Plein Air Painting on Hornby Island in British Columbia

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. 

“The Bay at the Peterson Bench” 8 x 10 inch acrylic plein air by Terrill Welch.

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. 😉

Small Bay in Helliwell Provincial Park

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. 

“Sandpiper Beach Community Park” 8 x10 plein air acrylic sketch by Terrill Welch

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.

Sandpiper Beach on Hornby Island

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.

“Helliwell Cliff on Hornby Island” 8 x10 plein air acrylic sketch by Terrill Welch

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.

Cliff in afternoon at Helliwell Provincial Park

And a view from a little farther away in the early morning shortly after sunrise.

Early morning cliff walk in Helliwell Provincial Park

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 😉

Lemonade sky morning in Helliwell Provincial Park

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…

Plein air painting in the early morning at Grassy Point on Hornby Island

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! 

“A Grassy Point Morning on Hornby Island” 8 x10 inch acrylic by Terrill Welch

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.

Sunset at Grassy Point on Hornby Island

It is a popular place with locals and visitors alike at in the evenings, not unlike Georgina Point on Mayne Island.

Gathering to witness the close of day at Grassy Point on Hornby Island

And the Camus and other wildflowers offered an extra splash of colour.

Camus wildflowers grandstanding at Grassy Point.

Still, I will take early mornings on the cliff in Helliwell Provincial Park as a first choice for my landscape muse.

Cliff at dawn in Helliwell Provincial Park

And again…

rock outcrop at Helliwell

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…

Sand dollar at Tribune Bay on Hornby Island

and the rich textures of sea and sky and sandstone…

Tribune Bay on Hornby Island

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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Painting Melancholy Seas and other events

The week has shifted from warm winter afternoon sun to stormy jade grey sea, to snow cover trees causing power outages and then back to sun with more snow on the way. What is a painter to do with such dramatic changes? Gather reference materials, write a haiku, make hedgehog biscuits and paint of course!

With the sun trapped behind a tree, I squint through the branches at the sea.


Wandering along the shore I consider the path down to the rocks and driftwood.


Afternoon low sun on the rocks, the sea and a pastel sky are my reward.


Then later on in the week the jade of high-tide seas remind me of some reference material from earlier in the year. I bring them along to the first Studio Intensive oil painting class that I am teaching for the next three months. I am enamoured by melancholy seas. I can’t seem to help myself. I am pull up to the shore with a belly full of compassion, ready to dry each of the wave’s cold tears on my damp sleeve.


I bring the painting to rest back in the studio with the week’s snow visible in the background outside the loft windows.


I have been working most of the day on the large canvas from the week before and the melancholy sea painting is my unwinding work after being corkscrewed up in the branches of that old arbutus tree.


But what about this unusual amount of snow that has lasted for days here on the southwest coast? It really isn’t much. Truly it isn’t, other than gorgeous to look at…

As night comes / the beauty of tall firs / outside my window.


Oh, the power went out a couple of times with the first heavy wet inches. But we are cozy and comfortable. In fact, we didn’t even go to get bread when we ran out. Instead, I made hedgehog biscuits.


However, I am familiar with snow, bad roads and power outages. These circumstances cause me neither concern nor stress. Yet, I am reminded that it is uncertainty and the unknown that tends to rankle most into jittery nerves. I am no exception. But snow and power outages don’t do it for me.

Yesterday, the sun came out and danced with the same big fir trees in the valley outside the window . Gorgeous!


I have, as you might expect, been reading about world events. Of most interest are a couple of articles with a broader, possibly dystopia, perspective. The first is “This is how we can fight Donald Trump’s attack on democracy” by Rob Wijnberg in The Correspondent. The second is an archeologist’s paper “History Tells Us What Will Happen Next With Brexit And Trumpby Tobias Stone in the Huffington Post. Both articles focus on current affairs from a place of context that comes when we step back from the immediacy of news feeds that surface on Facebook, Twitter or from other sources. I am reminded that though immediate situations may be of importance, they likely hold little sway within a longer measure of time. Possibly, I wonder, will we, 300 years from now, remember this era as the great democratic experiment?

