Birch Bark Defined

By Bobbi Henderson

Local artist Mac Squires uses birch bark as a natural canvas to create scenes that reflect and share his lifelong passion for the boreal forest. Growing up in Newfoundland, Squires developed a fondness for the reflective of nature at an early age, inspiring both his artwork and his pursuit of a career in forestry. “My forestry feeds my art, and my art feeds my forestry,” Squires says. “It allows me to look deeper.”

Squires began designing birch bark bookmarks in 1980. Decades later, after spending much of his free time exploring the bush, Squires still finds excitement in discovering a new art canvas of white or paper bark. “I only harvest bark from fallen trees, or that has been shed through winter freezing or spring growth spurts” says Squires.

 Squires’ palette consists purely of black ink and white acrylic, relying on nature to provide the rest—each unique piece of bark contains natural elements that help to define objects drawn within the scene. Squires reveals an often impressive spectrum of colours by delicately cutting and peeling away at the papery thin layers. Each finished piece represents a short story or teaching of Squires’ experiences. “I can use my art to explain things. How we use the forest, what the impacts are of that use, and how the forest mends itself,” he says.

 Squires has evolved his art as a passionate and creative outlet hoping to challenge set beliefs about our forests, and how our practices and demands today impact our forests for future generations. “I will be very happy if the main result is people questioning what they already think. Don’t take my word for it: question,” he says.

Squires’ drawings can be found at Local Colour Art Gallery or by scheduling a visit to his home studio, Boreal Musings, contact him at