Skeena Voices | Art influenced by a deep love of the wilderness

Skeena Voices | Art influenced by a deep love of the wilderness

Terrace’s Casey Braam has painted several large murals on buildings downtown

Casey Braam’s unyielding love of the wilderness shines clearly in his artwork.

The 32-year-old Terracite has painted several prominent murals downtown in recent years. He painted the Bank of Nova Scotia building in 2018 and the Spotless Cleaning Centre in 2019. This summer, he lead a crew that painted a striking valley with mountain goats on the Cedar Coast Dental building.

Braam was born and raised in Terrace and said he has no plans to leave any time soon. One of his earliest artistic influences was his grandfather, also named Casey Braam, who immigrated to Canada from Holland in the early ’50s and went on to become a well-known artist and community member in Terrace.

“I remember going into his little studio space and looking what he was working on and thinking it was pretty cool,” the younger Braam said, noting that his mother and father, a carver, were also artistic influences for him.

He said art has been an “always thing” in his life. As a child he often passed the time by drawing and he’s known he wanted to make art for a living since childhood

“When I was kid we were visiting our neighbours and they had one of the big Robert Bateman coffee table books,” he said. “I was flipping through it thinking like ‘this is what I want to do one day.’”

But as Braam grew up, he wavered slightly from the artistic path.

“You go through life and life gets in the way and you realize that maybe it’s just a dream and that kind of stuff,” he said. “And people tell you, too … You grow up [saying] ‘I want to be an artist’ and people are like ‘Ah, sure you do.’”

After high school, Braam studied ecology at college in Prince Rupert and then worked in fisheries for a time. Fish, animals and the natural world are the most prominent themes in Braam’s paintings, and he said his time working in fisheries helped draw him back toward art.

“That was actually a great stepping stone into what I’m doing now because it got me outside looking at the stuff I love to do all the time,” he said. “It was also seasonal, so I would work six-month contracts, with the consulting company I worked for, and then I could paint all winter.”

From there, he was able to transition to painting for a living full time.

Fishing and hunting are Braam’s major hobbies. Since he stopped working on fisheries consulting, he has spent less time fishing and more time hunting — an activity he mainly likes to do with his dad and his brother. That change is reflected in the content of his artwork.

“When I was working fisheries, I painted fish. Just fish all the time, because that’s what I was seeing and doing,” he said. “Now that I get to make my own outdoor calendar, I tend to do more a lot more wildlife and mountain scenes.”

Braam said he is an elder at his church, the Terrace Christian Reform Church, and his faith is intertwined with his love of the wilderness.

“Being stewards of what we’ve given as far as the natural world around us, that’s something I push for, and that’s a big part of my faith as well, so I think that can kind of be seen in my art,” he said. “Also I help support different conservation trusts and stuff through my artwork, Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance and BC Wild Sheep Society.”

Braam said he has enjoyed painting the large murals in Terrace and he feels tremendous support from the community.

“Terrace as a whole has been great in the last bunch of years, because people have been interested in what I’m doing and believe in me enough to ask me to do big projects,” he said. “That’s all you could really ask for, I mean, if people are willing to hang your work on their wall or paint it on the side of their building and say yes to that, that’s enough encouragement.”

He said that when he began painting in the large mural format, there was one major challenge to overcome.

“The confidence to step forward and say ‘hey I can do this,’ and do it, that was the biggest hurdle. Once I got over that in my first couple murals, now I’m just comfortable painting them. And it’s just fun, and it’s fun to do it really big,” he said.

Braam worked with artists Rod Brown and Tim Block on the dental office mural painted this summer.

“This year was my first time painting with a team instead of just by myself, which was really, really rewarding,” he said, adding that Brown and Block are “super competent” artists who are new to painting large murals. “The more people we can have trained up to do these murals, the more diverse and interesting [Terrace murals are] going to be.”

The murals Braam has painted in recent years have been commissioned by the Skeena Salmon Arts Festival Society (SSAFS.)

The SSAFS is also currently hosting an online art show/auction called the Skeena Salmon Hearts show, which features heart-shaped artwork by Northwest artists.

Braam entered a piece in the hearts show featuring a mountain goat.

The show is running until Aug. 29 and can be viewed through the SSAFS Facebook Page.