While on Salt Spring Island on Canada’s west coast for a plein air painting workshop, I took some time to engage my photographic interests. In previous posts I have shared some of the colorful abstract photos. In this post I concentrate on black and white photos. This set of photos were taken on September 11, 2012 – a “free” day that I had before the painting workshop began. I spent this day, walking about with my camera – specifically I retraced by steps through a favorite part of the island that I had come to know from a visit in November 2007.
With my hiking boots and a backpack full of camera gear I headed down Beddis Road for my destinations at Beddis Beach and Cusheon Creek [map].
The hike down Beddis Road was almost 10K and with very frequent stops for photos, progress was slow – but I had the whole day, so was in no hurry. I was frequently changing lens and camera settings – sometimes capturing a very specific object or scene and at other times more interested in capturing an abstract feeling. Some of these images were captured with he intention of the photo being the final product and others were captured to use a references for future paintings.
It took the better part of two hours until I arrived at Beddis Beach but what a welcome sight. The beach was quiet, the tide low and the water cool but acceptable enough to wade in (up to my ankles).
From Beddis Beach it was a few hundred meters (south and west) further, to the trail entrance dropping down into the lush, green and quiet Cusheon Creek valley.
The fifth and final day of the 2012 Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA) plein air workshop on Salt Spring Island was on Sunday September 16th. The format of the day was different but that was okay. Instead of heading of as one of four groups to a different location on the island and being instructed by one of the experts, this day we hung around Ganges and painted.
Well it wasn’t quite that simple. We started of with a group critique, an opportunity to get back with the instructor whom we started with on Day 1. The group was able to take a look at what they had accomplished over the week and to get some useful feedback.
After that it was time to get down to painting. With some one hundred workshop attendees there were lots of plein air painters to be seen around Ganges and particularly along the waterfront.
For my first painting of the day I chose a water scene and worked quickly to capture the impression on it. I found the instruction of Stephen Quiller (who our group had studied with the previous day) to be most on my mind. As a result, I was experimenting with thin acrylic washes to start with, building up values and rich colors. The final strokes were to apply thicker, more opaque acrylic.
After this water scene, I wanted to paint a forest scene, so I packed up my gear and walked to Mouat Park on the edge of Ganges. Although very dry at this time of year, this are was still lush and green, dark and refreshing.
I finished one plein air sketch there in the park and did a couple of thumbnails sketches for another one.
I also wanted to consider another water or town scene so I hiked back through Ganges looking for an inspiring scene. For some reason I didn’t find anything that caught my fancy so in the end I was back near Art Spring.
I set up my pochade box on a big stone table and proceeded to work from my thumbnail sketch. I was in a bit of a hurry as I worked here. At 3 o’clcok we were to begin set up for the “Wet Paint show and sale” at Art Spring. The widely publicized even ran from 4 until 6 giving those so inclined and opportunity to sell works which they had completed during the week. I chose not to put any of my works up for sale but I did set some pieces to show along with some of my business cards.
Another unique aspect to this final workshop day was an opportunity for a one-on-one critique with the legendary Robert Genn. I did not take advantage of this but many people did and if there is a next time, I will.
The final event of the week was an evening banquet at the Harbor House Hotel. This was a very nice event with just a little bit of formal talking, lots of opportunity to chat with fellow workshop participants and an exceptional meal.
The week went by very quickly but it was good and I will certainly consider doing it again. Next year’s equivalent event will be held in September at Whistler, BC.
Here is another [see first set] small sampling of abstract photos I took in September (2012), on Salt Spring Island while there for a painting workshop. Not that you are likely to see any recognizable landmarks in these images but this bunch were taken around Ganges and particularly in Mouat Park [see map].
I used a slow shutter speed (as low as 2 seconds) and deliberately moved the camera during the exposure – in a horizontal or vertical plane or just random shaking to create soft, blended edges.
On the fourth day of the 2012 Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA) workshop on Salt Spring Island, our group was with Stephen Quiller [see my introductory post about this workshop]. Our location was at a private farm, on the coast, a couple of kilometers south of Ganges [see map]. This was another location that offered some subject matter to suit everyone’s tastes – there was the farm, with trees, chickens, road and fences and nearby, ocean-side fields and beaches.
Stephen Quiller is a water-media artist, not making a big distinction between water color , acrylic and gouache media. He is very comfortable with and knowledgeable about all. Quiller is noted for his work with color and has a number of products and books relating to his Quiller color wheel. In fact, having studied his books, was how his name popped out for me, amongst the four workshop instructors. One of the key lessons from Quiller related to his efforts in identifying color complement pairs amongst the many hues of colors available today. By mixing these pairs one is able to obtain some very nice clear greys, or neutral tones. Interestingly as he was unable to find a perfect complement to cadmium yellow light, he had his own created – Quiller Violet.
