The roar of the surf as your foot slides across a wet tree root or rolls over sea-rounded rocks as you brace yourself against the wind and (sometimes) rain - there is nothing else quite like it! Your heart quivers from excitement and exertion of about equal amounts. Welcome to late winter on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. We rented a cabin for a week right on the east end of Gordon’s Beach that is so close to the water, sea spray softens the view out the southern bank of windows. Why don’t I bring you along and you can share in a few highlights of our adventures, yes? I thought so! Okay, bundle up and get cozy. Here we go!
Plein Air Painting on China Beach
There is a bit of an easy downhill hike into China Beach, except for one 2 foot drop off the last stair step on a long set of stairs with no railing. It is just a little ways up from before you reach the shore. You will almost be there..... So, here is my advice for anyone who still wants to come with me hiking but their agility and strength has decreased over the years from age and illness.
1. Do take my strong suggestion about using a walking stick or a cane on rough ground. I will even help you carry it when you don’t need it. I make a reasonable good personal support lever but I am not always in the right place at the right time when you need me.
2. Remember how you got over, around and under difficult things when you were very young? Do this! Forget about getting dirty. Clothes wash. Get down on your bum or hands and knees and come down backward if necessary. It works. I promise. If you think about it now, I won’t spend ten minutes demonstrating and talking you into it on the trail.
3. It is okay to take breaks. If those long-legged 20 year olds, that moved passed us like gazelles, live long enough, they will slow down as well. Thirty or 45 minutes minutes instead of fifteen or twenty to get to a place like this? Where we will spend a couple of hours? No difference.
4. Yes, you will need to carry the backpack with our snacks and water bottles. I have the pack with the plein air gear.
5. Yes, you will likely sleep for an hour and a half on the couch when we return. A day of fresh air has this most pleasant added benefit.
That is all.
What a great day it was out there! We left shortly after 9 and didn’t come back until 3 in the afternoon. China Beach was the best part of the day. It was all good. But China Beach was the best. The light changed in the most pleasant of ways as I worked on this small 8 x 10 inch gessobord with acrylics. It might be a little close to look at on the screen, unless you hold it out a ways or step back if you are viewing it on the computer. But have a look and see what you think.
Sombrio Beach and The Trail Less Traveled
David decided to stay home and rest his slightly sore knee from the previous day’s hike. I made a quick safety plan with my daughter as I would be out of cell and internet range all day. As I turned off the highway, the potholes were big enough that I thought I might have to stand on the top of Red Rosie to see over the other side. But the trusty Subaru Outback rocked her way humple-bumbling along like a pro down the long decline into a three-quarters-full parking lot on Sombrio Beach on a Thursday morning. Apparently, it is surfing season. Who knew!?
How are you about taking calculated risks? Do you look left out to sea?
Straight down the middle and hang on to both sides?
Look up the river to see what is coming? Or all three directions without pausing?
Do you read the caution signs and hear the words of the surfers who you are waiting to come back through before you take your turn? What does “Failing Facility Ahead” even mean? Or “Pretty sketchy on this side...” or “watch that step!”...while casually coming passed, all six feet four inches of him, surf board and backpack. I read and heard, stood at the top for a second and in a couple of quick steps was down again onto solid ground and off to explore.
But then it came time to come back...
The thick board is well jammed into place on an upward angle. There is a solid toe hold on the log. This is not the challenge. In case you have never notices, I am not 6’4” tall. In fact, I am a whole foot and 1/4 inches shorter.... and my leg and step-reach appear to be a bit shorter as well. The distances are too far for me to just step. I am going to have to leap and spring up to the top. I take a few steps back and silently thank my high school basketball coach for all those hours doing layups so I could jump higher than those much taller than me and get the rebound. The body remembers how it is done. And the leap-spring is successfully accomplished.
My advice? Never mind “watch that step!” Maybe don’t go west at the bottom of the trail over the bridge until they get the trail repaired. The views if you keep east are more beautiful and it is easy access right to the shore.
Sheringham Lighthouse painting
Sheringham Point Lighthouse built in 1912 following the shipwreck of the steamship SS Valencia when it ran aground in thick fog in 1906 resulting in the loss of 137 lives. The Juan de Fuca Strait was know at the time as the graveyard of the Pacific and following inquiry into these deaths Canada and the U.S. decided to increase safety along the strait. Twelve new lighthouses were ordered to be built including the one at Sheringham Point.
I have set up the easel and established a temporary studio this morning. The last couple of days have been overcast and calm. I am often simply transfixed by the softly changing mood of the sea as I watch the otters swim by, mergansers dive, Canadian geese honk as they pass overhead along with the irregular barking of the California sea lions out in front of the cabin. But the weather broke and I got my references on the fourth try.
Still “resting” on the easel this morning and too shiny and wet to really see is “Sheringham Lighthouse in the morning” 24 x 30 inch walnut oil on canvas. I can leave it now for a few final adjustments once I get back to my home studio. Somehow though, it had to be painted where I could stand as it stands next to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and I could still see it in the distance out of the corner of my eye. This painting changes dramatically in different light and was a pleasure to work on.
The Changing Faces of the Sea
To spend seven days with one eye always in the sea from dawn to dusk, leaves me with a even deeper appreciation of this magnificent body of water. But before we go there, this is the unceded traditional territory of the Ditidaht First Nation. The Nitinaht Peoples’ term for Jordan River is diitiida; those who established the village at Jordan River were called diitiid7aa7tx, which means ‘diitiida people.’ This term, diitiid7aa7tx, is anglicized as “Ditidaht.” That is why we are called “Ditidaht” (“dee-tee-daht”), which is often pronounced “Nitinaht.” “Nitinaht” is a “Westcoastized” pronunciation of diitiid7aa7tx, as “d” in Nitinaht is pronounced “n” in Westcoast (formerly called “Nootka”), the language spoken between Pachena Point and Cape Cook. Learn more about their more than 5,000 years of history and culture at:
We are proud of our rich past and traditions, and our bright future. We are pleased to share our history and stories with you.
I thought I would include a very few favourites of the views from various beaches of for you just to get a feeling for the changing faces of the sea.
I think it is fair to say that we did a lot of beach exploring on our seven day southwest of Vancouver Island reference gathering and painting working trip. I hope you enjoyed tagging along.
What Has Sold
This latest painting asked to have its edges painted before the surface was even dry. Then it popped up onto the wall yesterday and practically leaped into the arms of the art collectors... faster than you can say “seascape painting!” Yep, it is gone, caught the ferry and left without even a backwards glance to its creator. I have been granted visiting rights of course. What else can we say? Some paintings know where they belong even before they are born. I know the work will have an excellent home and will be deeply appreciated. This is all this painter wants for any of her paintings.
Until Next time!
I leave tomorrow on another adventure to Tofino area with my daughter and two grandsons. We have down this trip before three years ago. But each time is different and new memories are collected. When I return it will be head first into renovation of the new gallery room. I should have some “before photos” at least to share with you next time. Several of you have already made arrangements for gallery visits in early spring and I am looking forward to seeing you in person ahead of the summer season. So long until next issue, if I don’t see you sooner!
Canadian Contemporary Artist Terrill Welch Landscapes and more by impressionist painter Terrill Welch
Canadian landscape painter, Terrill Welch, exposes the mystery in an ordinary day, reminding us that there is only one moment – this one.