Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Painting on Gabriola Island

I have just returned from a week away on Gabriola Island, where I attended a "en plein air" painting workshop put on by the Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA). We stayed at The Haven resort, spent our days at several outdoor locations and evenings at lectures or demonstrations.

Gabriola Island is located about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) east of Naniamo on Vancouver Island. A short trip by ferry from Naniamo, Gabriola Island is about 60 square kilometres in size and has a resident population of slightly more than 4,000. The Haven is located near the northwest end of Gabriola Island:
"The Haven is a not-for-profit charitable organization located on beautiful Gabriola Island, BC, Canada. For more than 25 years The Haven has offered programs for personal and professional development and growth. People leave The Haven with skills to be fully alive, have healthy relationships and communicate effectively."

The Haven from the water side

I shared a double room, right side middle floor, wow what a view!

View from the room

View over the bay

Horseshoe Bay Nanaimo Bay ferry passing in the distance
  En plein air is a French term which literally means "in the open air", it is used to describe painting on location or out of doors. We were divided into four different groups (of 15 to 20) and during the five day painting workshop we painted at four different locations on the island, each location with a different artist. Here are some of my photographs.

First my group (the reds) were at Full Moon Farm; an appropriate starting place, I thought, because we arrived on the full moon.

Full Moon Farm, farmhouse

Arbutus trees were abundant and beautiful

Old fruit tree with swing, story of the past?

Young eagle

This doe had three fawns in tow

Next we were at Berry Point at the northern tip of the island. The weathered wood and eroded rock formation were facinating.

Driftwood and eroded rock

Distant Lighthouse

Passing boat

Pretty as a picture

Drumbeg Bay was our location on Thursday, and because of rain we also visited a beautiful house up on the ridge of the island. You can probably tell from the next photograph that it is just starting to rain.

Just as we were setting up the skies opened and we packed and moved to our "rain location", a beautiful house located up on the ridge overlooking the island and looking out towards Vancouver Island.

Arbutus tree wound around a conifer

Chickadee posing for the camera

View down from the house

Elephant Chair that has lost its' tail

The last day of painting we were on Gray's Farm. So many images here, it was hard to decide what to paint. Made friends with the donkey, who loved having its forehead and neck scratched, and the sheep entertained us all day with their antics.

Old farm buldings

Did you know that sheep have rectangular irises?

Hard to get a picture of this guy, he kept coming close enough to have his neck scratched

Great old truck

A better picture of the rectangular iris

It was the first time that I had ever done en plein air painting. It was a really challenging but valuable experience; with so much visual information, deciding on a subject and then trying to capture it before the light changed kept me focussed and left me exhausted by the end of each day.  I have a head full of images now, enough to keep me busy for most of the fall and winter months.

We were treated to a portrait painting demonstration by David Goatley:
"David Goatley is widely recognized as one of North America’s leading portrait painters, with a strong following in both Canada and the USA. Born in London, England, he trained at Camberwell School of Art and began painting full time in 1990 following a successful career in advertising. He came to Victoria in 1992, from where he travels all over the continent, fulfilling commissions – around 300 in the past 20 years."

David Goatley
David Goatley
 We were also treated to a demonstration of pastel work by Andrew McDermott, senior member and  current president of the FCA. Below is a picture I took of the piece, it does not do the work justice I'm afraid.

At the end of the week, fortified by a good breakfast at the Haven; we headed home, tired but satisfied. I will need a few weeks to mull over all the information and put the lessons learned into practice.

Looking back at Gabriola ferry dock

That is all for this week, next week more detail on the four artists that led the daily sessions, their messages and work.

Don't forget to drop by the PS Whimsy site ( to look at the 12 "Thought for Food" images; these are offered at a special price of 12 for $36.00 or a set (1 of each of the 12) for $36.00.

Until next, thank you for stopping by, and happy "Whimsy Wednsday",


  1. What a thorough artistic journey that seemed to cover a wellspring of subject matter for the canvas and camera. The locations could not be more awe-inspiring. Boats leaning on the sloping shore, driftwood sculptured by time and the sea, a solitary swing and the adorable donkey are all a feast for the creative mind. :)

  2. Gabriola is a very pretty island. Lovely photos and I am happy you had a great time there. We are blessed with beautiful scenery and islands around us. Thanks for visiting my blog ! Michelle

  3. What a wonderful time in beautiful surroundings! Really love those coast pictures!

  4. Wow! What a week! Sounds amazing and it looks like you have many, many reference photos to keep you busy during the winter. I look forward to seeing what you do with them.

  5. Looks like a FUN FUN FUN week! What a beautiful place! And that view ..... ahhhhh love it!

  6. You can see why it is such a must go see destination. It's ruggedly beautiful. Can't wait to see some of your paintings...inspiration is a wonderful feeling.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  7. What a great place to explore and paint. The haven is a beautiful place and I love the old barns and also the animals. I'd like to swing on the old swing. All very charming.

  8. Thanks for coming by my blog. Wow, what a variety of wonderful pictures-- lovely captures of so many different things. What a great place to be. Good luck with your painting. Mickie :)

  9. What a wonderful place! I would LOVE it there for sure!

  10. The inspiration and renewal you gained during the retreat seemed to flow right out of the photographs to your readers. I enjoyed so many of the photographs - the farm implements, the buildings, the boats, the animals, the young eagle, the portrait and maybe especially the old truck. The rectangular iris was fascinating to me. I had no idea! Thanks for giving your readers a delightful taste of your experience at The Haven.

  11. What a wonderful journey you took me to! Yes, Gabriola Island is literally heaven. Outdoor life and lectures, they are so inspirational. Your photos are just beautiful!!
    I live in Nara, Japan. In Nara Park, there are about 1100 wild deer roaming whose irises also are rectangular. When I got to notice this first, I was excited like a child. Interesting horizontal pupils! When I write about Nara deer in my blog, I will post and show you some photos of deer eyes.
    Best wishes,