This week my eye was drawn back to abstract shapes and compositions in the urban environment:
Here are a few of my photos from downtown Edmonton:
I never cease to be amazed at the beauty that can be seen if we just slow down enough to look at what is around us.
Monday November 19th, 2007: All good things have to come to an end and today was the end of this excursion. Unlike my adventuresome journey here via the train, the return trip would be much more mundane (and quicker).
I was awake at 5:30 and soon up. I had a quick breakfast and packed up my gear so I’d be ready for my ride at 9:20 to the ferry
I had a few minutes for one last look around the place I’d called home for 7 days – Fridas Villa, the wonderful Frida Kahlo themed B&B.
After a short ride to Fulford Harbour, I was soon on the ferry for the trip to Swartz Bay.
After the uneventful ferry trip, I took a taxi to Victoria International Airport. There I had a few hours to kill before boarding for my 1 hour flight back to Edmonton. It was sad to be ending this wonderful trip but it was very satisfying to be headed home to family.
Well here I was, Sunday November 18, 2007, the last full day of my vacation/painting excursion on Salt Spring Island. I wanted to make the most of it but I had so many thing that I wanted to do, places to discover and revisit, that I didn’t know where to start. I did start off leisurely though – sleeping in a bit more than was normal, then having some hot chocolate beside the fire and cooking up some scrambled eggs for breakfast.
It was not raining this morning so I was definitely heading outside but I was unsure what to do. On the one hand I would like to do some painting on the other hand I could go out with my camera, cover a lot more ground and collect reference photos to use later for paintings back in the studio.
Photo taking is what I did – with a vengeance. I finished off my second memory card (started a 3rd) and depleted all of my batteries (again). I followed what were becoming familiar paths – heading down to Beddis Beach and then continuing on to Cusheon Creek. Wanting to explore a bit of new territory, once down by the creek I took the trail to the right, east, towards the ocean rather than starting my trek upstream as I had been doing.
I never did reach the ocean outlet on this hike. The trail seemed to fizzle out but like they say “it’s not about the destination, its about the journey” and the journey this day was good – good for photos and good for the soul.
After the journey in the valley I was back to Beddis Beach (yet again):
It was at this point that I had filled my memory card so I headed back up Beddis Road to pick up a new one from “home” before continuing my photo gathering walk up Beddis Road.
Heading back to Fridas Villa , I couldn’t help but go right past it down to the beach again for one last visit. By this time it was getting dusky but that just lent yet another mood to this favorite place.
It seems I should end the story here and with that serene last photo but it was still only 5 pm on this last day. That evening I did take one more shot at painting (inside of course, at the kitchen table).
I worked on a variation of the abstracted piece I’d done the day before. I wasn’t too happy with it though – the light didn’t seem right. Finally I painted a quick little landscape, just to use of the remaining paint on my palette, then cleaned up my painting gear and packed it away. I spent the rest of my last evening with a soak in the hot tub and some time beside the fireplace – it doesn’t get much better than that.
Saturday November 17th – ahhh the weekend. Well actually not that big a deal after a relaxing week. It was raining pretty heavily this morning so I hung around the Villa for awhile, thinking and writing. Before long though I could stay inside no longer so I walked down to Beddis Beach. After 6 days on the Island with daily visits to this beach I wasn’t growing at all tired of it – partly because of the many moods it presented. The mood on this rainy morning was one of peace. There was something very picturesque about the way the distant islands fade into the clouds, the clouds into the sea. I also found some interesting trees on the beach with some great forms. The photos taken that morning were some of the most inspiring of the trip and resulted in a few paintings back in the studio.
After an hour or so in the rain, I walked up the road to the Villa to dry out in front of a nice fire
The rain continued through the afternoon so I just stayed inside and painted, working on three small pieces. I also had the opportunity to visit Carl and Tracy’s studios to see their art work. Tracy Harrison and Carl Borgstrom are the owner’s of Fridas Villa, the B&B where I was staying. Tracy’s work included abstract paintings and some wonderful works in clay (she also had a couple of kilns o-site to fire her work). Carl is a masterful woodworker.