This week I am also reading Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, death and hope in a Mumbia undercity by Katherine Boo. In addition, I watched a mini-series about Juana Ines de la Cruz , the life and work of a seventeen century nun in Mexico City who is considered one of the first great minds of the Americas.

In my collective ingestion of these articles, the book and the film, I am struck by how current stories and old stories are much the same. A few lines from  the Netflix Juana Ines film series, set between 1669 and 1695 in New Spain, seem to summarize my week in totality.

“Silence is not having nothing to say. But being unable… to find words for all there is to say.”


“It is not the knowledge I don’t have. But that the desire to learn has cost me so much… This amorous torment inside my heart can be seen. I know that I feel the way I do, but I don’t know the reason why. I feel such a heavy anguish from such a successful dalliance that fills like desire and ends in melancholy.”

As always, I find that so much in this everyday life is left unanswerable or beyond my words. Thus we conclude with the “resting” painting.

Melancholy Seas on a 14 x 18 inch oil on canvas


How might melancholy and change come together in your life?

© 2017 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

A Narrow Artistic Perspective on a Mayne Island Morning

Let’s count them. There are eighteen photography sketches taken within 45 minutes of each other and no further apart than fifty steps along a chunk of the Mayne Island shoreline. It is a painter’s morning for gathering reference material. Why bother you might ask? Well, it is about seeing and mostly about how we see and choose to construct our world using sensory information.

I woke just before daylight. After blinking several times and making coffee I decide to go and see how the sun is making out.

Mayne Island late August morning 1 by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 001

She is getting a little slower to rise on this late August morning but still beat to the shore.

Mayne Island late August morning 2 by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 016

It is a gentle rising with a soft elegance that never fails to release the last bit of tension between my shoulder blades.

Mayne Island late August morning 3 by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 033

I gather myself together and glance narrow and long… searching.

Mayne Island late August morning 4 by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 039

And searching again.

Mayne Island late August morning 5 by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 046

Low clouds play with the light as I look south.

Mayne Island late August morning 6 by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 057

Back around I turn and venture deeper into exploring just this one aspect of the shoreline.

Mayne Island late August morning 7  by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 060

Which composition is most satisfying?

Mayne Island late August morning 8  by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 065

Which elements do we see most clearly?

Mayne Island late August morning 9  by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 073

Is it the sea or the land we most sympathize with?

Mayne Island late August morning 10 by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 094

I want to reach into the camera and pluck out my own secrets!

Mayne Island late August morning 11 by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 097

But I cannot.

Mayne Island late August morning 12 by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 100

Like the blue heron I can only keep fishing using my past experience and best guesses. Maybe this one!?

Mayne Island late August morning 13 by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 106

No not that one replies the heron.

Mayne Island late August morning 14 by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 112

The sandstone chortles and then hefts a sigh, as if in commiseration, about this endless seeking.

Mayne Island late August morning 15 by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 133

Calm but slightly dejected I turn around yet again. I haven’t unraveled this dawn yet.

Mayne Island late August morning 16 by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 148

After a few steps, I turn slowly and then crouch low… there…

Mayne Island late August morning 17 by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 155

and then again here….

Mayne Island late August morning 18 by Terrill Welch 2015_08_25 157

Morning has broken and the landscape is shattered by my viewer’s eye! I must leave now with my quick photography sketches. I must take these fragments and make something of them just as we do with every image we created in our mind’s eye. these are my few soft gestures of contemplation before picking up my brushes and rushing them over a canvas with heaps of expectation and too much substance to do any of it justice.


What has your morning brought to you?


© 2015 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

Holding the Sea

The rain is steady this morning and the forecast is the same for at least the next five days. I have woke early, very early – 4:30 am to be exact. I have decided something. I have decided to shift my creative routine.  Change it up if you will. Oh you might not notice to much of a difference as there is always something percolating to share. But I will notice the difference in my work flow. It feels a little like this photograph of the sea – holding.

before it rushes forward with a recognizable pounding rhythm.

(image available on my new pro smugmug gallery HERE

I want to step back and look at my adventure from the cliff-side of my creativity.

