48″x60″ – 2020 – acrylic on canvas
Throughout Howe Sound you can find dozens of small islands; little gems of rock that survived glaciation during the last ice age ending approximately 11,000 years ago. As the glacier moved through the Sound ice flows slowly crushed and carved the rocks, widening and straightening the fjord, leaving only the most dense rock behind to form the islands.
One of these islands is Ragged Rock situated in Collingwood Channel off the west coast of Bowen. As part of the Pasley Islands Group, Ragged encompasses all of the things I have grown to know and love about the geography of Howe Sound. The rugged rockscape kissed by the sea, the tiny islets dotting its northern edge (usually covered in sea birds and seals), the towering twisted trees, the beautiful secluded beaches.
And so for this painting I wanted to capture one of these pockets of beach tucked away hidden in the rocks. A little place of refuge awaiting those who dare make use of the warm, white sand and dappled shade from the twisting Madrone. These white sand beaches are rare here in British Columbia, and for good reason, because it is not sand at all.
The colour of these beaches comes from crushed shell. Various shells; primarily oyster, clam, and mussel; make up the layers and layers of white that accumulate via tidal action or erode out of the foreshore and into the sea. These dense pockets of shell are mostly considered to be ‘shell midden’: the anthropogenic accumulation of refuse, mostly shells, discarded by First Nations peoples after a harvest. These middens might represent only a few years of seasonal use, or they might span decades or even millennia. Here in Howe Sound these middens are evidence of land use by the Squamish (Skwxwu7mesh),Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) and Shishalh peoples, those recognized as traditionally inhabiting or sharing territory with Howe Sound over the past 10,000 years.
Another unique consequence of shell middens here on the coast is the way they play with the colors in our cool, algae-rich waters. The bright white below allows for shades of green and yellow in the shallows, gradually darkening into a deep sea blue as you look up until it is kissed by the reflected sky.
The expansiveness of the Sound and detail in the peeling bark of the Madrone are difficult to capture on a small scale and needed a large canvas to portray. At 4 feet wide and 5 feet tall this is my largest canvas to date. I wanted to feel like I was standing on a secluded island, crushed shell and seaweed tideline between my toes, Madrone towering above my head, and the bright green sparkling ocean with endless layers of Howe Sound surrounding me.
‘Ragged Rock Madrone’ 2020 – 48″x60″ – acrylic on canvas – UV varnish – (sold)