As in the days that we spent with the other workshop instructors, the format was to have a demo/talk first thing in the morning and then the participants would disperse over the area to work on their own and then we would gather again just after lunch for another demo. On this day we also got together for a group critique at the end of the day.
The demonstration started off with a description of Quiller’s color theory and then he got into working on a piece – an abstracted depiction of the landscape in front of him (using acrylics). Quiller\s approach was to start with thin, transparent washes and work his way to applications of opaque paint. Before starting the actual painting Quiller asked that any questions be saved until the end so as not to disrupt his process. I expected him to be in the “zone” and therefore completely silent during his painting process but while he was clearly in the zone, there was one side of him that was still giving a very useful running commentary of what he was doing and thinking.
Having so many possibilities for paintings around this location, it was difficult to choose. I hiked down the shaded path from the farm area to a large grassy spit which featured a greeny bay at low tide on one side and the open water and a rocky beach on the other. On the land was a large grassy field bordered by some trees sporting dramatic autumn colors.
The field/tree scene won out for me so I set up my pochade box in the shade looking out over this scene and got to work. I was experimenting with my process again on this day – still trying to find the best way to use acrylics for this plein air work. I learned on the previous days that my paints were just drying out too quickly on the palette – even when I used the Sta-Wet palette with a wet sponge underneath.
This day I tried pre-mixing my tube colors with heavy gloss gel to slow the drying time and also to give me a thicker paint, which I prefer for the impasto style. I stored these premixed colors in little plastic cups with lids, which were great for ensuring that the left over paint could be saved for my next session. I still used the Sta-Wet palette as my surface for mixing (and saving) other colors.
It was a good day with Stephen Quiller. the information on his color theories was good but largely review. there were a couple of things that he said that while not new or revolutionary, really stuck with me during that day and I’m still thinking about them.
- “See the stroke – put it down” is what he said. These are simple words, a simple concept but oh so important so as not to muck about in one’s painting and thereby destroy the freshness and expressiveness of the image.
- “Always finish your paintings”. There is a tendency to give up on hopeless cases, canvases that you just know can’t be saved. Quiller said that the last 15% of a painting can be very hard – but very beneficial. Keep working on the problems and you will learn something and probably something that will help prevent you from making the same mistake again!
On the third day (2012/9/14) of the Federation of Canadian Artists 2012 painting workshop on Salt Spring Island (British Columbia, Canada), our group had the pleasure of being instructed by Carla O’ Conner.
Carla is a watermedia artist whose “designated” media at the workshop was gouache. As it turned out, most of her group instruction was generic and could be applied to to any media. She started out her morning session talking about Design and how there are 7 elements of design (shape, size, line, texture, direction, color and value) AND 7 principles of design (balance, harmony, gradation, variation, contrast, dominance and unity). Since each element applies to each principle there are 49 things to consider! Carla went on to talk about composition and some of the most common classifications of composition.
Our location for the day was Ruckle Provincial Park on the south east corner of the island. The land for the park was donated by the Ruckle family so part of the park continues as the working family farm (complete with cattle, sheep and turkeys – not to mention the wild deer that wandered through later in the day).
This location offered a great variety of subject matter for painting: the wide open valley, the animals, farm buildings, fences, coastal forests and, just a 5 minute walk away, the coast, with a lovely, quiet little beach.
I was attracted down to the beach – a lovely little cove with shore rocks, a rocky little island, birds, driftwood and a shell and pebble beach.There were even a couple of people kayaking.
I took off my boots, pulled out my sketch book and proceeded to sketch some scenes. It was so nice (and I so needed the seeing/sketching practice) that I never did break out my painting materials that day. As I sketched I was concentrating on elements of the previous two days’ lessons – namely to simplify in terms of shapes and values and to use values to define sections of the painting. I found my grey scale markers very handy for these sketches, allowing me to quickly establish my 3 greys (as well as black and white).
In early afternoon we had gathered up by the big barn again and Carla gave a useful little demonstration of how to incorporate figures into the landscape. To be believable the figures do not need to be highly detailed – what is key is to get the general body shape and proportions correct. After this demo I went back down to the beach to sketch. At the end of the day I caught back up with Carla and got some useful feedback on my day’s work.
After the workshop was over we went down to another part of this large park to take some reference photos of the forest and coast.
