Aleta Karstad

akphotointree1july2010Born in Guelph, Ontario in 1951, Aleta learned her love of nature through helping her wildlife pathologist father, Lars Karstad, with travels and field work. After the three-year Fine Arts course at Central Technical School, Toronto, where she studied watercolour under Doris McCarthy, she began work in biological illustration at the National Museum of Canada, and in 1973, married biologist Frederick W. Schueler. They have been residents of Bishops Mills since 1978, very involved in recording local natural history. In 2002, they opened the Bishops Mills Natural History Centre in the old General Store building.

Aleta's books (Canadian Nature Notebook (1979), Wild Seasons Daybook (1985), North Moresby Wilderness (1990) and A Place to Walk (1995)) have been drawn from her illustrated natural history journals, and since 1995 she has been teaching her method of combining drawings, watercolours, and lettering, on archival-quality materials to make a permanent record of a place and time. She prefers to paint outdoors, to see and feel the depth and movement and the quality of time and place that she tries to communicate through her art. Her mission is to teach people to love the land and its inhabitants.

Aleta and her husband Fred work together at what they call "Landscape Art & Science", revisiting places they've surveyed before as well as places recommended by others, to set up an example and procedures for long term monitoring of species, habitats, and the environment. They partnered with the Nature Conservancy of Canada this year on expeditions to survey and paint in NCC's Natural Areas of Frontenac Arch (Ontario) and Musquash Estuary (New Brunswick).

Aleta"s paintings are  mostly plein air in the tradition of the Group of Seven and other prominent outdoor painters. She uses small stretched canvases (5 x 7 inches) for easy transportation in the field, and applies a fresh underpainting according to the colour of the light or the subject as she begins each on-site painting. The subjects of her oils range from distant landscapes to close-ups and she strives for challenging compositions and lots of movement in her representational work. When Aleta  wants to focus on close detail in plants or small animals such as insects, she paints in watercolour on a white background.

Aleta uploads each daily Biodiversity Painting to her blog, from which she runs a week-long e-mail auction for each piece to support the 30 Years Later Expedition.

You can find out more about the 30 Years Later Expedition at


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