painting and photographic works

A Salt Spring Painting Excursion – Getting There

It was November 10, 2007 that I set off on a solo artistic adventure. I might have called it a holiday but I would get some strange looks. Summer holidays in Canada – sure. Winter Holidays (especially to play in snow ) okay, but November, to the west coast, at the start of the wet season? Well maybe I’ll just call it a work trip.

The plan was to spend a week painting on Salt Spring Island on Canada’s west coast. I  expected to do plein air painting so my pochade box was a key piece of the equipment that I had to bring with me – along with a tripod to hold the pochade, a small stool to sit on and a canvas backpack to lug it all around. In order to  transport this stuff (and a wooden case for my painting panels) to the coast I needed a big case. I thought about purchasing a commercial shipping case but in the end I shopped around and bought a suitcase big enough( but not too big) to be dedicated to these art supplies. Along with this large (and heavy) case I had a smaller backpack to carry my clothes and personal effects.

The first day was a travel day – getting from Edmonton to the coast. My preferred mode of transportation is the train so I boarded  “The Canadian” in Edmonton on a Saturday morning for the trip. The journey would take nearly 24 hours crossing half of Alberta, through the mountains and across British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. The train was a couple of hours late leaving Edmonton but we were on the rails by mid-morning on our way to Jasper. There is not a whole lot to see on this first leg as the November landscape in Alberta is pretty bleak – dried grasses and leafless trees. It was however a pleasant enough day and I just relaxed by settling into my coach seat, taking a deep breath and watching the world go by.

View from train, west of Edmonton

By later in the afternoon as the train approached Jasper National Park, bits of snow could be seen at the sides of the track  and once into the Park, snow could be seen at the higher elevations of the mountains.

Lake and snow-capped mountains in Jasper National Park

We arrived in Jasper and had an opportunity to de-train and wander around the town a bit but because we were already running late, the stop was not as long as normal.

Jasper Station, The Canadian and the Rocky Mountains

Baggage wagons at Jasper


Waiting to re-board "the Canadian" in Jasper

The departure from Jasper was late afternoon  ( little after 4PM) and it was already getting darkish with the sun having dipped below the surrounding mountains. Unfortunately this meant I wouldn’t  be seeing much of the scenery and I certainly wouldn’t be having any photo ops (or so I thought). Within an  hour it was dark but still I kept my eyes and little Pentax camera pointed out the window looking for light and interesting sights.

Rather uninteresting view within the coach

Surprisingly inspiring low-light landscape from the train

Throughout the evening and into the night I would take photos from the window of the moving (or occasionally stopped) train. The long exposure and movement did not make for very good traditional photographs but I loved the abstraction, the effect of the mysterious, blurred motions.

Silhouetted rail car at night

Night scene from the train

Photo that inspired the "Rolling Through the Night" painting

Many of the photos I took that night served as inspiration for my Night Train series of paintings. I did not sleep very deeply that night – between trying to get comfortable on the train seat, the distractions and just the excitement of being on a journey – but I didn’t care. I recall waking up many times through the night as the train passed through a town or a small station. I would wake up briefly, snap a photo or two then drift off again. As night became early morning The Canadian was rolling through the Fraser Valley, back towards civilization. Between the lightening sky and man-made structures and lights  a number of photo ops were presented. Again a number of these photos  (still not much on their own) served as inspiration/references for some abstract paintings.

A bridge, lights and the dawn near Vancouver

Vancouver-area bridge at dawn

This leg of the journey ended around 0830 in the morning as The Canadian (which I had been on for nearly a day but which had departed Toronto four and a half days earlier) pulled into Vancouver Pacific Central station . Stepping onto the platform I was struck by that unmistakable west coast humidity and the relative warmth (compared to Edmonton in November).

Platform at Vancouver Station

The next leg of my journey would be a bus to the ferry but I had a bit of time to grab a bit of breakfast and stroll out to the front of the station. A treat it was to see green grass and even some shrubs with leaves (us prairie folk are easily impressed by this time of year)

Vancouver's Pacific Central Train Station (2007 Nov 11)

Next: a bus, a couple of ferries and a car ride to get to my destination on Salt Spring Island – for the real start of my adventure.



4 responses

  1. Great first installment. Cool to see the photos that inspired some of your Night Train paintings. Can’t wait to see if your SSI experience was similar to mine.

    2010/11/11 at 3:18 pm

  2. Pingback: A Salt Spring Painting Excursion – Settling In « Randall Talbot – Artist

  3. I agree with Rick…a good photo-journal read of the beginning of your adventure. I’ve never travelled by train except for the 2 or 3 hour ride down to San Diego on Amtrack. You can drive there faster than the train can get you which is why not many take the trains down here. It’s a shame it’s that way but Amtrack doesn’t own the tracks…Amtrack owns the cars but the tracks, and I think, the employees are owned by Southern Pacific…or Union Pacific. So, everytime a freight train comes by the Amtrack train pulls off on a siding because the freight has priority….at least it was this way the last time I took a train to SD. Cool pics Randy.

    2010/12/18 at 3:28 pm

    • Thanks Ron. It is virtually the same way with the passenger train system here in Canada. The passenger cars owned by VIA but the tracks by CN and CP and their freight trains takes precedent. So it’s not the fastest but I like it!

      2010/12/18 at 6:15 pm

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