Fancy Digs

Growing up, my concept of the seaside was all about sandy beaches and intertidal mudflats.

I still adore both of these things, but when I visited my first rocky coast as a student, it felt like re-discovering this ‘ocean’ thing anew. The power of waves as they crash on rock. The riot of birds that breed on cliff faces. And looking down in the intertidal, a never-ending string of marvels right before your feet. Tide pools in particular are a delight. To me, they are like windows to a different world that is normally hidden under water.

Needless to say, love British Columbia’s coast, and a great place to explore it is Botanical Beach by Port Renfrew. Make sure you know the tides and waves before you head out, then spend some joyful hours clambering about. Mussels, urchins, algae, rock – all set to amazing views along the coastline and its kelpy waters.

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When people look at my art, one of the things they sometimes say is “I love your sketches.”  This statement never fails to baffle me, not because I find it insulting — it is clearly meant as a compliment, and I take it as such — but to me, sketching is a very different artistic process from what I do.

I draw. My art is very much planned and deliberate, and each of my pieces involves many hours of work. But while I am confident in my drawing skills, I would never call myself particularly competent when it comes to sketching. To catch the essence of an object or impression in a few quick strokes takes a different eye, and a sureness of hand that is rarely called for in my style of drawing. Getting good at it takes practice, so for this particular piece, I decided to start out with some sketches.

I reinforced the lines I liked with a softer pencil, so maybe I cheated. But they did come out better than I had expected.

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Castor canadensis

Are there any other countries beside Canada that have a rodent as their national animal?

Beavers, just like the Sphagnum I talked about in my last post, are amazing ecosystem engineers. They  transform entire landscapes with their industriousness, and trade in their pelts has played a big role in the history of the country. Nonetheless, today, their use as a national symbol does not seem an obvious choice. Calling someone a rodent is rarely meant as a compliment, and “beaver” has an unfortunate meaning in modern slang. In 2011, at least one Canadian senator argued that the beaver should be replaced with a polar bear, calling the former a “dentally defective rat“.

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