That evening I was able to catch a ride to the Fritz Movie theatre at Salt Spring’s Central Hall. Playing that evening was “Across the Universe”. With a great soundtrack of Beatles music, I really enjoyed the film. It was also such a treat to attend a movie in this small community theatre, where everyone seemed to know everyone and the popcorn was served with ral butter. Also delightfully unique was what showed before the main feature – instead of the usual loud trailers, there was a wonderful slide show of photos of the Island.
Once back to home base. I still had time for a soak in the hot tub – and the water was good and hot this night and the stars were wonderfully bright. So nice…
Although it had been a mostly rainy day, I managed to have a good one, with a variety of experiences. I ended up taking only 30 photos all day but those rainy morning photos ended up inspiring a mini-series of paintings back in the home studio, including this one:
Friday November 16 (2007) marked my 5th day on Salt Spring Island and the 7th day since I left home on the train. It would turn out to be another day without any painting but with many reference photos being collected.
The day started off slow. I spent most of the morning reading and did finish Salt Spring (History of an Island). It was a good book that really gave me a good sense of how this island had developed over 150 years.The island has had its challenges and issues – it is more than just the idyllic Canadian paradise that it seems today.
I ended my morning with a trip down the road to Beddis Beach. It was an overcast but peaceful morning, the water was calm. I didn’t stay too long this time. As I headed back past the community orchard, there were a group of people doing some clean up.
The afternoon I set off on a hike. I started back up Beddis Road – taking photos of everything from fallen leaves to mushrooms to sheep.
I turned off Beddis Road and continued walking up the side of Cusheon Lake Road, then up on Stewart Road to Peter Arnell Park. There had been a fair bit of climbing but the view from the top was breathtaking. At the Park I headed off road onto the park trails – rather narrow and mountainous but very peaceful.
Around 3 PM, I knew I’d have to start heading back in order to beat the early sunset. Little white diamond markers guided me back to the road where I began my descent. It was about a 200m drop from the peak of the park down to Fridas Villa driveway. When I did get back to the driveway I just continued down another 40 m – back to the beach. I spend another hour there, watching a black lab playing fetch and wandering around (taking photos of course).
After all the time outside on this afternoon I was feeling chilled and looked forward to a soak in the hot tub. Unfortunately for some reason the tub wasn’t hot enough this day. My next choice for heat was a nice roaring fire – unfortunately I was getting more smoke than fire this evening. I guess there are days like this but overall it was a pretty good day!
I continue to explore the Salvador “lens” on the Hipstamatic app. I haven’t yet got it figured out to the point that I can predict what the image will look like but I came up with some interesting images today. All of these have strong symmetry thanks to that Salvador lens.
Thursday November 15th, 2007 was a different day (another one)! I was able to use a vehicle for a day, which extended my travel range. In fact it would give me an opportunity to get to the top of Mt. Maxwell – someplace I had never been.
First stop though was Mouat Park, just on the edge of Ganges. It was a wonderful walk through a rain forest complete with huge trees,moss, ferns and a little babbling stream.
After this little hike I made my way to the Embe Bakery just a few blocks away. There I treated myself to not one but all of my favorite bakery treats: a Danish, a brownie, an apple fritter and a cinnamon twist. Then I began the drive up to Mount Maxwell – back up the Ganges-Fulford Road then onto Cranberry Road to begin the ascent. I drove up the winding road past some beautiful landscapes. I would have stopped to take photos but it has started to rain. Then the unexpected happened. About one third of the way up, the windows of the car began to fog up – badly. I had to stop and wait for them to clear (a bit) then decided to abandon the trip to the top and just head back into town.
