Scenic mural by Chilliwack artist ready for BC Children’s Hospital

Cultus Lake artist Maxwell Newhouse finished a mural for the oncology ward at BC Children’s Hospital, and now he’s working on a second one.

Max Newhouse and the first mural he painted for BC Children’s Hospital. Below

Max Newhouse and the first mural he painted for BC Children’s Hospital. Below

When you look at Maxwell Newhouse’s painting, it feels like you’re standing at the peak of a mountain looking down at the valley below, with the great Cascades all around you.

The Cultus Lake painter recently finished a panoramic painting of B.C.’s scenic mountains for BC Children’s Hospital. It will be hung on the top floor of the new Teck Acute Care Centre (TACC).

He was commissioned to do the piece earlier this year after they put a call out for artists to take part in the Children’s Healing Experience Project.

“I wasn’t going to apply because I get so tired of being rejected. I’m very sensitive,” says Newhouse. “My wife entered for me.”

Turns out they were pretty fond of his work.

“They really, really liked me. They liked what I had to offer. I showed them the books I’ve done.”

Danielle Semple, project manager with the Children’s Healing Experience Project, agrees.

“Everybody loved Max’s work,” she says, adding that his art is “fun, makes you happy, and kids can tell stories about it.”

“We love that he uses recognizable things (in his art),” she says.

“It reminds the kids of a fun time with their families,” such as trips to Whistler and ferry rides, says Semple.

BC Children’s Hospital has a special place in Newhouse’s heart. In the early 1990s, his 14-year-old son Jonathen was diagnosed with leukemia and treated for three years at Children’s.

“(The hospital) saved the life of my child and it saved many other lives too,” says Newhouse. “I spent many years there but never returned, and now I’m ready to do something for them.”

His painting will be enlarged to 16×4 feet, printed, and then hung in five different rooms in the oncology ward of the new state-of-the-art TACC.

Construction on TACC began in 2014 and is expected to be completed next year. It will replace aging infrastructure and provide much-needed space for larger staff and new technologies required to treat today’s chronic and more complex illnesses. The Children’s Healing Experience Project will fill TACC with arts installations that facilitate healthy outcomes by comforting and engaging children and their families.

“(Newhouse) was chosen for the oncology ward because patients spend a long time there, often all day,” says Semple. His painting will give children and their families something to look at for quite a while as they study all the fine details of his work.

Many different forms of art will be seen in the new building — sculptures, murals, prints, paintings, bronze animal casts, interactive art in waiting rooms, a play sculpture in the main lobby, and ceiling art.

Each of the eight floors will have a theme representing B.C. It’ll start on the main floor with an underwater theme, and as you go higher in the building, the themes move into valleys, meadows, forests and mountains.

Newhouse wants children to look at his piece and envision all the adventures they can have outside.

“It’s about symbolism and about celebration,” he says.

In true Newhouse style, his painting is home to a buzz of activity. People are playing hockey and baseball, they’re skiing, cycling and paragliding. There are boats on the water, birds in the sky, and cars on the Sea to Sky Highway.

You can see all four seasons in the piece as each one is painted seamlessly into the next — fall moves into winter as spring blossoms into summer.

There’s so much going on, you could stare at his painting for an hour and still see something new.

“I always want to believe I’m a bird when I do my compositions. I like to have that feeling that I’m flying over the landscape. That’s probably why I always like to put birds into my paintings,” he says, pointing to an eagle soaring above the mountains.

“When an eagle crosses your path, it’s considered very lucky.”

In the middle of the painting, a white bear cub climbs onto its mother’s back, while a third bear is on its hind legs looking out to the snow-capped mountains.

They were so pleased with his piece that they’ve asked him to paint a second one.

It’ll still stay within the mountain theme, but it will feature horseback riding and barrel racing (for the girls, he says) and other outdoor activities like ATVing (for the boys). It will include the Coquihalla Highway with Yak Mountain, a smooth glossy rock surface.

A blue heron is front and centre in his sketch, and other animals will be seen throughout. A crow in the foreground symbolizes Crow’s Nest Pass.

Much like his first finished piece, the second one won’t look identical to its preliminary sketch.

“It’s going to change a lot when I do the painting,” he says.

Regardless, if it’s anything like the first one, there will be a lot for the patients at BC Children’s Hospital to look at and daydream about.