I want to sing to the sea of its flow while I organize, file and scrub the vessel that holds my daily works and my place of eating and sleeping.

Then I will be renewed to begin again with fresh eyes and replenished spirit.

It is time. Could it be spring?


SPROUT: What are the your notable signals your recognize that time you it is time to shift your creative flow. 


© 2012 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.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Terrill Welch online Gallery at

Mayne Island Dawn of 2012

My first photograph  of 2012 is taken before daylight as I scramble out over slippery rocks to the edge of the surf at Reef Bay on Mayne Island.

Unlike other favourite photography location in the world. I am the only one there. Not even a dog barking in the distance – just me and sea waiting to greet the day.

Sometimes a person must search for signs of dawn in order to be sure of the specific point of its arrival. It is not time yet but soon.

The lights of Vancouver are starting to fade in the distance from where it hunches below the cloud-covered coastal mountains. A softness surrounds the breath of this new day.

With each rolling wave the moments pass through my camera shutter. The sun has not quiet risen but with fingers stiff from the cold I press down to capture the first light on the sandstone shore.

Is this it? Could this be the moment we are waiting for – the dawn of 2012?

Possibly but let’s just wait a little longer.

Ah yes, there is a soft light starting to soak into the heavy clouds over the mountains.

A full dawn has come to Mayne Island.

Only twenty minutes have passed from the first rock we admired and we are now enjoying the richness of our first dawn in 2012 here on Mayne Island.

As we watch the brightness recedes into the soft reality of an overcast day January 1, 2012 here on Mayne Island off the southwest coast of British Columbia Canada.

SPROUT: What is the first thing you noticed about your first day in 2012?

© 2012 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.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Terrill Welch online Gallery at

Studio Tour Tomorrow

I am almost ready! Tomorrow, being Saturday November 12, 2011, it is the annual Artisan Christmas Studio Tour on Mayne Island. There are eight Studios, two craft fairs and six shops participating. A few places are even going to be open on the Sunday as well as Saturday. Look for the red brochures at the Mayne Mall or drop by my Studio in the morning after 10:00 am. I can give you a brochure to get you started on a day of creative delights.

Here is a photo showing from last year’s Creative Potager studio opening to warm you up to the idea…

To find la casa de inspiracion, our home and studio, pick up the Mayne Island Community Chamber Brochure on ferry or at one of the local shops. Creative Potager is number 35 in the white square near the centre of the island. There are yellow signs to guide your right from where you turn on toWood Dale Road which is just as you come off the ferry. Just follow along until you get to 428 Bowsprite Crescent. I am looking forward to seeing you between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.

There will be several new original oil paintings, photography prints and greeting cards showcasing our lovely west coast and Mayne Island.

For those of you that are too far away to drop in, please feel free to browse my online gallery at It is almost the same as coming by except you have to get your own cup of tea.

Sprout Question: What are you preparing for?

© 2011 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.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Terrill Welch online Gallery at

Early September Walk

How about a long walk? We haven’t been on one together for awhile. It is a warm afternoon and getting close to dinner time so it should be peaceful out on the point. Doesn’t that sound like a great idea?

I knew you would be game. Shall we?

(This image is available for purchase here.)

The arbutus trees are particularly intriguing this time of year….

as their bark splits and peels back to another layer of beauty underneath.

Then there are David’s trees.

“Oh look at this. Have you taken a photo of these yet?”

I hadn’t. So I did.

A quiet ledge. Now this seems to be perfectly designed for a Creative Potager moment. Ahhhhh.

(This image is available for purchase here.)

Then there is this particular arbutus tree! I don’t know how many times I have tried to get it just right in a photograph. Maybe this time. What do you think?

(This image is available for purchase here.)

Well that is it for the sunny west side of our late afternoon September walk. Time to cross over to the dark side. Can you hear the surf through the trees? It won’t take long.

  (This image is available for purchase here.)

The air is still humid and warm with hardly a whisper of relief off the water. The sky is clear. Yet the sea is dark and hugs the shadows along the shore.

