Monday, June 28, 2010

Museums and big water

This bit of big water is the last that we had to cross until we cross it again on the way South. It's called "Dixon Entrance" and the required route from Prince Rupert, BC and Ketchikan, AK. At about 35 miles across, it is serious business. We crossed it with 3- 4' swells and 1' wind waves. This was the first time since we left home May 15 that
I've felt sick to my stomach, but I was green. The boat was rocking front to back, left to right, front to back.

Whenever we stop, I can hardly wait to figure out where is the nearest museum and how far we will have to walk to check it out. Historical museums. Art museums. Natural history museums. Today, in Ketchikan, I toured a Bordello museum! I enjoy them all.

I love to hear the docents (often locals with personal ties to the artifacts in the museums) describe the history and the artifacts and their meaning. Then, after the tour, I like to go back and read all of the signs and boards and look again at the displays.

I took these photos in the Prince Rupert Museum of Northern British Columbia. Some may call these "historical objects" but I call them art.
This fringe on a ceremonial blanket (made for dancing)
was detailed with bits of copper and puffin bills
to make noise with the dance movements
I saw this kind of ornamentation on traditional
dress of First Nations groups in Alert Bay, Prince Rupert
(where I saw this blanket in a museum) and Ketchikan.

This chief's headdress was a crown of bear claws!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mary Island Anchorage, AK

Departure from Prince Rupert, British Columbia at 6:00 am. This painting done in Alaska at Mary Island Anchorage at 5:00 pm. Life is good!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beauty in nature

I heard the screech and looked up in time to catch a sequence of shots of this bald eagle hunting at Namu, BC. Eagles are plentiful and always a joy to watch.

Hard to tell from this shot if he was successful, but he kept his legs down while flying back to his nest. I'm guessing he caught something.
At Fury Cove with Fitzhugh Sound right beyond the trees and narrow sandy beach, the clouds lit up in pinks and magentas as the twilight lingered on and on.
Humpbacks! Life is sweet.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Near Klemtu in Cougar Bay

I painted this at 9:30 pm. It was a long day on the water and we were having gremlin problems with the generator. The town of Klemtu, which was promoted as a reasonable place with some facilities for boaters, was a disappointment. We traveled a bit farther to a quiet spot and I made a cold dinner. Still light enough for me to paint at 9:30, on the Solstice! Beautiful scenery but a lot of it viewed through rain. Can't take my pastels out in the rain, either, so I'm stuck at my little table set-up on the sun deck. Not a bad place to be, though. Dry and with a view of the outdoors.

The values were very close, but OHH was it tempting to put in some darks! Twilight lasted for two hours and I spent a lot of time studying the light.

One last thought on the Port McNeill shapes

What a difference a change in sky (and light) makes! Same scene. Same shapes. But different.

Fury Cove

Once we crossed the 40 miles of water from Vancouver Island to the central British Columbia coast (a voyage that began at 4am), we anchored the boat in Fury Cove and took naps. Whew!

The spot was so pretty, I couldn't resist painting. I used gouache for the first time ever for the underpainting. I got to use my new leak-proof box, too. Isn't it pretty? And so clean!

Done on hot press Arches watercolor paper. Fury Cove.

From the Sketchbook

We are finally in Prince Rupert, with wifi, and I can share a bit with you. My sketchbook is looking marvelous and I'm excited to show it to the folks back home.

The boat above was parked at the Shearwater dry dock area. Shearwater was the location of a WWII PBY air base and the hangar building still has timbers that date back to the war.

At the fuel dock in Shearwater I met the nicest young man. About 20 years old, he told me about how he used to live in Bellingham, WA, but now loves living on the water in BC. This location is pretty remote for a young man, and when I asked him about it, he said, "Ebay is GREAT!" Made me laugh.
When the weather looked like it would improve for our run from Vancouver Island to the central BC coast, we stopped at the above little anchorage near Port Hardy. It was beautiful and I could not resist a quick sketch at about 9:30 pm.

I see this scene a lot. Rocky bit with a lighthouse or light beacon on it, islands with trees and more trees and more trees. This sketch says "52 degrees North" but we are now even north of 54 degrees here at Prince Rupert.
This was my view one evening of the pattern of light on the water. Couldn't you just fall in love with an image like that?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Waiting for weather

At least twice a day, we listen to the weather broadcast to see if the conditions ahead of us are improving and making for a safe passage. So far, strong winds (to 20 kts) and moderate seas (swells/waves of 9 feet or more) have kept us tucked up in the bay near Port McNeill.

This kind of waiting around for weather to improve is not new to us. We've done it before with the boat. But, we've also done it many times with flying small airplanes. You don't rush ahead when a thunderstorm is ahead. Boat or plane. Safety first. Always.

I decided to paint the same scene in a variety of ways today. The low tide has revealed the beach at the end and sides of this point. Later in the day, high tide will bring the water line up to the bases of the trees. I'll paint again then.

