Starting with Monday, this has been a week of deep connection with nature, family and friends. Nature is at my doorstep. A friend made the trip to the island for a visit and my family has been connecting via telephone across many km from a different part of the province. There is a fragile, yet unrelenting, firmness that whisks itself across the carpet of our pending autumn.
Seagulls gather in rows on the reefs.
Hearing about the death of Queen Elisabeth II at 96 years old and a 70 year reign is a good reminder for me that mortality eventually has its way with us all. This confirmation, and a northwest wind facing down a clear sunny day, slices through any illusions I may have had. Without a doubt, summer has slipped on a sweater on over her light cotton dress and Canada, as part of the commonwealth, has a new King. King Charles III who is already a sprightly 73 years old. Just like that it seems, we have turned a page in time.
However, if we look closely enough, we will notice that endings and beginnings are woven together and when done well, the broken threads pass beside each other twisting to become stronger than just one thread by itself. It could be as simple as where the sea and the shore meet.
Or, in a grander flourish, we might catch the sea, mountains and sky cresting across the horizon.
The seagulls are still conferencing on the sandstone with hardly a ruffled feather.
The next day they have moved on. But the northwesterly wind has stayed.
I try to find a place to paint but I am chilled and shivering just getting references. Unlike our intuitive summer, I have left my warm sweater at home.
After a third attempt along our Mayne Island shores, I tuck up close to the brickworks dock during the morning low tide.
I lean into the crumbly structure and make a wish. Not a wish for something. Just a wish to be present. A wish to hold the space of today. In a wonky out-of-sorts-kind-of-way, everything seems to be as it should.
I’ll take it! That long breath in and then out and in again. In nature, connecting with family and friends. This is it. All that gives us a chance in life.
Low Tide at the Brickworks Dock by Terrill Welch, 10 x 8 inch acrylic on gessobord plein air.
Artist notes: An early September northwest wind was cool even in the late summer sun. I tucked up next to the brickworks dock for shelter and then started admiring its weathered features.
And so it has been for this first week of September. How about you? How has your week been?
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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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ArtWork Archive original paintings and acrylic sketches currently available
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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.
Yahoo my friends! Are fine weather has finally arrived 🙂 And of course, I have an idea…
Summer Art Oil Painting Masterclass To Go!
“I’ll have three colour mixing tips, two reference gathering methods and a handful of composition considerations please!”
“Would you like a side of perspective and underpainting suggestions to go with that as well today?”
Yes! I am considering piloting my Beauty of Oils Skill Building Masterclass so you can take it with you this summer as an independent online study course. It is all the same great material and more packaged for access anywhere you have an Internet connection. You can work at your own pace, review lessons and do the painting activities as many times as you like… and be invited join a bonus Painters Group monthly live painting problem-solving chat for extra support.
Sounds good? Let me know by comment, private message or whatever works for you! If there is enough interest, I will make it happen in the next couple of weeks.
I know! I am always up to something and this I think is going to be really, really good 😉
What do you think?
UPDATE: You thought “yes” and the independent study class in oil painting is now available. More information is available HERE.
Autumn flashes her best colours across our small island during these last few weeks. Now that it is the first of November, I feel I must gather this late season gold together for safe keeping during the winter rains which will surely come soon.
There has been a plein air painting day in the Japanese Gardens.
There has been a morning walk by sea before an anticipated storm.
Best of all though, there has been time to just be and watch the leaves drift down from my favourite maple tree….
Ah yes! October, so many pleasant gifts you have given!
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.
British Columbia is burning. The wildfires have devoured a land mass larger than the province of Prince Edward Island. The fire season is not over yet. There might be a little rain on Sunday but it won’t be enough. Air quality warnings are frequent but unnecessary. I only need to breathe in next to the open window to know how many particles there are in each square inch of smoke-filled air. The sunsets are as eerie as they are beautiful.
No long hikes for me. A casual stroll to sit by the water is all that this week can offer.
I did manage to get out to do a small plein air painting though.
Hazy Morning Active Pass 5 x 7 acrylic plein air sketch
The painting sketch is now off on an adventure of its own – the eighth painting to do so this past five weeks.
But the Terrill Welch Gallery! Now it has enjoyed the soft light from outside through the feature window.
I will be there again on Friday at 10:30 to do a live recording on myArt of Terrill Welch Facebook Page for the first Friday Art Stop feature. If you have a moment, drop on in. I did an introductory video, a sort of sample, for this new project that you may enjoy in the meantime.
I suppose today’s post is my best efforts to find my way forward during uncertain times.
How do you process things that you cannot change? Like wildfires? Like threats of nuclear war?