To see more photos of Salt Spring Island (many taken during this workshop) please visit my Flickr photostream.
John’s forte is painting urban scenes with watercolor. Our painting location for this day was the Garry Oaks Winery. This place wasn’t an urban location but John found a suitable building on the premises to use as the subject for his demonstration piece. Not being particularly drawn to buildings myself I found this site with many opportunities for landscape paintings. I’m particularly fond of the parallel lines of the rows of the vineyard.
Shortly after our arrival at 9 AM, the group gathered together and John began his demonstration. Unlike many instructors who do not like to actually demonstrate by creating a full work from start to finish, John did. He did do a few things in preparation before the group arrived and also did a bit of work while we were scattered in the fields. Nonetheless, through the two demo sessions that he did we got a good idea of how he approached his work. John works in watercolor so many of the tips and techniques (e.g. masking off sections of the painting and use a mouth-blown sprayer) of that he shared won’t have direct applicability to my current style but I have carefully tucked away his approaches for future use.
One thing that John talked about which is fully applicable to any media, concerned values and planning your composition. He said to consider that your scene has three regions: a foreground, a middle ground and a background. Also consider that there are three value families: Light (say values 1 to 3, on a nine point scale), middle (values 4 to 6) and darks (values 7 to 9 ). John suggested doing thumbnail sketches of the composition using all of the combinations of value families with the three regions. For example you could do the foreground in your darkest values, your mid-ground with your middle values and the background in your lightest values – or you could flip that around making your foreground lightest and background darkest. Or maybe you make your middle ground darkest
There are 6 combinations of the value families that you can assign to the three different sections of your painting and each can impart a different mood on the scene. Also worth remembering is that you don’t need to be a slave to reality – just because nature is presenting you with a scene where the background (e.g. distant hills and sky) are very light, your painting does not have to be the same (it could be – but that your choice!).
This lesson stuck with me, it was with me through that day as I tried to apply the idea, but it was also there in the back of my mind throughout the rest of the week. A good principle, a good lesson!
After the morning demonstration, I wandered up and down the road beside the vineyard looking for just the right scene to capture my attention. I ended up finding a nice spot in the shade under a massive old oak tree, looking out over a section of the vineyard with curving rows. I would spend the rest of the day in that spot and although the painting, didn’t turn out to my satisfaction. I kept repeating my mantra from Day 1 ” I don’t have to produce a finished painting, I am just here to learn”!
During the course of the day, John made the rounds to visit the students scattered around the property, offering individual suggestions. He got to me quite late in the day and suggested that I add a figure as a focal point. I don’t often include figures in my landscapes (although I often thought I should). Anyway, I did put in a suggestion of a figure and have to agree that it does add a focal point to an otherwise ungrounded painting. What do you think?
So that was day 2 – another day of solid learning, another day of not so successful painting – and all in a very beautiful locale. [click here to read about Day 3]
Simplify – that is the message I took from Elizabeth Wiltzen, our group’s first-day instructor at the 2012 FCA workshop, on Salt Spring Island. (for an intro to this workshop, see my first post in the series). Liz is a very accomplished oil painter of landscapes, from Canmore (Alberta, Canada) who had worked in watercolors for years. Interestingly, she is also a life coach and an avalanche rescue (with dog) volunteer.
I liked the way Liz started off the workshop: encouraging, no demanding, that we drop any pressures (self imposed or imagined) to have to complete paintings during the week. We were there to learn, to experiment, to try and fail, but ultimately to grow. She joked that the “wet paint sale”, scheduled for the last day, was not happening. It was of course, but we were to act as if it wasn’t and not feel under any pressure to produce. I though this set a very good tone, not only for this day but for the entire workshop. I know I adopted that mindset and while I would get frustrated with a lack of quality output, I kept telling myself that I was there to learn and if I didn’t end up with even a single finished painting, that was okay – that thought settled me down on more than one occasion.
On this day, our group was on a beautiful private property, right on the south coast of the island, between Ruckle Park and Fulford Harbour. The views looking towards the water were particularly stunning. The views looking inland weren’t bad either, with fields, buildings, trees and rocks.
Liz started off with a good talk about her plein air painting equipment as she set it up for her first demonstration – of the exercise she wanted us to take on that morning. During that day we were given 2 exercises. That first one was to simply a scene to a few (5 to 10) large shapes and assign each shape one of just 5 values – and then paint it like that! This sort of exercise is nothing new but it was nonetheless very valuable. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by a scene, all the details and color. What this exercise demonstrated is the value of getting down good solid “bones”, an infrastructure for the painting! When you’ve got a believable value composition down, you are half way there!
