Monthly Archives: January 2010

Dave and the Inlet Rover

Sorry guys, I finished the painting of the Inlet Rover last week.   I haven’t posted it until now as I’ve been in an artistic funk.   All this painting and art stuff just got to me for some reason.   Sometimes (or should I say most times) it’s just hard spending all my time alone in the studio thrashing away on a painting.    Once the whole process is over I’m usually exhausted and not pleased with the results.   I guess that’s why I get into this sorry state of affairs.

For me the most fun and the best part of my work is at the beginning.   First I see something that tweaks my interest, then I get excited, next I draw, and when I get home I study the drawings.  After that I piddle around sorting out what I want to add to the image.  Then I draw the whole kit and kaboodle over again on a board or piece of canvass and start to paint.   Then about half-way I lose my focus. Then I start to come unglued and everything starts going south. Then I fight for days to bring it back.   I have to dig deep to get the strength to finish the piece.   Hence I get tired, depressed and cranky.  

Then I say “that’s it! I’ve had it! I’m quitting!”   Then after a few days I start to feel twitchy.  Then for instance like today I’m just minding my own business driving in my van with my coffee and cinnamon bun.   I was just driving down the street from picking up my coffee when I saw the Foam over by Rock Bay. 

Next thing I know I am racing into the Island Paving plant compound on Wharf Street.  Who cares about No Trespassing signs. This was an emergency.   I fling myself out the van with my camera flapping around my neck.   I can’t believe my good luck. Here was the Foam hooking up to the spud barge.   They were doing a dance twirling about in the gorge waterway.   There was a sweet one man tug pushing the barge from behind.   I was just beside myself in joy.  

I jumped in the van in hot pursuit as the Foam and the barge headed out the gorge towards the blue bridge.  I headed toward the inner harbour.   My coffee was cold my cinnamon bun was on the floor when I dropped it jumping out of the van.   The traffic was snarled due to the bridge being up but I pushed my way through. I am the Red mountain.   I just made it to Ship point as the Foam was backing the barge along side the Coho dock.

I sped into the pay parking lot at Ship Point and once again flung myself out of the van.   I ran or I should say I half ran down to the end of the wharf only to be faced with a huge fence and a big white mega yacht in front of me.   This harbour has too many fences.   When I was younger and living here in Victoria nothing was gated off.    Now the whole harbour is under lock and key.   I did the best I could under the circumstances.  I did get good pictures of the Foam and my boys.  I was inspired once again. 

Now my muse has been activated I guess its time to start the whole process over again.


Finally FINISHED  


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A page out of my journal

I’ve decided to share some of my pages from my sketch journal.   This one is from last November on a blustery winter day.   I was freezing.   Philip had just left on the plane to Saskatoon.  I do  these sketches very quickly using ink and then watercolour.   They are fun.   I sometimes do them in hopes of developing a painting from them or other times it is just for practice.   I usually write some notes about how I am feeling that day.


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Just About Done

I was taking my dog Ceilidh for a walk  last October down by the harbour.   We saw the Inlet Rover tied to the dock. We sat down by the bridge with the homeless folks and did this sketch.  As I worked  I had to fend off a couple of pitbulls from eating Ceilidh.   

 A couple of weeks ago I redrew the  8 X 5 inch sketch on a 48 X 31 inch canvas to get ready for painting.   I added Dave and his deckhand on the tug plus some other details to add a more little visual interest.    

 Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on this painting.  The biggest problem with it has been trying to balance  the colours.    This is what it looked like on the weekend.

If all goes ok,  I am hoping to finish it today.  It is looking better now that it is nearly done.   Much more developed.   I pray things  will go well as this is usually the point that I overwork and kill it. I’ll let you know how it turns out today.   Keep your fingers crossed for me.  


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A Near Miss

As I headed home after doing this sketch of the Inlet Rover I ran into a friend of mine that lives down by the harbour.  He was on his way to the store in his car but when he saw me walking by the Shipyards he pulled over to chat with me.   We couldn’t talk for long as I had been out sketching for a while and had to get home to go to the washroom.  This was before the Red mountain came into my life.   So he gave me a lift home. 


Before I got out of the vehicle my friend told me a story about a tug and spud barge that had recently been working over by Rock Bay.   They had been over there cleaning up contaminated soil and junk that was still in the water from a long time ago.  Because I had been out of town for a few weeks I had missed these new boys in town. 

