Many collectors in America are proud owners of one of Brent Townsend’s supremely detailed views of the North American wilderness. But almost every Canadian has a piece of Townsend art in their possession—in their pockets, perhaps, or on a desktop. His is the polar bear image on Canada’s two dollar coin, affectionately known as the "toonie."
That is only the latest acknowledgment that Townsend is one of Canada’s favorite and foremost wildlife artists. In fact, he was both the first Canadian and the youngest person ever to be named "Artist of the Year" by the 1989 Western and Wildlife Art Exhibition. Pretty impressive for a man who considers himself essentially self-taught and started selling his artwork in the seventh grade.
His lifelong fascination with the details of wilderness and the wealth of wildlife that could be found just outside, started when he grew up in a house bordered by a ravine on one side and a creek on the other. Inspired by Carl Rungius, Andrew Wyeth and other independently spirited artists, he started trying to capture on paper what he discovered in the wild. "I’d rather be out exploring, studying, sketching, photographing and painting," he says, "than discussing history, technique or career."
His incredibly detailed, yet clear and precise art has gained admirers across the world. Named the featured artist at the Vancouver International Wildlife Art Show and a participant of the World Wildlife Fund’s "Spirit of the Wild" Show, he was also one of just five artists asked to exhibit with the Canadian Wildlife Art Exhibition in Osaka and Tokyo, Japan.