On the right is my small painting resulting from that morning’s exercise – again the goal being to simplify shapes and values (and of course it is not as easy as it looks)!
The format of this first day of the workshop was typical of each day. We would get on site by 9 AM unload our gear and gather as a group (of about 25). Our instructor for the day would then give us a talk and demonstration (for maybe half an hour) and then we would scatter around the site to get down to painting. When done for the morning we would typically eat the lunch that we had brought and then gather as a group for the afternoon demonstration.
At our afternoon gathering, Liz demonstrated the exercise that she wanted us to try that afternoon. Still on the theme of simplifying. the challenge was to do a painting using just 50 strokes of the paintbrush. Well this was interesting – she made it look easy but of course it was not. A good starting point was to follow the lesson from the morning by establishing your composition with a limited number of large shapes. When it came to the painting, one trick (especially in the early stages), was to load up a paintbrush and without lifting it from the surface, sweep it all about to fill in the large shapes. Later strokes would be shorter and useful for adding highlights and providing definition to the painting. One of the unexpected challenges of this exercise is keeping track of the 50 strokes – once you get into the painting zone it is so easy to lose track of a simple thing like counting. Before I started painting I took a couple of pine cones and pulled off 50 scales, put the 50 markers in a pile.. Then after each painting stroke, I simply tossed away one of the scales – when they were all gone, my painting was “done” (“remember, it’s just an exercise”)!
It was a good first day with the exceptionally beautiful landscapes that I was expecting, great weather, a chance to meet a few of the people in my group and of course a couple of lessons in simplification that stuck with me through the week (and beyond).
When I made the trip from Edmonton to Salt Spring Island for the Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA) 2012 workshop, the primary purpose was the workshop, which was focused on plein air painting. My personal goal for the trip was a bit broader than just painting. For me, this was an opportunity to indulge my other artistic passion – photography. On this trip I carried three cameras with me: a Nikon DSLR with three lenses and accessories (all of the photos in this blog post came out of the Nikon), a Panasonic point-and-shoot camera and my Samsung Galaxy S III . Between these cameras I collected some 2500 images over the 10 days!
Within the realm of photography I had three distinct goals:
1. The first was to capture reference photos of the varied coastal and inland landscapes for use in landscape paintings.
2. My second goal was to take some good, clear quality photos that can stand on their own.
3. The third goal was to capture abstract photo images that might serve as references for abstract paintings.
With these abstract photos I do not look for details or necessarily recognizable elements. I am more interested in capturing colors and patterns and flowing lines. My basic technique for abstracting an image is through motion between the camera and subject, during the exposure. This often requires a slow shutter speed which may necessitate using a neutral density filter. I usually will move the camera (in one or more directions) but on this trip I was also traveling by train so I also made use of the train’s motion relative to the landscape outside. In this blog post I share a few of the abstract images I generated on this trip.
That first image was shot from the train on the way to Vancouver. When I got to Salt Spring Island I spent my first day (the day before the painting workshop began) hiking with my camera gear. I set off for a favorite place from my visit to the island 5 years earlier – the rain forest in the valley of Cusheon Creek . With the heavy, lush tree cover, it was not very bright (except for where the sun broke through the canopy). These conditions were however quite suitable for the long exposure shots that I was taking.
As beautiful and quiet as the Cusheon Creek area was, it was a bit unnerving – just as I entered the area I noticed a sign warning that a cougar had been spotted in the area! Fortunately I did not run into one (but it was always in the back of my mind).
After this day of photography, it was 5 days of painting (with a bit, okay quite a bit, of reference photography) before another free day to wander about with the cameras and then a couple of travel days. I returned to Edmonton from Vancouver via the train, so once again had an opportunity to see what type of abstractions I could capture while in motion.
The 5-day workshop ran from Wednesday September 12th through Sunday September 16th. There were about 100 participants divided up into 4 groups. For the first four days, each group spent a day with a different one of the four workshop instructors, at a different site on the island. On the last day, everyone painted in and around Ganges on their own.
Every day we were out painting “en plein air”, in landscapes which offered views of coasts, fields, forests, buildings and animals – something for everyone!
The four workshop instructors were: John Salminen, Elizabeth Wiltzen, Carla O’Connor and Stephen Quiller. Each instructor focused on a particular media but were able to provide valuable guidance to everyone, in whatever media the participant chose to use.
