Although Victoria artist Paul Archer only learned of Takaya about a year ago, news of the wolf’s death “saddened” him.
Takaya, the lone wolf that lived on Discovery Island for about eight years, was captured in James Bay in January and released in a coastal habitat on the west side of Vancouver Island only to be shot and killed a few months later.
“[The news of Takaya’s death] just kept refreshing in my memory and I thought I’ve got to do something,” says Archer, who specializes in airbrush work.
To commemorate the animal, Archer painted a mural outside his shop on Broughton Street depicting a howling Takaya looking out onto the waters near Discovery Island, all based off photos he had seen of the wolf.
Prior to Takaya’s death, Archer had been working on a different painting of a wolf, paying special attention to the thick, dense fur. Archer says painting the fur is “very difficult” and “time-consuming” because of the way it packs deep and peaks. But he wanted to challenge himself.
“Some of these artists, like [Robert] Bateman — Bateman can pull this kind of thing off,” he says. “I was painting a wolf right around the time that this had all happened, so it was almost like a sign to me.”
Thinking at first he could change the original painting to make it look like Takaya, he thought no “it’s a different wolf altogether” and started fresh. An old fire truck he was working on was removed from his driveway and there was the wall, a canvas for Takaya.
The mural took the artist – of over 30 years experience – about a day and a half using airbrush tools, which he calls his “forte.”
“The big satisfaction is to be able to climb down – in the case of a larger mural – from a 10-storey building, go three blocks and turn around and then make your notes,” he says.
Archer says he would love to be able to do a larger-scale mural in Victoria.
|A mural Paul Archer painted outside The Wooden Spoon Bistro in Grand Forks in 2018. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)|
“For about 20 years I’ve been trying to see if I can get to do something big in Victoria – all my work is in Vancouver and all over B.C. – but Victoria’s a hard one to get to say yes to me doing something big,” he says, adding he’d probably even do it for free if a blank wall and scissor lift were provided.
His murals, such as one in Grand Forks of a child licking a spoon, are emotional pieces aimed at drawing out nostalgia in viewers.
“I came in and did one mural, the next thing you know I had line ups of people and they’re coming up to me, giving me hugs, they’re weeping on my shoulder, saying thank you, thank you for this,” he says, of painting the mural about a year after the 2018 floods that saw more than 2,800 people displaced from their homes.
“That’s what really opened my eyes for starting to do some real inspirational stuff.”