Ocean Falls Artifacts
Len Whalen Collection
artist / cartoonist, was employed by CZ – Ocean Falls from 1954 – 1959.
Len’s primary job was developing safety programs and producing humorous
safety posters. Len also provided the cover art for The Rain People.
Leonard George Whalen
1912 – 1989
Leonard George Whalen was born in Vancouver, B.C in 1912, the son
and nephew of four brothers who together owned and operated the mills of
Whalen Pulp & Paper Company in Port Alice, Woodfibre and Swanson Bay.
Life in the logging camps of B.C. during the prosperity of the
pre-Depression Pacific Northwest, as well as periods working as a
logger, truck swamper or deck hand on the company’s tugboats, would
provide both a livelihood and artistic inspiration for Whalen.
The result of this unique milieu and upbringing was the Rangatang
collection: 26 canvases depicting the daily life of the West Coast
logger in the early 1920s and 30s. Produced by Whalen over a 15 year
span from 1972 to 1989, the paintings portray an existence and industry
that has long since disappeared, supplanted by technology, automation
and global corporations.
The subjects of the paintings are the men Whalen worked beside and the
bunkhouse existence he shared with them. It was a life characterized by
the hardships and dangers of a grueling industry, punctuated by brief
visits to town – usually Vancouver – for a much needed diversion. The
collection captures the courage and resilience required of those who
worked in these camps, along with the work ethic and good humour that
the hardships demanded. Each painting illuminates a unique time and
place, and sheds light on both the painter and those painted.
In addition to the canvases, Whalen’s work includes a collection of
cartoons that provide another perspective on the inhabitants of the
logging communities. The cartoons appeared in the Vancouver Sun in the
series titled “B.C. Rangatangs”, as well as Macleans and other
magazines, and have been collected in two editions. They, too, are
succinct and well-observed portraits of “bunkhouse life”.
From 1973 to the time of his passing in 1989, Whalen lived in White
Rock, B.C., many miles from the camps he grew up in and close to the
ocean that had been Whalen’s first source of inspiration. The
paintings, charcoal studies and watercolours inspired by the beauty of
the west coast have been exhibited in small art galleries throughout
The Rangatang collection is evidence of Whalen’s respect for his fellow
workers – the common man upon whom many early 20th century industries
were built. It is a respect that would be apparent in his reluctance,
years later, to exhibit in any gallery where the pricing would put a
painting beyond the reach of the very people whose stories and lives
were the current running through the work. The paintings are a
reflection of Whalen’s respect for the men he shared so much with and
for the life they lived. So, too, are they a reflection of the hardships
he faced, and his own dignity, strength and good humor.