There is a really photogenic duck that hangs around the shoreline in this area called the Harlequin. The males have pronounced markings of black and white, with gorgeous shades of red and blue. I’ve observed them from the cabin through binoculars and they are stunning. A paddling of ducks was hanging out near the cabin this evening and I thought it was time to get a good picture with my trusty iPhone.
I slowly and calmly walked down to the beach with my phone out and the camera app all prepped and ready. I thought I could saunter in their direction and they would be so blissful, enjoying the golden hour and it’s near total stillness, that they would hold their collective pose long enough for me to get a clear picture. I believed I had a chance at a National Geographic quality picture, something destined to represent the Harlequin Duck in all it’s glory.
Unfortunately, the beaches on this shoreline are made up of round stones roughly the size of bowling balls. My saunter ended up looking more like a drunken totter over cobblestones in six-inch stilettos. The ducks, of course, would have none of it and gave me a horrified look before taking flight and heading for some quiet cove across the water. I was frantically taking pictures as I wobbled towards them, hoping that I might snag something through sheer luck. I need to either get a serious camera with an even more serious telephoto lense, or UP my stealth game at least 1000%.
We’ve been staying at our friend’s cabin which is situated about three hundred meters to the West of Twin Eagles Bluff. It’s been so convenient to have a place to stay this winter while we are getting the bluff set up for the summer, that it’s hard to quantify our gratitude. It’s allowed us to complete a large number of projects on the property, and continue the cleanup and organization needed before the house construction starts this summer. With the ramp down to the ocean nearing completion, we will have easy access to the slope of the bluff and the area at the bottom by the ocean. This will provide us with endless projects over the summer cleaning up the bluff and making the beach a little hidden paradise.
Despite all this outdoor activity, I’ve also been able to complete one or two new paintings every month since we’ve been camped-out in our friend’s cabin. I thought it would be interesting to document how I’ve managed to setup an artist studio in a very small space. I’ll have a much bigger studio setup in the new house, but for the time being this is working quite well (and I’ve managed to avoid driving Mitch crazy).
I’ve learned that with nothing more than a couple of TV tray tables, a small table top easel and a speedy setup/breakdown routine, I can have a reasonably functional studio space. The only limit is the size of the canvas. If it’s too big, I can’t stabilize it while I’m painting. This limit seems to be about 16″ – 20″ on a canvas (with cradled wood panel, I can go a little bit bigger as long as it doesn’t tip the easel over). With a little practice, I can now do setup or breakdown in under a minute. I store all my supplies on a couple of shelves of the bookcase and the TV trays go back into their corner when they’re not being used. I’m sure I’ll look back and romanticize that time when I was painting little paintings in a little cabin by the sea.
Wild winds on the water – a single day on the Salish Sea.
The weather threw a complete tantrum today, worthy of a three year-old cranked up on sugar pops.
It started out grey and windy, then a big ol’ rainstorm blew up the strait. Whitecaps were moving from East to West. I watched tugboats pulling barges struggle against the wind and waves as they headed back towards Vancouver. Then the wind changed directions and even bigger white caps blew from West to East. You could actually see the waves crashing against the rocks on Texada Island. The clouds that came with this wind were also pretty to look at, moving at a brisk pace off the Pacific.
Then as quickly as it blew in, the water calmed, blue skies appeared and we had a spectacular sunset. One thing about this coast is that the weather is a kaleidoscope, shifting and changing as the pieces tumble around and around.
I think I understand how Sturgis South Dakota feels when thousands of noisy bikers arrive in town for their annual celebration. The visitors are loud, obnoxious, sometimes stinky, but absolutely fascinating to watch!
There is an annual Fall pilgrimage of sea lions into the Powell River area. This often coincides with the herring run when the Salish Sea becomes alive with spawning herring. The sea lion’s favourite spot is on a breakwater built from large pieces of granite leading to a semi-circle of abandoned concrete ships that form an artificial bay (see photo above). The sound and smell from this large collection of sea lions is hard to describe – in fact I won’t try. Just take my word, it’s loud and it’s smelly! The sea lions seem to be fairly oblivious to people, so you can walk within feet of them as they laze around on the rocks. Just don’t try and interrupt their naps. There are plenty of warnings about sea lions lunging and biting.
Occasionally, a sea lion (usually a younger more energetic one) will decide that the shortest distance is a straight line right over the top of a bunch of sleeping elders. This creates a certain amount of barking and snapping and is entertaining to watch.
I’ve attached a video below to give you a sense of what it’s like.
A small flock of Snow Geese landed just in front of the cabin this morning. They arrived in the most beautiful linear formation, settling on the water with such grace they could have been performing a scene from Swan Lake. The honking, however, was loud, abrasive and carried clearly over the still water. It sort of reminded me of the noise at a fish market, everyone trying to yell over each other. The audio was strangely at odds with the beauty of the birds.