Another very unique and welcome feature of this year’s workshop was a talk on Friday evening, given by the world-renowned (and Salt Spring Island resident) painter and naturalist, Robert Bateman. Bateman is obviously a man with a million stories (and opinions), a good an passionate speaker (looking way younger than his 82 years). On this evening he spoke about his development and influences. I learned that he had once painted landscapes in the style of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven (and quite frankly, that earlier style appealed to me more than the his realistic wildlife work). I was also impressed by (and would never have guessed) his appreciation for abstract expressionists such as Rothko, Kline and Still. He demonstrated how he was influenced by their compositions and incorporated them into his high-realism wildlife paintings. Overall it was a very enjoyable evening in a very good week.
Our last day of the workshop (Sunday) was different, but nonetheless valuable. We painted in Ganges, had group critiques of the work’s week as well as the opportunity for one-on-one critiques with Robert Genn. Late in the afternoon there was a two hour “wet canvas” sale – an opportunity to show and sell paintings. The well organized workshop week wrapped up with a very nice banquet – a excellent meal and an opportunity to chat and reminisce with old and new friends, on Sunday evening.
Next year’s FCA week-long workshop is being organized for Whistler B.C. in September 2013. After this years experience I will be giving serious consideration to attending that one too.
In future posts on this blog I will share some of the things that I learned during this week on Salt Spring – there was something learned everyday and from every instructor – stay tuned! [go to Workshop Day 1 post]
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!
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.
The first day of my November 2007 adventure to Salt Spring Island was the train journey from Edmonton to Vancouver (as described in an earlier blog post). I arrived at Vancouver’s Pacific Central station around 0830 on a Sunday. On this, day 2, I continued on towards my destination of Salt Spring Island. I would need to catch a ferry but first I would need a bus to Tsawwassen. Fortunately the bus terminal is co-located with the train station and the bus travels via the ferry to Victoria, so I buy one ticket that will cover my transportation from the Vancouver train station all the way to the Fulford Harbour ferry terminal on Salt Spring Island.
Fortunately I had an hour or two between train arrival and bus departure so after I had bought my ticket, I had breakfast and then strolled around, enjoying the coastal humidity and greenery, before finding a bench upon which to sit and wait for the bus loading time. The next part of the journey went very smooth – I got my luggage onto the bus, got a seat and rode until we were on the ferry at Tsawwassen, an hour or so later. Once on the ferry it was off the bus and time to wander around the big boat. I headed up to the deck and back to the stern as the ferry began it’s trip across the Georgia Strait, through the Gulf Islands and to Swartz Bay ferry terminal north of Victoria.
As it was November 11th, Remembrance Day in Canada, so I paused at 11:00 to remember. With the overcast skies, cool sea breeze and very few other people around, it was a solemn and memorable moment.
I always enjoy the ferry trip between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay, especially as we move through Active Pass, the narrow channel between the Gulf Islands of Mayne and Galiano. After an hour and a half the ferry arrived at Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. Shortly before arrival I made my way down to the vehicle deck to pick up my luggage from the bus. Then I made my way back up top to join the pedestrians walking off of the ferry.
At the Swartz Bay terminal I found my way to another, much smaller, ferry that would take me on a 35 minute journey back over to Salt Spring Island .
As we approached the Salt Spring I was reminded why I love it there. I could see natural beauty of the mountains, veiled by low clouds and there was a touch of autumn color on the shore too. Then of course there were reminders of the quirky and creative nature of this place exemplified by the floating domicile in the bay as the ferry approached the Fulford Harbour dock.
I was met at the ferry terminal by Tracy Harrison and Carl Borgstrom, proprietors of Fridas Villa and given a ride to their home. Attached to their home is Fridas Villa, a self-contained one bedroom suite that I had reserved for my stay. It is located on Beddis Road just a short walk from Beddis Beach and (as I would discover) a number of other wonderful locales
After a day and a half on the rails, waves and roads I was ready to stay put. By the time I got settled in to my home for the next week, it was already mid-to-late afternoon (I was on holidays and not paying much attention to the exact time). There was however a little time (i.e. daylight) left for exploring the “neighborhood”. I headed down the road towards the ocean, past a friendly looking community orchard and down a little trail to the beach. Being late afternoon it was already cooling off and there was a bit of a wind but the beach was very refreshing and comforting. I spent some time strolling up and down the gravel beach soaking in the atmosphere and scouting out possible painting locations. I would return to Beddis Beach everyday over the coming week and come to see it in a variety of conditions.
After this brief walkabout it was starting to get dark so I headed “home”, finished getting settled in and spent the evening resting in front of the fireplace. The next day I wanted to get down to work!