The Log Book
Tales of an Artist Afloat
Portland Island is one of those inspirational places that just begs to be sketched and painted. It’s small enough to walk around in a few hours, but my watercolours and I would have happily stayed for weeks.
We found a relatively sheltered anchorage, and were soon in the dinghy exploring. Our side of the anchorage featured wonderful little bays, fringed by arbutus trees. Seals and bald eagles loved to come and visit, and we sometimes found huge schools of herring.
It is relatively straightforward to clamber up the rocks and get ashore. There are no deer, sheep or goats on the island, so the forest floor is lush and covered in undergrowth. Towering Douglas firs create cool shade, and the shore is fringed with the twisting red-gold branches of arbutus. Their bark was peeling, revealing green sap-filled wood beneath. I’m trying to decide how to paint that wonderful colouring.
Before I make a new sketchbook for the summer, I decided to finish off an old Fabriano Venezia book which I started back in February. It’s good cartridge paper, but I’m not enjoying it for watercolour any more so I packed some 5 x 7 sheets of Strathmore 500 series. The paper is hot-press, takes a light wash very well and is lovely to draw on. I’m ending up with a series of little plein air paintings; I think they’ll make a lovely mini art collection!
Portland Island is now a provincial park, but used to be home to a thriving First Nations community. For thousands of years, people collected clams and oysters to eat. The shells were discarded in middens on the foreshore. Wave action crushed and shattered the shells, and over the millennia they built up into white shell beaches. Portland Island has a number of shell beaches, and in the sun they felt almost tropical.
I strolled along the beaches, followed twisting forest paths and rambled through patches of dry golden grass. At Arbutus Point, the trees gave way to a rocky reef where a large group of cormorants stood drying their wings after an afternoon of fishing. I’d intended to be back on the boat for lunch, but kept getting distracted by opportunities to stop and sketch!
I just had to hope that Jim didn’t eat ALL the food before I eventually returned! I ended up so engrossed in my wanderings that I missed the path that took me down to our little bay, and walked a few extra headlands before I realized my mistake! A bit of backtracking was needed until I found Jim and the zodiac waiting to row me back to Island Prism.
An Artist Afloat- Painting the world one anchorage at a time.