A harbour is a body of water deep enough for ships and sheltered from the open sea. Many of the world’s cities have harbours, or should we say the reverse – many of the world’s harbours have given rise to cities. Thus it has been everywhere I have lived. Victoria Harbour is one of two that happened to be created side by side here at the south end of Vancouver Island; the other being Esquimalt, which is used for a naval base. The most interesting things happen in the Inner Harbour however. That body of water is presided over by the Parliament Buildings of the Province of British Columbia, the Empress Hotel, the old CP Steamship Terminal, and various other buildings of note. It is also an international airport, with seaplanes coming and going constantly.
My favourite sight is the coming and going of the Coho Ferry however, which I happen to have watched so many times I couldn’t count. At one time it was a ritual of morning break to grab a cup of java from the office machine and walk a block to a viewpoint where we could see the ferry leave at 10.30. There was a blast of the air horn and then she’d ease away from the dock and back slowly across the harbour before pivoting and heading out to sea, destination Port Angeles, Washington. This ship has been doing that trip daily for over 50 years, and it’s still going strong. A few years back they put in new engines and she still runs like a charm, a simple boat with no fancy shops or lounges, and the same old hamburgers and hotdogs wrapped in foil like at a ball game. Last week a fellow came over on foot to buy 2 typewriters from me, via Coho. When the ship gets underway they play a recording of Bing Crosby singing about the Blackball Ferry Line, the owner of the ship. They’re down to this single ship now but once they were a major ferry line around Puget Sound.
My plein air of the weekend was painted on the side of the inner harbour to which the Coho backs up before departing. It looked far away when I began sketching and fortunately I knew it was about to leave so I painted the ship in first. When it backed up it came practically right up to my nose, whereupon it was several thousand times larger than it had been when I began, figuratively speaking. I didn’t even watch it go, as I was too engrossed. Subconsciously I figured it would be here later and tomorrow and probably forever, but one day it won’t be – so at least I have one more sketch of it.
Plein air: a term for sketching or painting outdoors.
Recently I read a wonderful book, Defiant Spirits by Ross King, the story behind the famous Canadian painters known as The Group of Seven. They used to journey out into the great woods with portable painting kits, and did many little oil sketches as studies for larger, more complex works that were produced later in studio. I had been toying with oil paint, hoping the magic of oil might suddenly be revealed to me, but my experiments with that medium have resulted in frustration, so for now I am sticking with acrylic, my favourite paint. Acrylic is simple and easy to clean up – that’s for me! I took my sketching kit out this afternoon with some 8×10 panels, a good size for carrying around.
I am trying to keep in mind not to overwork my sketches; to stop just before they seem finished. Usually they are truly finished at that point. I may have overworked this, but I hope not too much. It was a cool, dull afternoon on the side of the mountain looking out to the distant hills. I was lost for over an hour, as the sky spit a few random drops and the breeze caressed the hillside. Sometimes a grey day can be more beautiful than a sunny one.
What a great day, and more to come later! Canoe rides, hot dogs, ice cream, music, old cars, frogs, typewriters… It all began last night at the thrift store with a rare typewriter.
This is not one that gets much publicity in my experience, but wow, what a great machine! This is seriously up there with the modern hall of famers like the SM3, SC SS5, H3K, and what have you. I don’t know what to call it, any suggestions? TGE perhaps?
I even weighed it because it felt so light: 5kg, or exactly 11 lbs. The case is made of super thin cast aluminum or something, and the machine feels featherweight for one of its size. It has carriage shift, but it’s relatively light and speedy. The tab function is amazing, as it moves rather slowly, not with the usual sudden zip-thunk of most machines, even ultra good ones.
The platen is still soft! At first I thought it looked like one of the SM3 cases, but it’s made of lightweight plastic, and has a removable base plate. There were several minor issues; the whole innards were full of tiny white correction specks, which I brushed and vacuumed up for the most part. A soft round pointy paint brush did the trick. Then there was the poor paper feeding. I couldn’t see what was the matter, so I thought I’d fiddle with the platen to see how simple it was to remove and I could look at the pinch rolls. To my delight the platen comes off in 30 seconds flat, simply by unscrewing each end knob. Stuck to the surface of the pinch roll tray was the answer – an old sticky label that fell in there and adhered itself to some rolls. I cleaned it off and reassembled things to find that all works perfectly well again. Maybe some unfortunate PO had so much trouble with this they decided to give this away, but this is pure speculation. There are no repairmen left in this town though, so it’s strictly DIY here.
More pictures below, after this poem and a frog.
Here are a few more pics of the TW. I should mention the keyboard – I think it’s Dutch. But it is QWERTY! How lucky is that?
Sometimes we just stop doing things for no apparent reason. For the past year I didn’t do any painting. I can’t figure out why. However, today was the annual Plein Air Challenge here, sponsored by a local art store. I’ve done it the past few years and decided I’d take part again. Last night I put my kit together and this morning I went out and did a painting. I was rewarded with a beautiful day, and a very pleasant time spent closely observing a boat and the harbour. One hundred and thirty people came out, and it was great to see them all over downtown with sketchbooks and easels. There were no prizes for artwork this year, only door prizes selected at random. I didn’t win any but I felt like I’d won a lovely day enjoying myself. Maybe I’ll be back painting and sketching again before I know it.
We just did the fairly annual week of the Juan de Fuca Festival in Port Angeles, followed by a few days off camping.
The festival was great this year; we saw many amazing acts, like Leroy Bell here, an amazing songwriter and singer.
Then we headed off to the wild Pacific coast to camp.
did I mention you can drive on this beach?
June is never particularly warm around here, but we lucked out for a few days with lots of sunshine. I swam in Lake Quinault, which was freezing cold, but after a while I just went numb to it and it was wonderful.
There weren’t any good typewriters in the few antique shops I found, but there was an interesting old LC Smith on display in Olympic Stationers in P.A.
LC Smith with right hand return lever
When it isn’t raining the beaches are wonderful.
famous weird tree at Kalaloch
interesting heap of debris
We always love to see restored vintage camp trailers like this one, an old Shasta.
Saw a lovely butterfly, too.
I regret not doing more sketching, but with driving, cooking & eating, sleeping late and general laziness I only had time for a few watercolours.
windmills from the beach
closed but rumoured to be going to open again this year
Yesterday was the annual Opus Outdoor Challenge, and once again the weather was cool and grey, as is more like normal. Recently we’ve had July-like weather here, which is so rare it’s hard to fathom, since most people know that the earth is really cooling off, due to hell freezing over in the big country south of here. With most of the 50 or so blocks of the city in which we were permitted to roam and do plein air sketching in, I rode my bike two blocks and decided to sit down by the harbour on some rocks and paint a scene with the old bridge in it. Next year it may be gone, but it will remain in countless sketches and memories.
The 90 year old bascule bridge is either a classic or a relic, depending on whom one asks. I say classic, but the city said relic, so after years of debate they contracted with the largest construction firm in the country to build a replacement bridge next to the old one. I think the old bridge has cursed the new bridge, which somehow refuses to ever be finished. The new bridge will cost more than 100 times the old bridge’s price of $720,000 in 1924. Sub-standard (code word for very crappy) steel from China is causing the construction to be delayed while the manufacturer makes improvements to “quality control”. One can only laugh; or cry.