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Clark Island Overnight

This summer I really want to explore the San Juan Islands by kayak – as much as possible! And if I’m able to do it without getting onto a ferry, even better. Yesterday I left for a 1-night (Sat-Sun) trip from Anacortes to Clark Island. Clark is located just off Orcas Island and isn’t far from Sucia (where I need to get back to).

Our route as mapped on Gaia. Anacortes to Clark (orange), 15.2 miles in 2 hrs 57 min. Average moving speed was 5.4mph with a max speed of 7.9 mph. As you might guess we had a substantial current pushing us along.

Return trip (red) 15.36 miles in 3 hours 43 minutes. Average moving speed 4.4mph and max speed 6.8 mph. We still had the current with us but had a substantial headwind until we were close to Cypress Island. We also stopped for lunch at Cypress Head.

Setting sun catching the madrone trees on Clark Island.

We launched at 2pm to take advantage of the current assist. There was no rain or wind but it was overcast the whole way. We passed by a spectacular view of Eagle’s Cliff at the north end of Cypress and I hope to go back to hike it soon. North, near Lawrence point the currents were confused – first pushing left, then right, then left again, but it was slow enough that it was hard to see which direction they were going before they caught you. I’m told that it can be MUCH more exciting than what we experienced. We arrived a little after 5pm and found, to our surprise, that the entire beach area was filled up!

There were many empty sites, though, up the little hill in the forest and I picked one that had a view of the rocks to the east and south to Orcas.

View from in front of our campsite

It rained overnight which meant it was kind of gross to pack up, but it didn’t rain ON us, at least. THere was a pretty brisk wind from the SSE (but less than 10 kts).

Dave and Jeff, north of Cypress
Fred, Susan, and Terri

I was a little cold when we started, but, as usual, working hard warmed me up. By the time we reached Cypress the wind had died down and we could see some sun start to break through. We stopped for lunch at Cypress Head, paddled through some confused currents to the east of it, and then rode the last of the ebb back to Anacortes. We only had to dodge one ferry (and it was quite far away). By the time we returned to the launch it was warm and sunny.

This felt like a pretty ambitious trip to me, and we got quite far into the San Juans. It makes me confident that I can do a lot of exploring without always having to take a ferry. I guess the trick is the weather and timing the currents.

No photos of these, but we saw porpoises, lots of seals, and two sea lions who came very close to the boats.

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Kayak Surfing!

On April 18-19 I took an “Introduction to Surf Zone” kayaking class with Fidalgo Paddle Sports. There were only 3 students plus the instructor and we met at Crescent Beach, west of Port Angeles.

I had some misgivings about this – I can do some distance but I’m not a very technical paddler – and the closer we got to the date the more concerned I was about the weather. First – it’s mid April and I was worried I’d be too cold to camp, or that I’d get too cold falling in the water and then never warm up at night, and second, I checked the surf forecast for this beach and it was predict 4-6 foot waves when I thought maybe half that would still be a challenge for me. But I spoke to the instructor and he was still enthusiastic so in I went!

I’d never been to this beach before and it was beautiful, even with the clouds and the snow line only a hundred feet or so above sea level. More importantly, when I got there Tuesday morning (after taking the 5:35 ferry!) the waves were small. No more than 1-3 feet and I was very grateful for that. We could see whitecaps out in the straight, but the beach was sheltered from the worst of the wind and waves.

Crescent beach looking much less scary than predicted. This photo was taken during a relative lull, we had more than this but it never got really big.

The other two students were Audrey and Erik, a couple, but she lives in Canada and is a kayaking guide on Vancouver Island, while he is currently still working in Seattle. They (and Jesse, the instructor) were all great to work with.

All 3 students at once!

Our first task was to practice paddling parallel to the beach in the soup/wash zone where we had to learn how to do an effective low brace or get rolled over. I was pretty successful with this (not that I was able to keep it up once things got bigger, but I started well). Having a wave break right next to you and shove the whole kayak sideways was actually pretty fun.

Things I learned:
I habitually edge to the wrong side when I’m ruddering – I think it just never mattered when I’m going slow, but it absolutely matters when I was trying to keep myself straight down a wave.
Three foot waves are still a bit scary and much more likely to turn & roll me.
I don’t drop my paddle when I get rolled! (yay! I was worried I might)
I do, however, see that I’m about to roll and dive out of the boat completely. (Probably not terrible but not really great either)
Getting dumped and having to drag the boat around, empty it, and launch again got tiring quickly.
Falling out isn’t as scary as I was worried it would be – which is good because I fell out a lot.
Paddling OUT through the surf, even when it was 3 feet, was a blast.
Even though my drysuit is nearing the end of its life and I was getting a bit damp, I wasn’t cold.
I need to start edging a lot more aggressively – I think I may need to add padding to snug up the fit in my kayak to be able to do this effectively.

