I have just released six new plein or painting sketches for the November 1-10, 2019 “Paintings of the Salish Sea” solo show. What adventures are are captured in these brushstrokes! Would you like to wander through just a few of the summer plein air adventures with me? Let’s do it!
Yes, you are seeing correctly. I used my new e-bike to transport my plein air gear to the painting location in Miners Bay in Mayne Island.
And this small 8 x10 inch acrylic painting sketch is one of the new works released.
This is the start and what might be next? What an evening this was with an 11 x 14 inch walnut oil on linen board. Though released over the summer, this work is also in the current show.
The evening sunset eventually influenced both the subject and the canvas to such an extent that it was difficult to see the work until the next morning…
Then there was the evening that I painted in the shadows using a light for assistance.
The results made the effort worthwhile and the little light is now part of my toolkit.
Oh why not! How about just one more? I hike in about 30 minutes with all of my plein air gear in a backpack to paint at Saint John’s Point on Mayne Island. An old stump became my painting table beside the easel.
I used a larger 12 x 16 inch gessobord since I knew it was going to be an effort just to get to the location to paint.
Bundles of impressions with snippets of morning light linger over the rounded forms of the cliff and ragged sun-bleached driftwood. The sweet lime-toffee-scent of new growth on cedar and fir trees mingle with the pungent sea at low tide and crest into my awareness between barking sea lions and the door-hinge screech of eagles. These fragments of observations then settle softly, next to the storm-washed, smoothness of beach pebbles I am rubbing between my fingers before setting up in the cool shade for another painting sketch. How does one make sense of this jumble of sensory information? As a landscape painter, I have a process for gathering such reference materials from the field for later use in the studio. Let’s see what we have from Hornby Island in British Columbia, Canada.
This first painting session is from 10 – 11:00 ish in the morning at Helliwell Provincial Park on Hornby Island. My partner came with me. We hiked 4 km return with the painting gear and my camera. The trek was totally worth it though I was happy to have an extra hand for the basket of paints boards and our drinking water.
This small bay drew me in again and again over the time we were here. I am suspicious that it just might end up an oil painting on a large canvas. 😉
The weather has been unseasonably warm with little breeze these last few days. I have been hiking early in the morning between 5:30 or 6:30 to 7:30 or 8:00 am. Then, I find a place to paint in the shade during the later morning or afternoon. Lovely though and as you can guess, a stunning island for nature and landscapes.
The exposed striations on this beach make it a favourite for geologists studying the land structure and history of the island. I wish I knew the name of this tree as it is not an alder or a maple tree. We have one in our backyard as well. Someone said it might be a traditional medicine tree but no one has been able to tell me it’s name. That one lone cloud just above the horizon is the only one we saw during our first three days.
There is something about standing painting at the edge of a cliff that is irresistible! This latest adventure was no exception. Helliwell is such an incredibly beautiful provincial park… though it is a 5 km round trip with the painting gear to set up plein air in this location.
On this day it was so hot that I put my sun hat on David’s wispy hair and covered noggin. Then I made a makeshift hat out of a clean painting rag held on with hair ties on my own head. We must have been quite a sight but we didn’t get heatstroke and we drank enough water that the basket for the return trip was much lighter. I have captured this specific place from several angles and at different times of day. This first is from the same time and view as the painting sketch above.
And a view from a little farther away in the early morning shortly after sunrise.
A favourite capture is looking the other way, also first thing in the morning. A writer friend who saw this image commented on the lemonade sky – would make part of a painting title I think 😉
There are more images of this cliff of course, many more actually, and I haven’t even begun to edit the images from my big camera. But let’s move on to the final plein air painting sketch…
The weather had cooled overnight and a wind was huffing along out of the west. So I tucked in with the sunrise on the east, down near the shore where there was shelter and warmth enough to work. An upset sandpiper was screaming the grass sideways above me because I walked past her nest of four eggs in the pen field. Other that that, there were just a few gulls, the driftwood, a gentle sea and stones. A good morning for a plein air painting sketch!
Generally, Grassy Point is known for its sunsets but I can attest to the beauty of the sunrises as well. However, we did manage to stay out for one lovely sunset just the same.
It is a popular place with locals and visitors alike at in the evenings, not unlike Georgina Point on Mayne Island.
And the Camus and other wildflowers offered an extra splash of colour.
Still, I will take early mornings on the cliff in Helliwell Provincial Park as a first choice for my landscape muse.