Done on Wallis Museum Paper with watercolor under paintings.

I used the little Koi field kit for watercolor, and a 1" flat brush.
I love the effect of an under painting.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sketching at Port McNeill, BC, waiting for weather

At the top of the dock at Port McNeill, BC, sits this Steam Donkey (c. 1910). Signs posted all over it warn me not to climb on it, but I am more interested in sketching it than climbing it, as you can see. Logging is a big deal in Canada, particularly in the wet province of British Columbia. It is not uncommon for us to share the water with a tugboat hauling a log boom (a big raft of trimmed tree trunks). If you were to drive around here, you would see logging trucks with trees 4-5' in diameter as their loads.

With all of that tree-loss, is it any wonder that I take a special pleasure looking at the stands of trees near our anchorage? Their tops form a constant edge between sky and land, everywhere I look.

We are approaching the longest day of the year and up here, north of the 50th parallel, the twilight stretches longer and longer. Just last night, I took this photograph at 10:15 pm! Do you have special plans to celebrate the Summer Solstice? It is just days away, June 21, 2010.

Monday, June 14, 2010


In a giant 16" x 20" Aquabee sketch pad, I have been tracking the pattern of sunlight on the water since the beginning of our trip. Either early morning or late evening, when the light is slanting toward me, I make these value sketches. Too many cloudy days have limited their number, but they still intrigue me.

They feel like an inkblot test. And, like inkblot tests, they invite the viewer to attach meaning to their images. You tell me what you see and I tell you what it tells me about you.

On second thought, better not tell me what you see. My license to practice is long expired!

Mmm. Grilled Vidalia onion sweetens the chili. Chipotle heats it up. Tomatoes, beans, beef, well, they are required.

Thanks to Dave for the West0n-suggestion: paint before you eat!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Painting at Port McNeill, north of the 50th parallel

Cold and windy and a little rainy at Port McNeill today. It was a busy day today, getting perishables aboard and stowed for our next piece of water. I don't know how soon we'll be at a place with a decent market, so I bought a lot of nice produce today, among other things. Peppers and carrots, onions and apples. Even some cherries. And, after dinner, it finally stopped raining long enough for me to sit on the sundeck and paint.

After I finish a painting, I make a few notes in my painting journal. In this painting, I was especially trying to make the sky and water look and feel like the cool, cloudy evening. It's only 51 degrees!

Before we left home, I cut sheets of acetate that exactly fit into my portfolio. As I finish paintings, I number them and tape them to the acetate. Even if I paint enough to use up all of the paper I brought, I think that I will have enough acetate to protect the paintings.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Totems and traditions

It is not just anywhere one can walk down a road and see a cedar tree trunk, partly carved as a totem. Nor to observe these silent sentinels as they mark the graves of the fallen. But, it is in this magical place of Alert Bay.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lesson in Perspective

Sitting on the bow of the boat, looking to the stand of trees to the northwest of our anchorage. I watched bald eagles fly singly and in pairs and then land in the top branches of these trees. I liked the colors in the dead tree and wondered if it had been hit by lightning. The tree next to it seemed to lean in, solicitously.

The next morning, I looked over at the trees, looking for eagles again. Instead, I saw two black shapes on the shore. Must be crows, I thought. I had seen plenty of them around. But, as I watched, they did not move like crows. More like mammals. Maybe mink?

I pulled out the binoculars (and my digital camera) and was amazed to see that these were bears! I did another quick sketch of the same scene and waited for the bears to walk past. Wow! Didn't realize the trees were so big until I saw the bears put everything in place.

By the way, I hope to only see bears from this distance!! Yikes! We almost rowed over and walked that beach!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Death on the Dock

The gulls had a tasty feast when the tide went out at Campbell River. They plucked the crabs off of the rocks and brought them back to the dock for dinner. One afternoon, the dock was covered in shells and loose legs of crab carcasses. Step carefully!

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I recall laying on the grass with friends and looking at the clouds in the summer sky. As 7 year olds, we saw dragons and puppies, faces and cars, and giants with big open mouths that could eat you in one bite and not even notice it. On such summer days the sky was filled with clouds and possibilities.

These days, I search the clouds for clues about the upcoming weather. From which direction will the wind come? Lightning or no? Should we race for the shelter of a breakwater or are we safe at anchor?

And, while all of these grown up concerns march through my mind and force organization to my observations, a little girl's daydreams on summer days skips through and around, too.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Blackfish Archipelago

Gauze sky

I am reading Marc Simpson's book Like Breath on Glass: Whistler, Inness, and Art of Painting Softly. This painting was done with the idea of whispering color onto the paper.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Campbell River, BC and the wind is blowing a gale. We are tied up at the dock, but I can venture out to peek at Quadra Island across the water. In imitation of Whistler, I created a verbal description of the scene and then came back to the shelter of the boat to paint what I described. It's a very different way to work. And I kind of like it!