I had spotted this strange tug and barge when I first arrived back into town but as soon as I had the time to get over there they had pulled up and left Rock Bay.  My good friend told me they were quite the outfit.  First off, they had an older tug, that they hand painted to look a like Seaspan tug.  Can you believe that!!! Of all the nerve.   The tug was red and white – the same as Seaspan’s colours and it was about the size of the Foam, my favorite local tug. 

My friend told me when this outfit was heading out of town and as it approached the Johnston Street Bridge the spud barge started taking a quick swing to the right.   This wasn’t too good as to the right is where my Seaspan tugs are parked.   When the skipper tied to correct this mistake he overcompensated and the spud barge started swinging more to the right.    It narrowly missed hitting the Foam which was tied up to the home dock.  I can’t imagine what the skipper of the Cates XX who was travelling behind this guy must have thought. 


The XX was in no position to help this  skipper who was in trouble as the XX had a loaded barge of its own.   The skipper of the spud barge was either not paying attention or inexperienced but it ended up being a very close call on nearly damaging the Foam. 

I wish I had been there.  I miss all the fun.   Last summer I missed out when the tug Benjamin Foss nearly took out the Blue Bridge but that’s another story.  

In the meantime I’m going to work on turning this sketch into a painting.

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Yellow & Blue I love you

I can’t quite remember when I first saw the Inlet Rover.   I think it was a few summers back when it was heading out of the Gorge with the cement barge in tow. She is a small tug, blue and white, and was loaded with rust and weathered.   All I can remember now is that it made a gigantic impression on me as it passed by me.  

At first I couldn’t believe this rusty bucket of bolts was even sea worthy.   Let alone in charge of hauling a fully loaded cement barge through our picturesque harbour.   It was a pretty scary sight.  Dave the skipper was at the helm and the deckhand was straddled up against the front of the  barge.   They were quite the sight heading towards the Johnston Street Bridge.  The Canadian flag was flapping in the wind, Dave’s grey hair flying in the breeze, white water was frothing and engines were roaring.    I could feel the weight of the barge as Dave‘s neck turned from back to front watching in all directions  

Poor Dave has to contend with all sorts of obstacles in his way as he heads out of this busy harbour front.      Number one problem is the kayakers.   All I could hear was Dave yelling at the boaters get the F…..k out of my way.   Are you guys nuts, move, move,   Get the f…k out of here.  F.. this and F.. that. It was quite the sight.   I honestly don’t know what those kayakers were thinking to get in the way of the this tug and captain.

It wasn’t long after that first sighting that I went to find the Rover so I could draw it.   To my luck I found it behind Point Hope Shipyards tied up to the docks.   I snuck in through the gates which said “Keep out” (who listens to signs anyways) and headed over to the wharf.   I was going to do a drawing but to my luck there was Dave in the flesh on the tug.   To make a long story short he invited me aboard and we had a lovely visit.   From the outside the Rover looks like a rusty bucket of bolts but to my surprise on the inside she is beautiful.   And so is the owner.  

This year, the Inlet Rover has a new look.   She is painted in Blue, Yellow and a stroke of Red.   Not a sign of rust on her anywhere.  She hasn’t been pulling the cement barge through the harbour for along time now.   Mostly she has been tied up next to the blue bridge downtown.  I think it might have something to do with Dave hitting the rocks outside of the city last summer.  I guess there was considerable damage done to the barge.   That is a whole other story.  For now,  I miss Dave , the Rover, the cement barge and the entaintment they provided as they headed out towards the uplifted blue bridge.  

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Seaspan Dock Painting

The seaspan dock painting was a bit of a challenge.   I stuck to my goal of only using my sketch as a reference and I used my imagination to fill in some extra bits of information.   I’ve watched the boys getting ready to leave the dock many times in the past so I thought  it would be a good idea to place them in the  composition.   My work is not about a single focal point of interest within the composition but it is about the whole piece as one story.   The guys are getting ready to leave the dock to do a job.   I included the  large two masts behind the Seaspan building as they create a nice vertical tension.   The masts belong  two large wooden sailboats that are used for a sailing school for young people. 

 The three tugs in the drawing have interesting names.   They are called the Rocket, Cates XX, and the Foam.  The Foam carries the  nickname  the “Foamy”.  In the painting I left out the Rocket and added only a portion of the Cates XX.  I cropped the sketch to make it more interesting as a painting.   This proposed a further challenge when I redrew it in a larger 36 X36 inch painting.   There was not a lot of information to fill up a larger canvas.   I had to rely on my memory to fill in the blanks.

