Achival record or mindfulness practice: painting the southwest coast of Canada

Am I archiving our southwest coast of Canada in my paintings?

The very idea has my hands go clammy and a coolness run from tailbone up to the very crown of my head. What a strange assumption I at first thought! But then it came up a couple of more times. But the concept is no longer presented as a question.

“You are creating archival records of these beautiful trees and seascapes!”

Northeasterly Morning Strait of Georgia Mayne Island BC 20 x 40 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch

It is a concerning accusation, at least by definition…

“In general, archives consist of records that have been selected for permanent or long-term preservation on grounds of their enduring cultural, historical, or evidentiary value.” (Wikipedia)

I am more than a bit squeamish about the idea that my paintings might be considered historical evidence collected to preserve something that no longer exists. I have held higher hopes than this for the influence of these works! I have had no intention of creating historical records with my brush. Instead, I have wanted to create a desire to preserve and protect the land, the sea and our humanity that knowingly or unknowingly rely on them. I want to strengthen our direct relationship and connection with our natural environment, pure and yet not so simple it seems.

Have I failed if the paintings, even before I am dead, even before this fragile environment is damaged beyond repair, are being considered as important historical archival documents?

As our Canadian federal government agrees to buy an obsolete, yet-to-be-built twinning pipeline from big oil stakeholders for a whopping 4.5 billion of taxpayer dollars while the Provinces and First Nations head for the courts, I am going to go paint!

I am going to drive to my location in my 2012 Subaru Outback with my water-mixable, vegetable oil, paints that use no solvents. Yes, as you can see, I find this sustainability and transition to clean energy complicated. Yet, I trust we will get there or parish trying. (These are the only two options really.)

I am going it go paint, not as an act of creating a historical record but as a meditation, an act of mindfulness in appreciation of what is.

Therefore, I beg of you – experience these paintings as reminders of what we need to protect rather than coveted records of something that will likely disappear, through oil spills, through climate change, through our collective lack of regard! A painting is nothing, absolutely nothing, in comparison to the real thing – in comparison to you experiencing the ordinary moments in an ordinary day somewhere on the southwest coast of Canada. This I am sure of!

Summer Lowtide Morning 16 x 20 inch oil on canvas plein air by Terrill Welch Aug 17 2017 IMG_0461

May the Salish sea breeze ruffle your hair as starfish wink in the low tide, speckled with seagulls, seals, leaping orcas and children playing in the pools of warm water while grandparents watch from under the shade of an old arbutus tree.

We can do this hard thing! In this I believe.

What about you? 🙂

© 2018 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to

6 thoughts on “Achival record or mindfulness practice: painting the southwest coast of Canada

  1. Terrill — I, too, believe we can do this hard thing. Especially when we “experience these paintings as reminders of what we need to protect rather than coveted records of something that will likely disappear, through oil spills, through climate change, through our collective lack of regard!”

  2. Beautiful work Terrill, and great to hear more behind what makes you paint and your desire to protect and record the ancient natural beauty of the Canadian coast. Glad to hear the Canadian government are to invest in this, I certainly envy you living there, I think I’m partly motivated to be a working artist by wanting to be free to travel and experience and indeed paint these places. NZ is also high on my list.

    • Thanks paintescapes67 🙂 As for the Canadian federal government investing in our coastal waters, not so much at the moment. But we are working in that. It is the local Islands Trust that has done an exceptional job. I love traveling and painting as well. It doesn’t even have to be far. Just a fresh view and a chance to be outdoors painting for a bit works for me. In the winter it is mostly studio work but that is fine too as I tackle some of the larger canvases more often then. Happy painting!

  3. I suppose what could be gleamed from your paintings is that’s your interpretation of the coast on any given day, what with artistic license I doubt if they could be used as an accurate measure of say coastal erosion of a given period, photographs with more detail would surely be better. Carry on painting for pleasure, your good at it..

    • Possibly Steve, if one is looking to visually capture the change of say a shoreline, then a photograph can better record marker relationships if one uses the same camera with the same lens, in the same place, at the same time of year and day and hour with the same kind of light conditions. Or maybe even a video to capture the sounds well. Chance are something would be out of alignment and photographs are less likely to give us a sensory connection to smell, taste and touch it seems than my paintings can render. But it is not my intention to creat a record of what might not be there someday. I want to engage us in valuing what is hear today enough to change our ways. In this, I think my paintings can run circles around my photographs of the same subjects. There is just so much more sensory translation and engagement with a painting – at least this is what I observe.

      And thank you! I certainly shall keep painting… while eating my organic vegetables! 🙂

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