my sketch as a reference. I painted furiously and
quickly and I got a lot accomplished in very short time. It all just came out of me again,
and in 12-15 days it was done. That's what I like about it: I got back to my roots of
painting and the fun of it."
"This was a June Mural, not too hot yet, plus I had shade in the mornings. The first thing
I painted was a waterfall. I had a lot of fun putting little things onto this wall that
passers-by will see up close, but not if you're whipping by in a car. I painted each
individual blade of grass and strand of straw, and branches and roots and dirt. I drew
cracks in the rock and the waters as it creeps through the rocks such as what happens in
rapids so you get that white water effect. I painted mud and moss on the rocks. That's
what I like the most-the attention to detail I put in here. Then, through sheer chance, I
was doing blending with the water, and poof! There were rocks! The blending that I had
done made it look exactly the way submerged rocks look in water. And so I went with it!
Pretty soon I had a whole bunch of submerged rocks in the stream. I also added some
reflections in the water. Just for fun, I threw in a porcupine, sitting on a branch hanging
over the waterfall. Nobody really notices him until you walk up close to it."
"There's a School of Beauty across the street and they would look out the window and
see this all day long. All the women would come out on their break and tell me how
much they enjoyed the wall and how much better a view they had now with this entire
"On the right is a tent. That's the only real stipulation that Army Surplus had was to
include the tent in the outdoor scene. I took one of their brochures and painted
"At the time I painted this wall, you didn't have Muralists putting nature scenes on the
walls here in Winnipeg. Instead it was pictures of people or automobiles or horse and
buggy. I believe the nature scene is closer to pure art and I would like to see a lot more
of it here in Winnipeg. I've long been inspired by Robert Bateman and that's who I tried
to emulate as a kid when I was trying to paint and so a lot of that came out in me. I look
very closely at his work and see the techniques that he used and how it got to a certain
place. It was through learning all of that that I learned how to paint myself: how to layer
things; how to use quick brushstrokes to get an impression of things. That's the way he
used to paint He comes from impressionistic background and that's really evident in the
rapids and the quickness of strokes in the water and trees."
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