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Cruising the Inside Passage
Cruising the Inside Passage

Perhaps you could call me biased because I believe we live in the most beautiful place in the world and that I am the luckiest person in the world to be an artist here, but even among the nicest of the nicest, there are some areas around North Island that are pure magic. One of these that I have probably painted the most is a group of islands at the eastern periphery of Queen Charlotte Strait called the White Cliff Islets. They make up the outer edge of the Broughton Archipelago and guard the entrance to Knight Inlet. Never tiring of their uniqueness, they draw me like a magnet to paint there again and again.

The birds and animals love them too for they are always alive with activity, the landforms covered with every conceivable kind of seabird living and frolicking, seemingly oblivious to the mammals around them. It is commonplace to see rookeries of hundreds of birds in the same neighbourhood as sea lions and seals raising their young. All this mammal action, of course means that the Transient Orcas are often seen hunting here. What makes these island so unique, however, is not so much the abundance of life but their astoundingly different physical appearance.

For old time mariners and fishermen as well as First Nations people they are nothing new, being in the path of marine traffic for centuries, but the first time I saw them was about twenty years ago on an excursion to Echo Bay with our old wooden boat, The Hunky Dory. There was a salmon opening and this part of Queen Charlotte Strait was filled with seiners. We were on the move and I had no time for sketching but did take several rolls of photos, later resulting in a triptych (three paintings that fit together) I called “Rush Hour Traffic”.

Years later, but still a long time ago, I saw the islands again on gorgeous late September evening from the deck of The Lukwa, Stubbs Island Charters’ whale watching boat. The water was like a huge mirror and Captain Bill Mackay (yes, he was there in those days) cruised at a leisurely speed, allowing me to take dozens of pictures of the evening sun shining on the white rocks of the islands. We saw Transient Orcas that evening, my first glimpse of these fascinating creatures. To this day I still use these photos as references when I am painting these islands.

Many times since then I have worked my way in my fourteen foot skiff across Johnstone Strait, Weynton Passage and Blackfish Sound, past Swanson Island and Bold Head to spend a day painting in these waters. The painting shown here, another one in the ongoing saga, proves that I have never lost my delight with them or the orcas that play around them..

It appears that I am not the only one that is fascinated with this area. The National Geographic just completed a documentary about these islands which they consider to be very unique geologically. Apparently it is airing sometime this fall, so watch for it. Meanwhile you can use my painting as a preview!

Henschel Fine Arts
Henschel Fine Arts

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