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


As I open the window a crack to hear this mornings song birds, I can imagine you are wondering why garbage would be part of a blog about creativity that is focusing on the theme of “home” for the month of February. I’d say that is a reasonable query. When I returned our rented movies to the gas station yesterday I paid cash (as the money is put in a separate envelope for the garbage collector) for a $7.00 tag to be placed on one, not too big and not too heavy bag of garbage.

This morning I tied off our one bag of garbage that we accumulate every three to four weeks and carried up to the main intersection to be picked up and then hauled off our island.

We live down the hill and around the corner of the road on the right.

It is a ritual I love. Being good islanders, we compost, regift, recycle, reuse, reduce and refuse with gusto. But there is always that little bit left that no one wants or can seem to find a use. This remaining refuge becomes our bag of garbage. Our creating, cleaning and clearing of our home has us frequently contemplating environmental practices which then brings us to examining what decisions we make earlier the acquiring and creating process.

My digital camera is a step in the direction of “reduce” by only printing the best while also being able to make these images available for viewing by many. Most recently, my creativity has been influenced by the “refuse” part of the environmental practices equation. I purchased a set of water miscible oil paints because I could use my same brushes and canvases but didn’t need to use any toxic solvents nor would there be the same use of materials in framing as with my watercolour paintings. In my creative process, I’m refusing to use as many toxic materials as possible and limiting the use of materials needed to create my finished products.

A frequent responder to sprout questions and full-time artist Tobin Eckian from Newburyport, MA takes the creative environmental practice even a step further into an area she calls “upcycle” in her use of cardboard in her art. Tobin’s blog and Etsy shop delight and inspire me with her creative “upcycle” art.

And just so you don’t think my weekend was all about garbage, here is an image from Sunday afternoon’s photo shoot…

View and purchase full resolution image here.

Sprout Question: How do environmental practices influence your creativity?

p.s. thank you for reading, participating and sharing Creative Potager. This is the 31st post since December 27, 2009 and because of you, there has been 246 comments and over 2000 views.

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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

Purchase photography at

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.