Back in Ganges, I spend a few hours wandering around, visiting the docks and shops and of course taking photos. Among the stops were Teddy Bear’s Takeout for fish ‘n chips, the Ganges Tea Shoppe and a bookstore, where I bought Salt Spring (History of an Island).
At 3:30 I started to make my way back “home” and the rest of the day was uneventful. My evening was quiet. It was pouring rain outside and I was inside by the fire, reading the very interesting Salt Spring history book. I started watching a DVD movie but ended up falling asleep and calling it a night – with just 3 more full days left on Salt Spring Island.
Wednesday Nov 14, 2007, my third full day on Salt Spring Island. It is a cool, overcast day but painting in on my agenda. I load up my gear and head out to the Cusheon Creek area that I had scouted out the day before.
I painted a couple of small studies focusing on the creek, the orange leaf litter and the green trees but I was not happy with either one. Admittedly I had not been doing much plein air painting recently and I was feeling very rusty. Still I hoped that I had captured something of the feeling of the area that I could use, along with my reference photos, to create a decent painting back in the studio. By the time I had done the 2 sketches, the 5 degree temperature had made me feel quite chilled, so I was happy to head back to the villa for lunch (and to warm up by the fireplace).
After lunch, I headed back to the creek area but I didn’t take my painting gear, electing instead to hike with my camera and collect more reference photos. I want to explore a different portion of the valley this time so I walked up to the end of Creekside Road and then descended into the valley and hiked back along the creek – trying to follow it all the way to where the creek empties into the ocean. Unfortunately the trail seemed to fade away and I never did get all to way to the coast. Nonetheless I had a great walk and captured another 100 photos of the area.
That was pretty much the day. After dinner I started reading Emily Carr’s book Hundreds and Thousands. Emily Carr of course is from Victoria and painted coastal landscapes that inspire me and are reminiscent of some of the landscapes that I’ve been experiencing on the island.
As the rain came down during the evening I decided to fore-go a planned hot tub soak but I did do a bit of painting. Set-up on the kitchen table I reworked the “Trees” painting that I had done earlier in the day, down by the creek.
(Incidentally, I used only palette knives for all my painting on this trip)
November 13th (2007) – this very well may have been the best day of my trip. The morning was magical and the day was one of joyful discovery. I awoke around 6, just as it started to get light outside. As there was no storm this morning I decided to head down to the beach to catch the sunrise. I was out the door by 7 and at the beach 10 or 15 minutes later. The beach is, not surprisingly, deserted and it is much wider (perhaps 5 meters now) than when I visited the day before. I watch the eastern horizon glow and brighten for about 15 minutes before the intense sunlight slides above the distant mountains and clouds. The scene is beautiful and peaceful and I just close my yes and let the sun bathe me – ahhh.
With the sun shining on me I am warm – so warm that I take off my boots and wade into the water – just to say I did (the water was indeed breathtakingly cold).
I could have stayed there on the beach much longer but I had things I wanted to do, so just after 8, I headed back up to the Villa and had some breakfast (croissants with butter and strawberry jam and some hot chocolate).
As pleasant as my morning was, that was just the start. Tracy and Carl (owners of Fridas Villa) had mentioned that there was a nice rain forest not far away and paying a visit was my plan for the rest of the morning. Access to the Cusheon Creek rain forest is gained by following Beddis Road south to where it intersects with Creekside Drive. a little way along on the left (south) side of the road is an access trail.When planning out this trip I was aware of a little beach near by but had no knowledge of this little gem of a lush green wilderness area just a 15 minute walk away.
I started down the little trail from the road and was soon blown away by the beauty – lush green trees, moss and ferns and a vibrant orange carpet of fallen leaves; a charming little creek and wooden bridges crossing it. I started snapping photos and kept going until I had completely exhausted my camera batteries – over 200 photos in an hour and a half!
I had taken a number of decent photos and with many that could be used for painting references but for now I was done and headed back home for a bite to eat before my next adventure.