Unfortunately, the picture above doesn’t do justice to how much the white of their feathers flashed against the blue water in the morning sunlight. I wish I’d had my camera out in time, the sight of all these birds gliding in for landing would have been spectacular. This is a problem with which I constantly struggle. My phone is usually handy, but rather than grabbing it and taking a bunch of shots, I stare slack-jawed in amazement at whatever has caught my attention. I need to develop the reflexes of a photographer. Oh well, I can add that to the ever-growing list of “Things I Need to Improve Upon”.
Welcome to the Twin Eagles Bluff Drive-In Theatre.
We decided that the safest way to socialize with friends during these days of Covid-19 was to have a movie night from the safety of our own cars. We set up a 7’x4′ screen on the porch of the Love Shack, bought a FM transmitter to get the sound of the movie into everyone’s car and made sure everyone had plenty of movie snacks. It worked like a dream. We just did a two car test this time, but we could easily fit three or four cars next time. It was almost a full moon, but the projector did a fine job and it was a totally authentic drive-in experience.
It’s a sure sign that Spring has arrived when the trees start to blossom. Although the majority of trees and bushes are still in winter mode, the signs are everywhere that Spring is about to explode out of the starting gate.
Only last week, you could hardly see any new growth. Other than the evergreens, things didn’t look much different than they had since November. The time between buds forming and blossoms blooming was shorter than I expected. Within a few days, the Sunshine Coast is going to have a fresh coat of green with accents of pink and white. It’s my first Spring here, so I’m interested in all the little changes.
Starting a new painting – it’s all potential at this point
The start of any new painting is always full of potential. I know that there will be high points and low points before the painting is done. My excitement is akin to riding a roller coaster as the cars leave the station and begins to climb. This particular painting is a beautiful winter sunset back home on the ranch in Alberta. Because of the time of the year (December 18), this is around 4:00 pm and the sun is setting almost at it’s furthest Southern point. Within a few days, the setting sun will start it’s long slow progression Northwards.
The dimensions of the canvas are a bit strange (twice as wide as it’s tall), but this should work for the painting I’m planning and it’s a size that can fit a surprising number of spaces. I’ll make to sure to post a picture of it hanging once I’m finished.
It’s been interesting to look back and see how my portraits have changed over the last two and a half years. The first one was done in November 2018 and the last one in March 2021. I was able to get Mitch to sit for a reference photo, but that was as far as it goes. I’ve never had the opportunity to paint a portrait from life.
There has been a noticeable refinement of my technique. I’ve started to get a better handle on blending acrylic paint and I’ve stopped using a grid for my pre-drawing. I think these have improved the style, yet there is still something appealing in the earlier paintings. Overall, I don’t think I’ve hit on the exact portraiture style that suits me yet. I do like the challenge involved in portrait paintings and I’ve got several more planned. Stay tuned.
One of the things that attracted us to this property was that there was a nesting pair of eagles that lived in a tall Fir Tree in the centre of the acreage. This tree is about 50 feet behind the Love Shack and we get to see a lot of coming and going. This must be a good area for eagles because they are abundant here on the upper Sunshine Coast. This pair is particularly vocal and spends a lot of time calling back and forth to each other. I suppose there will come a time that I tire of all the screeching, whistles and clicks, but for the moment, I find it endlessly fascinating. I also love watching them wheel around the meadow. When you are standing at the edge of the bluff, they are often flying by at your elevation or even slightly below. The size and power of these birds is amazing. They take regular trips out to the Salish Sea to hunt for fish. I’ve even watched them hunting water fowl that live out on the Salish Sea. The ducks are generally too fast for them and can swim under water to evade the eagles, but occasionally, they are successful. When I have a little more time, I intend to get some better pictures of these birds.
As I was sorting out my paintings, I reflected on one of the few times I’ve repainted the same image twice. It happens that the first painting I ever painted was of Texada Island, across the strait from our friend’s Sue & Bruce’s cabin. Being my first ever painting and holding a place near and dear to my heart, it’s the only painting that I’ve decided to never sell or gift. I decided to paint a second version of this island view and give it to them as a gift. The two paintings are about five months apart in age and already I can see an evolution in my technique. Other than the tide being further out in the second picture and my attempt at recreating the island of Texada improved on the second try, there is something raw about the first try that I think succeeded in a way that gets lost in the second picture. In the second try, the colours are brighter and the sense of movement in the clouds is more effective. I’m still not satisfied with the water in the strait. I’ve got several paintings coming that will focus on the surface of the ocean and waves.
I grew up in one of the windiest places in Canada (the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Southern Alberta) and would get nostalgic whenever there was an occasional wind storm in Vancouver. Still, nothing quite compares to a winter storm when the wind stirs the water into an endless sea of whitecaps, the trees are whipping back and forth, and the rain is almost horizontal as it hits the window.
When a winter storm blows up the strait, the Salish Sea delivers everything a storm watcher could ask for. Nothing quite compares to being cabin bound on a stormy Sunday. The weather has given us a good excuse to avoid any outdoor work, so it’s a day of lounging around for me. Today I’m splitting my time between working on the final changes to my website and starting a new painting. This is my official first blog entry.