Did we go to Tribune Bay you might ask? Yes, we did. Though, you may have guessed by now, I am not really much of a laying-on-the-sand-soaking-up-the-sun kind of gal. But we did do a low tide beach walk. I enjoyed finding whole living sand dollars…
and the rich textures of sea and sky and sandstone…
I must confess, Tribune Bay wasn’t the highlight for me as I had anticipated it would be. It IS beautiful and a grand beach but the lure of other adventures on the island overshadowed its sparkle for this trip. That said, the first larger studio oil painting is of an old fir tree that is on this beach. I will share the process for this painting in the next post soon.
There are many more images for painting references. But we shall stop there for now.
This may have been the best working trip in a long while and it’s success goes partly to our host couple, Diana and David at Hornby Island Mt. Geoffrey Bed and Breakfast. After my early morning adventures, I would come back to coffee and the smell of fresh baking muffins. Sometimes, I would still need to rouse a sleepy partner and other times he would be up looking bright and cheery waiting for me. Then, down the stairs from our private guest area we would come to devour a full heartily breakfast including egg, bacon, muffins and yogurt with local homemade raspberry/blackberry sauce to go on top.
Suppers were handled by Forage – a farm to kitchen cafe which closed at 3:00 in the afternoon. We were a little early in the season still and the main Sea Breeze restaurant was fully booked with private events and the Thatch pub/restaurant near the ferry was intermittently open. But, like much of islander life, one learns quickly to make do with what is available. We thrived on our delicious early dinners with a later evening snack, without feeling the least shortchanged. With a bit of luck, we hope to make a late fall return visit. Even with three ferries to catch from Mayne Island to Hornby Island via Vancouver Island, it is a reasonably easy day of travel.
What has been your most favourite working trip in the past while?
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The sun is shining and there are beach crawls to be done, trails to hike and wildlife to see. But first a seat in the red chair on Georgina Point.
The waves keep rolling in relation to an off shore breeze.
Put your hiking shoes one and take care of any personal bodily needs as we are heading into an area without facilities. It is only 5 or 6 km with a couple of hills taking the easy route so you can get by without water or snacks… though they are nice to have if you fancy a wee picnic once you get out on the point. Yes, you guessed it. We are going on an adventure Mayne Island’s newest park – Saint John Point.
Pulling into the empty gravel parking lot, I back into the farthest available space making it easier just in case someone else decides to join us. But it is Monday and the island is still quiet with mostly only year-round residents who are busy gardening and preparing for the summer seasonal crowds that will arrive in full force for the May long weekend. But today, the forest and old road are for the birds!
Remnants of the winter storm are scattered through the trees and onto the forest floor.
A paleated woodpecker heckles above the softer sweeter songs of the other forest birds… even making the spotted towee sound feeble.
The new growth on the firs leaves a toffee tang fragrance on a light breeze.
We keep walking, over the hill and down again, until we get to the trail beside the sea.
The light changes swiftly as it sings through the trees and dances back from across the water.
A wee bit farther along, we come to the point itself with its exposed rocks and old arbutus tree grove. This is the prize on this walk. The point invites one to sit and stay a while.
So we do. I pick a place on the east side of the knoll that is sheltered from the afternoon sun and sit. I wait. I get this strange sensation of being watched. I look around. Nothing. Then I catch something moving just at my peripheral vision. I turn my head slowly and focus. There are two fierce dots pointing directly out over a narrow snout in a wee red head attached to a long neck and slender body staring right at me from a crevice in the sandstone boulders. Slow and smooth I switch the settings on the camera and raise it up. But the critter is still just a bit too far away. I wait some more and take a few tentative shots as it pokes in and out of the rocks coming up the bank towards me. These are small, shy and quick animals. They only pause for a short second to get their bearings before ducking back down under the cover. A photographer must be patient and fast on the shutter. But I did it!
Here we have an American Mink coming up between the sandstone rocks at Saint John Point on Mayne Island in British Columbia, Canada.
And there you have it! The highlight of another Mayne Island adventure during early part of the month of May in the year 2019.
The last day of December 2018 is still being lit by a low hanging sun. Yet, the break in heavy rains seem to create a resounding call to the top of the ridge at Mount Parke on Mayne Island in British Columbia, Canada. I was on my way back along the Halliday Ridge trail when I stopped to search for a way around the flooded path. The light grabbed me. I sank low and hoped for the best as the shutter clicked on my 7+ Iphone camera. References. I need painting references! I pulled out my big camera as well but instinctively knew that the difficult light may well be best captured by the phone camera – and it was.
Weeks later, back in the gallery’s winter studio I choose a 40 x 30 inch canvas and brush in a few lines to guide the development of an underpainting.
I just need a few lines to find my way into the landscape. Then I start to add in the bright warm and a few cool colours for the underpainting.
From here, I leave the canvas to dry and continue developing the painting beside this one which you have already seen in an earlier post. Sometimes, I added a few dark and light patches left over from my other canvas. But mostly I wait.
Until the day comes when it is time!
