Plein-air pen and wash on paper

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Almost Summer

Today was perfect for taking my bike out of the storage room and explore he town, after being stuck at home for some time. My first stop was at the corner of Wallace and Fitzwilliam, across from New York Pizza where one can sit comfortably on a bench in a small park between the flowers. From here you can look across the valley with the old highway and Cliff Street at the bottom, and see the buildings on the other side. The view is partially blocked by a massive big-leaf maple tree.

About a hundred years ago, there was an inlet at the bottom of this valley, before it was backfilled with waste from coal mines.

Looking across the valley.

The next stop was at the University campus, which looks like a park at this time of the year, strangely enough deserted,except for some service trucks and security guards.

Here I sat down at a station dedicated for smokers, which is usually well occupied but not today. That provided me with the opportunity to settle in and make a sketch of the gymnasium, with the sciences building in the background.


The peculiar arch is a left-over from the original arch-shaped building, that was later modified to the square box as it appears today. The building behind it has the air plenums mounted on the exterior; an interesting architectural feature.



The Malaspina College, VIU.

There are several comfortable benches on the campus of the Vancouver Island University (VIU) such as the one in front of the cafeteria with a view of the library building.

I settled in for a couple of hours to carefully draw the front of this building facade with all the frivolous architectural details.

Notice that above the lettering “Library” their is a faint picture of an arbutus tree that I tried to copy. This used to be the emblem of the Malaspina College, now referred to as the VIU. This institution appears to be ever expanding and is a real asset for the people of Nanaimo and the mid-island in general.

One has to be in good physical shape to attend school or work on this campus, as the stairs from the bottom to the top of the hill probably count close to 200 steps.


Coherent Structures

Shq’apthut – A Gathering Place – on the campus of the Vancouver Island University (VIU) is the home providing Services for Aboriginal Students.

This site  has a nice looking building with a contemporary  design and is marked with three totem poles; the last one was recently completed and unveiled.  The wood carver’s temporary  shelter is still there. 

I stopped here again today to take a break from cycling  uphill to where the VIU is located, and to make a sketch.

The design of the large (ASTEC) building in the distance incorporates the exposed air plenums in the architectural treatment of the building’s exterior.

VIU Campus

VIU Campus Building 180

The poles in the foreground  and the tubes wrapping the building in the background make for a coherent sketching set-up. It also reflects the cultural diversity encountered on this campus; Mr. Trump’s election ideology would not find much support here.

I tried to draw these totems as a standalone subject on previous visits and ran into problems with the complexity of these magnificent sculptures. In this sketch they are shown somewhat schematic,  so you can get away with it because a significant amount of detail is left out.

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Hometown Tourist

On Wednesday I took the southern bike  route passing through the campus of the Vancouver Island University (VIU) with a stopover at the cafeteria which is an extension of their highly acclaimed  culinary arts program.

Finding a parking spot on this campus can be challenging but not when all you have is a bicycle; just tie it off to a tree or post.

There was an open air event in progress at the site of the VIU’S aboriginal  gathering place, referred to as SHQ’APTHUT; where the raising of the 3rd totempole Ceremonie was in full progress. Like many spots on this campus this place has a spectacular view overlooking part of Nanaimo and the Salish Sea.

These poles are manifestations of woodcarving skills developed over generations of indigenous artisans, and I watched the progress of this 3rd specimen  over the last few months during previous stopovers, as it was evolving out of a huge red cedar log carved by Tom Hunt from the Kwawaka’wakw Territories, located at the north end of Vancouver Island.

VIU Totem Polen Raising Ceremonie

VIU Totem Pole Raising Ceremony

There were several First Nations dignitaries making speeches in their native tongue  with an interpreter and VIU representatives responding in english to about 200 people in attendance. The VIU website expanding on aboriginal events is scribbled in the sketch. I sat in the back row and made a quick outline sketch in ink on glossy paper over the heads of people sitting in front of me with the speakers podium in the distance.  Colours were added afterwards at home using watercolour markers; a new approach that I am presently experimenting with.

From the VIU, the bike trail continues to the Colliery Dam Park one of my frequented stops where I produced this sketch sitting on a log using the same materials as in the previous one.

Pedesrian Bridge Across the Original Spillway of the Colliery Dam

Pedestrian Bridge Across the Original Spillway of the Colliery Dam

To get to the south section of the Parkway trail from here one has to pedal the bike up a steep trail through a mature second growth forest. Once at the top, there is an open area where the Harewood Mines Road passes under  the #19 Hwy  and where the noise of traffic seems overwhelming.

From here one starts the Parkway trail with a steep slope  down and  up again into a strip of wooded parkland flanking the 4-lane highway. The next 3 kilometers are fun as the trail goes for the most part downhill, freewheeling the bike towards Cranberry Avenue where the trail ends and where one has to find ways to avoid cars, trucks and busses, all the way along Haliburton going back to downtown.