Roderick MacIver, Artist

My art is inspired by canoe trips in the Canadian north, by time in the Adirondack woods, by a quiet life on the outside looking in. Birdsong, a few good friends, paddling wild rivers. Painting.


In 1994, I founded Heron Dance, a newsletter then book publisher, that explored the human search for meaning, the human connection to the natural world and creativity. Over a period of years, art became a more important part of that work, and words less important. Now that  Heron Dance has closed, my work consists entirely of art, although there are still a very few copies of the book arts collection of my work, The Journey Itself Is Home and Wild Waters and the Tao left. Both combine my art and poetry.


Quiet, beautiful places in the woods sustain me. I grew up surrounded by fields and forests. Many of my memories of childhood are of roaming around in the woods, of soakers and birdsong, of lying on my back watching the clouds float by. In my early teens I discovered wilderness canoeing. My first trips were with the YMCA in northern Canada. Later, my parents owned a cottage in Quebec and I began exploring nearby lakes that had no road into them and no people. I’d drag my canoe up shallow streams, or portage, and find a place to camp where I could just sit and watch the birds and the water.



My academic career was limited. I left school when I was sixteen and hitchhiked north, hoping to find indigenous people living close to the land. The closest I came was fighting forest fires with Dogrib Indians near Great Slave Lake in what was then Canada’s Northwest Territories. Other than a couple of night classes at university, I’ve avoided formal education. Instead, I’ve read thousands of books and interviewed hundreds of people who had insights into subjects that interested me.


Nature Painting, Grand Bay
Thirty years old, sitting beside a wilderness lake shrouded in a gray, pre-dawn fog, two loons drifted in and out of view. One stretched and called that haunting call of the wild. Four years later I had to spend a week every couple of months in a hospital getting experimental chemotherapy. I would lie in the hospital bed, close my eyes, and see and hear that lake and those loons. The actual experience lasted perhaps twenty seconds, but it sustained me through hours and months.



loon painting


Perhaps each human life is fed by the underground spring of a few experiences. When we are there, we touch something beyond words. Four such experiences come to my mind. Perhaps there have been a few more. They make me who I am to me, who I am under the personas I assume to negotiate my way in the world.


A person’s life purpose is nothing more than to rediscover, through the detours of art, or love, or passionate work, those one or two images in the presence of which his heart first opened.

– Albert Camus