I can feel the painting is there. All I need to do is follow the light from the background to the foreground of the canvas. And so the work to build up the paint begins!
The time has come to settle in with paintbrushes over a period of two days. The hours of standing before the canvas moving back and then forward again were long and yet pleasant. Brushstroke after brushstroke the landscape trail through the trees begins to surround the viewer.
Working forward past the mid-ground, I find that the most of the reds, oranges and yellows of the underpainting have been replaced with greens, golds and violets.
I know where I am! I am among the trees. Tired but unrelenting, I continue. At one point I ask for a second and third set of eyes to wander over the canvas to see what still needs to unfolded, be discovered and revealed. Then I walk away, coming back the next day and the next to search for sparkle, mystery and lost edges. Finally, my eyes travel over the canvas with joy and ease. I am there again at the edge of the pool of water deep in the forest. Just me, the trees and the sun.
From my journal notes:
“Long sashaying switchbacks with winter run off springs near the bottom obscuring dry footing on the trails. As a gentle wind calls through golden green tree tops I surmise that this is the only low angled sun this north western slope might see today.”
WHEN I AM AMONG THE TREES “resting” by Terrill Welch
40 x 30 inch oil on canvas
The work still needs to dry, have the edges painted, and a final photograph. But for now, it will sit under the watchful corner of my eye to see if there is anything else that it wants.
What you don’t know is that, on the day I captured this incredible light for this painting, I had fallen. Hard. I was visiting with a friend at the top of the ridge. I said my good-bye and as I half turned and waved while walking away, my feet flew out from underneath me on wet rocks and moss on the trail. At first, I wasn’t even sure I would be able to stand. Once up, I cautiously took a few steps and within minutes knew I would be sore but that I could hike out. My ribs ached for days afterward and I will likely end up with a scar on my knee which was stiff and swollen for the next week. But when I saw this scene before me on my way back, not long after having slowly trekked down the steep back of the ridge, I just knew! I knew that no matter how bruised both my body and dignity were from my tumble, this was worth it! This one moment of incredible beauty was all worth it!
I will add a link here when the painting has had its final photo shoot and is released, but for now, thank you for coming on this painting adventure with me!
Who loves the little paintings, the small works, the pieces that are always perfect to hang or rest or prop in your modest space? Maybe one like this small 8 x 10 inch acrylic sketch on gessobord? Yes?
Or maybe this wee work is more to your liking?
Or possibly this one?
The online Le Petit Show opens Thursday, October 25th for International Artist Day and will close Saturday, November 10th. The show will include the available work in the Acrylic Painting Sketch collection and the Small Oil painting collection and the small works is easy to browse in the latest TerrillWelchArtist.com website post.
If you happen to be “on island” for the Remembrance Day weekend the Terrill Welch Gallery is open Friday evening November 9th from 4 – 5 and Saturday November 10th during the day from 11-4 at 478 Village Bay Rd in Miners Bay on Mayne Island in British Columbia, Canada. The gallery is also open by appointment during the winter months any day or time that is mutually agreeable.
Do enjoy this small works, Le Petit Show, opportunity to add to your art collection with a Terrill Welch original painting and support an artist for International Artist Day.
Building up paint on a large canvas, after the underpainting is completed and dry, takes big brushes, time and daring or as my friend Elena Maslova-Levin says in quoting Rainer Maria Rilke – to go through the experience of seeing all the way to the end, to where no one can go any further“. *
But eventually the shapes start to appear and the painting starts to come alive.
The most challenging aspect is to stay in the energy of the original conversation with my subject. I have the painting sketch. I have the reference images and I even have a couple of video clips. But at some point I must let whatever has stuck guide me and just paint. I am at the “just paint” stage.
The only thing that can be done now – it is to simply start…
I make slight adjustments to the composition as I go…
My arm and shoulder begin to feel the strain of reaching. I keep painting!
And painting some more.
Now it is time to build on the tensions, the life blood of the place, while adding in the dancing light of this moment with its deep history of conversations between sea and shore. Can I do it? Will the painting soon be breathing on its own?
Well, we shall have to wait and see. We are not there yet… but soon!
What was the last long, exhilarating journey YOU have taken?
* quote is from the introduction for the catalogue book CONVERSATIONS ON EDGE written and edited by Elena Maslova-Levin for the two artist show with Terrill Welch on Mayne Island during the spring of 2018. The book can be previewed and ordered HERE.
PART 1 “Sea and Shore – A beginning” can be viewed HERE.
Part 3 “Sea and Shore – Strong Finish” can be viewed HERE.