Overall, I am pleased with the way the drawing and painting turned out.  And I am very thrilled with my new red van.   I think I am going to have many joyful sketching trips coming up in this New Year.   I’ve already made another trip out in the rain and have a modest sketch. I am ready to begin another painting.   It is one of Dave, his deck hand and the tug Inlet Rover tied up to the dolphins by the Johnson street  Bridge.  I will let you know when I am done.

Cheers  & Happy New Year


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Seaspan Dock Sketch

I am happy with the little square sketch. I drew it in my small journal sketch book that I bought over at Island Blue Art store.   They have these great journal books which come in all different sizes  that are perfect for drawing.   The pages are made of a heavyweight buff drawing paper with good tooth.   It works well for pen and light watercolours and that is what I used for this drawing.   I like the buff paper as I don’t like working on white paper especially outdoors it seems to blind me. 

Before I found these sketch books I would drag around large pads of paper and I worked with charcoal sticks.  After I switched to the journal it took me awhile to learn how to scale down what I was seeing in front of me.   Working in pen and watercolour is hugely different from large charcoal drawings.   You can see by the lines in the drawing that I am still struggling trying to figure out how to fit the composition on the paper.  Three handsome tugs are a lot to get on a 5 X 5 inch sketch.  The watercolour is great at helping to cover up my nervous lines at the beginning of the drawing.  Overall, I think I was successful in producing a little sketch of the dock and tugs. 

I did not get a chance to develop the painting from the drawing until just before Xmas.   I had gone to Edmonton on the train to visit my kids for two weeks.   What an adventure that was in the middle of winter.  Philip was home on holidays and my whole routine got out of whack.     I started painting a few days before Xmas and then I worked  straight through, Xmas day, Boxing day and I finished it on News Year Eve.   Show’s you what kind of social life I have, anyways,   I was determined not to carry it into the New Year.

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Ants in my pants

The day after I bought the Red mountain I went down to the harbour for a short sketching trip.  I drove around in the drizzling rain checking out to see if there were any new tugs in town.   I always make a pass around the shipyards and over the Blue bridge everyday to see what’s going on along the waterfront.   Today there were no new boys in town so I headed over to the parking lot across the water from the Seaspan dock.  My favourite local tugs were all tied up at home.  

The parking lot is on a steep incline and is a pay lot.   I fiddled around getting the van in the right position.  There were other cars in the lot and it took some manoeuvring to find a spot that was free and at the right angle to draw the tugs.   Being on a hill wasn’t helping me much either.   Once I got settled in I was worried the parking guy would come kick me out of the lot.   I didn’t want to buy a ticket to park.

I had ants in my pants. I played with my seat trying to get it to swivel.   I turned on the heater and then turned off the heater. 

I watched the winter shore birds doing head flips in the water.   I thought about how pretty the male hooded mergansers are compared with the females. 

I listened to a squealing young seagull pacing on the rocky shoreline in front of me.   He was hounding his poor mom by biting and nibbling at her chest. 

The rubbing of tires on the bridge deck filtered in my open window. I was trying to settle down and get started. 

Once I do get started I just let go.   I mostly scrawl kind of like mapping what’s before me.   I squiggle for awhile and I then I start to develop the lines.     I’ve spent most of my drawing life trying not to scribble as it can be quite embarrassing when people want to look at what I am drawing.   At the beginning of the sketch it can look pretty chaotic.   It’s very embarrassing for me and is the reason I hate when folks interrupt me when I am working.   It breaks my long sought-after concentration and I feel uncomfortable when they look at my shaky lines.  I think they will judge my drawing.   But this is how I go about setting up the compositions.   I scribble and then I make lines.   I trust that in the end I will have a drawing that reflects what I am seeing and feeling at that moment.  I want emotion in my work and to achieve that I have learned to trust that my hand knows what it is doing.  I think that is why I sit and fuss so much at the beginning.  My senses are trying to adjust to the surrounding and once I do I just let go.  I draw.

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The Red Mountain

I’ve bought a 1989 Chevy Van.   It’s gorgeous and I love it.   It’s as big as a mountain and just as rock-solid.  It’s Red, my favourite colour.  I’ve been finding when I go out somewhere to sketch on my bike, car or foot I’d just get nicely set up and then I’d have to go to the bathroom or get thirsty or I’m just not quite in the mood to draw.   Now instead of packing up and leaving I can just jump into the van since it’s totally self-contained.   I should be able to sit in one spot longer and get more drawings completed.   Then I’ll take these drawings home to my studio to develop into paintings.  


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