It was finally time to get to the whole point of this excursion – PAINTING! I loaded my plein air gear into my backpack and returned to Beddis Beach. I set up at the south end of the beach looking north at a scene that included beach, ocean distant land. I was working on an 8 by 10 inch (20×25 cm) panel using oil paints and a fairly natural palette of colors.
It was a nice sunny afternoon but I was disappointed that I was unable to capture that in my painting – it seemed very flat, in terms of values. Partly discouraged, I did not start another painting that afternoon – besides, I had another mission to complete before darkness.
The day before, on my walk to Ganges I had noticed a cheese farm just a short way up Beddis Road. After dropping off my paintings supplies I walked up to Moonstruck Cheese Farm where I bought a Camembert and a chunk of Tomme d’Or. I grated some of the Tomme d’Or on the pasta that I made for dinner and enjoyed the cheeses though the week.
In the evening, I did a bit of thinking about my painting, what worked and especially what didn’t. I thought a lot about value scales and the limitation of recreating the full scale of nature with paint pigments. I reminded myself that the absolute values on my painting will necessarily be different form the value of something exposed to direct sunlight. I also spent some time thinking about my use of white paint in my paintings – for a long time I had shunned it but now it was back in my palette (for better or worse?).
I had started my day catching the sunrise on Beddis Beach and dipping my feet in the ocean. Now, I ended off the day taking advantage of another of the great amenities at Fridas Villa – a hot tub in the back yard. A luxurious half hour soak under a wonderfully starry sky was a perfect ending to a great day!
6 AM – Monday November 12th, 2007 and I am awaken by the sound of the power going out. It is back in a few minutes, then out again and it would remain off until around 8. Fortunately I was warm in bed and had no place to go and no time commitments. Listening to the radio (hand-cranked rechargeable battery powered) I learned that the storm had knocked out power all over southeastern British Columbia and the worst was yet to come. The winds were supposed to peak around noon and total rain accumulations to be 100 mm (4 inches) – probably not ideal conditions for plein air painting.
I did get up around 7:30 and got a fire going in the fireplace. When the electricity returned I made some pancakes and then sat back with some tea and relaxed – a bit of reading, a bit of writing, listening to music and some contemplative staring out of the window.
Around noon, the rain stopped, the winds disappeared and the sky began to clear. It didn’t look bad at all so I headed out for a walk down Beddis Road towards the beach. Before the beach, I stopped off at the community orchard and wandered around taking photos:
I was overwhelmed by the colors I saw, here particularly but on the coast in general – such a contrast to what I had left 2 days earlier in Edmonton. Here the grass, the ferns were so green, the fallen leaves such a rich rusty-orange. I felt wonderful and inspired and was taking tonnes of photos! After the orchard stop, it was across the street and down a short path to the beach. It was less than a day since my first visit to Beddis Beach but already it had changed.
There was not much of a beach to be seen on this visit. Being near high tide the beach was disappearing from the ocean side and after the rain of the last night there was continued heavy runoff that turned the land side of the beach into a stream. Nonetheless was still a beach and it was still worth a visit. Walking back “home”, my camera continues to get a workout as I saw all kinds of wonderful color and textures that I had to capture:
The afternoon of my first day on the island, I walked in to Ganges, the main town in the centre of the island to pick up some cooking supplies. It is about 7 1/2 kilometers from Fridas Villa to the town so it was about an hour and a quarter walk each way. Not a problem though, I love walking, especially to explore new places and I would have an opportunity to take lots of photos. I walked along the side of the relatively quiet Beddis Road past delightful forested areas and farmland (with the last kilometer along the busier Fulford-Ganges Road).
Back at Fridas Villa, as the early evening darkness descended, I warmed up an Indian combo plate for supper and rested my walking-weary feet and legs, while watching a movie. That was the day – a good day but I was starting to feel guilty about not yet painting.