The soft grey of morning is still settling out of my physical being as I lift the large 36 X 48 inch canvas onto the easel. Cascading light and colour roll with the waves over the shapes gathering across my inner landscape. The endless beating of sea and shore vibrates through the heartwood of an old hanging arbutus swinging above the sculptured shore. But alas, there is only whiteness reflection back at me…
I only have an hour before I must be down in the village. Can I do something with this?
“Only if you promise to remember to go open the gallery on time!” I mutter, as I squeeze the cadmium yellow and red oil paint onto a clean palette.
Those lines! This light!
I remember my smallness…
as I looked up into the tangle of trunks.
The quick painterly notes start to multiply on the canvas…
Sweeping curves round above seal-shaped forms below.
Light and shadow intertwine in a symphonic melody.
Waves and ferry wake are fierce dance partners, bending the spine of the sandstone in its embrace.
I am standing.
I have stood painting this small 11 x 14 inch study below…
And now, on the big canvas, I am 25 steps further to the right, closer to sea. I must start again. I must hunch down and grasp all-that-was and all-that-will-be, swing it high over my head then spiral it down, until it is rooted deep into the earth, with confidence, in each brushstroke.
But this is yet to come. For now, I must wash the one-inch flat hog hair brush, take off my weathered carmine paint-splattered apron, remove any wild run-away cadmium red or yellow streaks on my face and head to the gallery.
Oh but there is more! So much more!
I must wait. We must wait. And remember, it is only paint and a canvas. 😉
What, may I ask, are YOU waiting for?
PART 2 “Sea and Shore – Building Up Paint” is now posted HERE.
Part 3 “Sea and Shore – Strong Finish” can be viewed HERE.
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!”
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!
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.
Still congested with a winter cold, I rest against the soft light of the shortest day of the year. Having canceled any interruptions, I am free to climb under the warmth of the down duvet on the day bed in the loft studio – to think about not much at all. Ideas and thoughts drift, rollover and crumble into yet smaller fragments. An older small painting surfaces and clings to the edges of fickle concentration.
And then the end of a poem by Mary Oliver…
coins of the sea
in my pockets
and plenty for the gulls
and the wind still pounding
and the sea still streaming in like a mother wild with gifts –
in this world I am as rich
as I need to be.
~ from “Winter” p. 52-53 in New And Selected Poems Volume One, 1992, Beacon Press.
The oil painting is “Receding Tide Reef Bay” 9 X 12 inches and is one of a very few small oil on canvas I have left.
Happy Winter Solstice! May we embrace the quiet light of the shortest day of year for the gift that it is.
What are your reflections about winter solstice today?
After a summer of chasing the morning light painting en plein air, three students from the Beauty of Oils Painting class and myself are ready for a fall group show in our local Mayne Island Library. Details are in the poster below. The featured painting in the poster is by Jody Waldie.
These fellow painters carved out time on most Thursday mornings from May to September to brush in patches of colour on canvas from various vantage points around Mayne Island in British Columbia, Canada. Here are just a few of the paintings that will grace the freshly renovated walls the library for local or visiting viewer’s pleasure.
House on Stilts – Active Pass, 11 x 14 inch oil on canvas by Katherine Cox Stevenson
Spring at the Lighthouse, 11 x 14 inch oil on canvas by Glenda King
Summer Tide, 10 x 8 inch oil on canvas by Jody Waldie
Morning Along the Island Road Mayne Island BC, 20 x 16 inch oil on the canvas by Terrill Welch
For anyone who has ever attempted painting with oils out in the open air, it goes without saying that we know it takes years of practice and skill-building to render a proficient canvas. Still, from the very beginning, using some basic methods and processes, there is an aliveness, a deep pleasure of the moment, a delight in colour and movement captured on the canvases that is worthy of sharing. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to have provided some of these basics in oil painting lessons and to have been invited to paint side-by-side with these fellow painters as our brushes flew across the canvases capturing our glorious island summer landscapes. There comes a point when nothing can replace regular practice, and more practice. At this juncture a painter has only one reasonable choice – get out there and do it! And we did. I am thrilled to not only having been invited to paint but also to be asked to include a couple of paintings with this group for the fall show. Seeing a selection of our summer’s paintings hung together will warm the chill off the months ahead like winter preserves.
How do you like to render your summer joy for winter preserves?
P.S. With a bit of luck, we shall have another spring show from the Beauty of Oils Painters at the Mayne Island Community Centre following our winter/spring Studio Intensive oil painting class. The fall class is full with 10 in-person students for the skill building Beauty of Oils painting class and the online sister class is also at its maximum for the pilot class. I do not do much marketing of these classes and it is mostly by word of mouth or if a person happens to catch a Facebook post where I mention the offering. If this is something you think you would like to do either in-person or online you are welcome to let me know via email or messenger on Facebook and I will add your name to the list to be notified of future classes.