Not my biggest ride, but a successful one! Also – this wave FELT bigger when it was behind me and I couldn’t see it.

Our campsite was right across the road from the beach and there was very little traffic on the road – at least in April. The weather was much better than expected but it still hailed on us a little. I brought two sleeping bags and still slept warm – so that concern was also mitigated.

I had to get up from supper to take a picture of these amazing clouds.

I would absolutely do this again and it did a tremendous amount for my confidence in what I might face while touring.

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Oil Sketches

Going even smaller than a study, I have some Arches oil paper and I tried making very small (less than 4″ paintings on it to test colors or techniques.

I think the winter scene needs a bit more of a focal point. The kelp & fish: I brushed my hand over it while it was wet and blurred the lower left corner. Violet tree: I like it. I’m not sure if I’ll have trouble adding detail if I make it bigger, but probably not. Lower right: not happy with this at all, but that’s why it’s a sketchbook.

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Still Life

I’ve been sketching out some more horses, I have several photos that I’m inspired by, but I haven’t got a good composition yet. I’m also in the process of rounding up skulls and props to set up my own still lifes but for now i’m using some free online images.

6×8 oil on panel
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Pitcher Plants

Last year I bought a sundew plant to help with fungus gnats and fruit flies – and it worked great. I felt inspired by some of their photos (my house is already filling up with plants, but I still want more.) In any case, Predatory Perennials gave me permission to use some of their photos as reference.

This is a 6×8 oil on panel. Hopefully there will be more soon.

Pitcher Plants
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Still Painting

I’ve been spending a lot of time doing quick sketches and practicing monsters. Monday I’m going to swoop through the thrift store to look for oil paintings that look like they need to have monsters added to them, failing that I’ll look for inexpensive frames to use for other paintings. These are all very small. they still take me longer than just one day, but I’m working on it.

Maribel – the Fjord Horse. 6×6 oil on board
Glass cup. 6×6 oil on board
value study: for a future oil painting
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More attempts at ‘daily painting’ although this took me more than 1 day. I tried it because I think of flowers as being very difficult and I guess I wasn’t wrong, this gave me some trouble.

8×10 oil on panel

I got my brother in law to spend a couple hours cutting down new panels into tiny sizes and I hope this will encourage me to paint more often without worrying so much about ‘what if I botch it?’. Wish me luck.

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A Painting a Day?

As with most things, the way to get better at painting is to practice. I know this, but I’ve still been avoiding oil painting for a while. Why? Because the last thing I painted I thought was pretty good and then as soon as I start anything and I don’t feel like it’s going to turn out as well as that I abandon it.

Obviously I’m not going to improve this way. I’ve been watching videos for inspiration and hit upon Carol Marine who has a book called Daily Painting: Paint Small and Often To Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Artist. This isn’t quite a resolution, but I am going to try to paint small, but regularly. I’m going to try to not worry too much about making them perfect, but get them down and then move on to the next.

I had a watercolor of this octopus sketch already in my notebook. Here it is as a 6×8 oil on panel. Sorry about the glare, photographing the paintings is not my strong suit. And I haven’t figured out a good way to sign them yet.

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Inktober 2022

Something that Ian Roberts (artist) wrote in one of his books was that you should expect to produce bad art. If you go to museums you can see some of the really bad to mediocre art of very famous painters because when you’re that famous people dig up everything you’ve ever done and ship it off to a museum, even if it’s something you would have left hidden in your garage forever. Having a success rate of 50%, or even 10% is still good!

Because I’m relatively new to this, and because I don’t expect anyone to ever read this blog, I’m sharing a lot of my ‘clearly learning how this works’ and ‘didn’t work’ art. Enjoy! I’m hoping I can look back at this in 3 years and see a clear improvement.

Meanwhile! I’ve been trying to sketch a little bit whenever I can and have been sharing the results as part of “Inktober”. There might be some sort of official rules about that but I’m doing what suits me. Usually this means an ink sketch with a bit of watercolor over it or more of my grayscale sketches. None of these took more than an hour or so.

To be fair: none of these are my total failures. I’m not sharing the times I made big mistakes or I got halfway through and realize that I couldn’t tell what I’d drawn and it looked like some abstract design when it wasn’t. If you look back at images I posted of entire sketchbook pages you can see some.

Jug + Vase value study (unsplash)
Landscapes from unsplash images
Polar bear (pixabay image)
My dog being adorable
Larches at Maple Pass
Wonderland value study
Wonderland value study
A snowshoeing trip

Watercolors are all on a 5.5×8.5 Canson mixed media pad with a micron pen sketch. Grayscale are Micron pen, blick marker, and Sakura white gel pens on Strathmore toned gray sketch paper. Nothing is bigger than 5 or 6 inches in any dimension.