(This image is available for purchase here.)

A bit of a puzzle isn’t it?

Time to head for home. We have been over an hour and a half. It is a good thing we brought our water bottles.


As long fingers of fog are blown into our open windows this morning, I shiver and begin closing out the cool dampness. Then I remembered the sea from our walk on the weekend.

(This image is available for purchase here.)

Remember that the late afternoon was warm and humid with hardly a wisp of breeze off the water? Yet, the sea frothed and boiled as it slammed up against the sandstone shore? Now we know why. Fall is here.

Sprout question: What signs of fall are blowing in your direction?

New: Check out my coffee table book PRECIOUS SECONDS – Mayne Island in paintings and photographs

© 2011 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.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Terrill Welch online Gallery at

Held Over by Popular Demand

Thank you everyone for your support. The show has been a whopping success and it is not over yet!

The STUDY of BLUE solo exhibition was extended at the request of the venue until tomorrow August 2, 2011. However, SEVEN of the original fifteen paintings are now SOLD. I have replaced some of paintings at the end of the original close date so that they can be delivered to buyers. The Oceanwood Restaurant & Inn has also asked to hang paintings in their luxury B&B rooms so their customers will get another chance to purchase them. This is a lovely offer particularly for some of the larger paintings.

Here are quick links to my seven original oil paintings from the show that are still available for purchase at the ART OF DAY online gallery:

ONE 24 X 36 inch oil on canvas BUY NOW.

OWL’S VIEW 24 X 18 inch oil on canvas BUY NOW.

SALISH SEA FOUR 24 X 48 inch oil on canvas BUY NOW.

EAST POINT CLIFFS 24 X 18 inch oil on canvas BUY NOW.

BREAKING THROUGH 36 X 48 inch oil on canvas BUY NOW.

WINTER SUN 18 X 24 inch oil on canvas BUY NOW.

And the very last of the smaller paintings still available…

STORM COMING 8 X 10 inch on canvas BUY NOW.


Sprout question: What creative accomplishment are you celebrating this week?


p.s. I have a surprise that I hope to share by the middle of August… once I review the proof. I think you are going to like it.


STUDY OF BLUE  solo exhibition extended to August 2, 2011.


© 2011 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.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Terrill Welch online Gallery at


Hunting Waves

Every once in a long while, on the inside passage of the southwest coast, high winds and sunshine meet, bring in high waves to our sandstone shores. Yesterday was one of those ideal days. About 2:30 in the afternoon I went hunting for waves. Enjoy!

The warmth of the sandstone against the blue of the sea with the waves rolling in. I took another photograph.

And then another…

Until I got this…

(image may be purchased here)

Draped in sun, the sea spray settles as the water rolls over the edge of the rocks.

For my study of blues, the day couldn’t have been better.

The seagulls were plentiful hovering over the churning waters.

(image may be purchased here)

My heart soared and sang to the rhythm of the sea. This is an image of Active Pass looking from Mayne Island to Galiano Island at the lighthouse.

But it is this next image I went hunting for. It happened early on in my shoot. As you know, Reef Bay is incredible most days. I crossed my fingers that it would be even more so today. The tides are low. Long stretches of the reef are bare. I need to leave shore to get the shot I want. I walk out on the reef with waves thundering beside me. It was safe but loud when the breakers hit. My heart pounds.

I get my shot.

(image may be purchased here)

And so did you.

Sprout question: What are the ideal conditions for one of your creative inspirations?

© 2011 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.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Dance with Me

Dance with me calls the blue, blue sea.

(image may be purchased here)

Invitation accepted.

(image may be purchased here)

Caught in the arms of the blue sea I am swept across the shoreline – stepping, reaching, giving….

I have an idea for a series of smaller paintings exploring the many shades of the blue sea. These two images keep coming to mind but there are others.

However, my intention this week is to take care of art business. There are new phtography prints and paintings to inventory, a new portfolio page to develop and such things. I may start on some new paintings but that is not my intention. We shall see. Friday’s post will tell the story.

Sprout question: How do you keep your balance when the creativity waters are running fast?

© 2011 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.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada