Earthbound Artist

Articles tagged as 2015 British Columbia Trip (view all)

Why do Butterflies Gather on Sandbanks?

07 November, 2015 5 comments Leave a comment

Last June, during our trip to British Columbia, I photographed these male Tiger Swallowtail butterflies on a sandy beach on a lake in northern Ontario. They stayed in the same spot for at least an hour, while we had a picnic lunch close by. At the time, I wondered what phenomenon kept them there in one spot for so long. Read on to the end of this article to find out the answer.

This fall, I taught a two-day watercolour workshop 'Butterflies on the Beach', using these reference photos. I began by masking off the paper margin and the butterflies with self-adhesive contact paper and drawing gum (masking fluid). Using a toothbrush, I spattered on lots of drawing gum, which forms a temporary, waterproof coating in the shape of small pebbles.

Then, using several mixtures of primary colours (Raw Sienna, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, and Indigo), I spattered on paint, sprayed on clear water, and tilted the paper to make some areas soften and run together in a cool, sandy colour. Once the paper had dried, I wiped the paint off of the plastic mask so I could take the photo below.

I peeled the plastic mask off of the butterflies and stuck the pieces onto the margin, in case I needed to re-use them. I removed all drawing gum from the sand background, to reveal white paper in the shape of small stones and large grains of sand.

Using the same primary colours mentioned above, I painted the butterflies with a pale yellow layer, let it dry, and masked out the intricate dots of light colour on the outside edges of the butterfly wings. When the masking was dry, I painted the black details over top. Then I painted in the shadows cast by pebbles and butterflies, as shown below.

To complete the painting, I removed all masking from the butterflies, added bits of blue and red dots on the wings, and bry-brushed in the details on all the little stones. Below is  the finished painting, with an integral margin. When mounted and varnished, the margin resembles a mat, such as one would use when framing with glass. The title is 'Sunbathing Swallowtails'.

Sunbathing Swallowtails (watercolour, framed size 19.5"h x 25.5"w)

Below is a detail of some of the butterflies.

Now, why do male butterflies gather at sandbanks, you ask? Apparently they are ingesting sodium and nitrates, often found in mud or damp sand. This process is commonly called 'mud-puddling', and is vital for digestion, reproduction, and flight. Who knew?

Click here for more information about the finished painting.

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to receive studio news updates or notice of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.


Wildlife I Saw This Summer

20 August, 2015 2 comments Leave a comment

For five weeks this spring and summer, we drove our travel trailer from Ontario to Canada's west coast and back. Shown above is my view from the passenger side of our truck, as we towed our RV through the mountains. Below is a photo of our kit and kaboodle in British Columbia.

During our journey, we crossed paths with some interesting wildlife. Below are some quick photos I was able to capture with my trusty camera, some from the cab of our truck.


We stopped for a picnic lunch on a roadside beach on a small lake near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. On the sand were this group of male Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, and they fluttered around and rested in that exact spot the whole time we sat beside them. The first photo above shows them in the bottom left corner, nearest my feet.

A few miles down the road we saw this bull moose, with a new set of antlers growing. He was very wary of our truck and trailer although we were quite a distance from him. Luckily my pocket camera has a good zoom feature.

While moored on the BC coast, during an afternoon of sailing out of West Vancouver, we hiked into the forest and surprised this deer. I got two quick photos of her before she bounded away out of sight.


We stayed at a family cottage at Lake of the Woods, on our way back home from BC, and during the obligatory dump run, we saw these bald eagles and gulls waiting to scavenge the garbage. Quite often we see bears there but not this year.

Today, in our back yard in Lindsay, Ontario, we saw 17 wild turkeys. Shown here is one of the two hens who had a total of 15 chicks with them. Big families! The chicks were almost as large as the moms. The flock stayed for a few hours, eating worms brought out of the ground by a light rain shower, and leaving behind lots of fertilizer. I was able to take a few videos and lots of photos from our bedroom window.

If you would like to see more photo-articles from Karen's travels, click here to subscribe to her Studio News.

Spring Landscapes in Western Canada

21 June, 2015 1 comment Leave a comment

This spring we are on a five week adventure in our RV to the west coast of Canada and back. We left our Ontario home in late May and plan to return in early July, after journeying about 10,000 km.

We have made this trip many times, as we have family in British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba, but it is interesting this time to see the landscape in spring rather than summer. The photo above is the Trans Canada Highway north of Lake Superior. I love the colours: spring greens against the dark evergreens and the red rock of the region. This will make a great painting.

We are traveling 'light' this trip, with just our pickup truck and trailer, shown above. (Not our usual Traveling Roadshow of kayaks, ATV, or mountain bikes.) Our main purpose is to visit with family - spend some quality time with my Mom, (she just turned 95), see many of our nieces and nephews, and visit my husband's sister at her cottage.

Above is a scene in western Alberta, where we encountered more lovely spring greens, this time against the smoky blue of the mountains. Glacial lakes all have that unique, opaque, sea green colour, due to rock particles suspended in the water. I will paint this scene one day too.

The Crowsnest Pass is one of our favourite routes for trailering across the mountains in BC. The photo above shows how dense and healthy the forest is there.


Even in the first week of June, Osoyoos, BC is hot and hazy (above). We found out  that lots of Canadian RVers spend their winters camped here, as the climate is relatively mild, with just a few days below freezing. It's a good option for those full time RVers who can't get health insurance outside of Canada.

After visiting with my Mom for ten days, we headed up the Yellowhead Highway towards Kelowna, in the interior of BC. We saw more beautiful forests, in every shade of green.

We chose an ideal time for vacationing in British Columbia this year, as that province experienced a drought, and we have enjoyed blue skies and no rain for almost our entire trip. Forest fire smoke became noticeable in the lower mainland (greater Vancouver area) after we were homeward bound. In the photo from the Yellowhead Highway above, I think the haze is smoke, but we could not smell it in the truck.

We visited friends in Kelowna, in the Okanagan region of BC, and camped in a charming little campground in a commercial apple orchard, perched on the hills above town. The daily drive past vineyards, with Lake Okanagan in the distance, (shown above) was simply magnificent.


The cherries were almost ready for picking in the Okanagan Valley (above) in mid June.


Once you get away from Lake Okanagan, the interior of BC is very dry (above). We passed through the Shuswap region, which has scenic lakes with houseboats for rent. Some day we will go back there for a lake holiday.

Pictured above is our travel route through Rogers Pass, BC.

There was still snow in the mountain valleys in Rogers Pass, in the third week of June.

We passed this lovely river scene in western Alberta, on our way to Calgary.

I hope you have enjoyed this 'virtual spring tour' of Western Canada. If you would like to see more photo-articles from my travels, click here to subscribe to my Studio News.

Craftsman Homes on the West Coast

18 June, 2015 0 comments Leave a comment

We are leaving the Vancouver area today, after having spent ten days visiting with my Mom and other relatives. Below is a photo of me with my Mom, who just turned 95, and still has an admirable zest for life in general, and major league baseball in particular.


When we visit Mom, we like to stay at Pacific Border RV Park, a full service campground with immaculate facilities, just south of White Rock, BC. It's very quiet and just a five minute drive from my Mom's apartment. Below are some photos from their web site.


Another really desirable feature of this campground is that it borders a new housing development that contains several hundred upscale homes and condos, offering lots to see during our evening exercise walks. What especially appealed to us, is that the homes use elements of Craftsman design, something that the famous American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, incorporated into many of his iconic Prairie style home plans.

The photo above shows a typical street in this housing development. Note the houses are similar but still unique in design and finish. They share a back lane that gives access to detached garages and parking pads.


All the homes featured front porches with interesting Craftsman style columns, quality front doors, and attractive colour schemes, such as on these models above.

We liked the stone and siding combination on the garage pictured above, as it gave us an idea what our house and garage will look like when we change the siding next summer. We will be using board-and-batten style blue vertical siding, rather than horizontal, but our stone wainscoting will look like this.

We plan to use a narrow border of river stone along the back of our house, similar to that shown above. It helps deter field mice from entering the house, and makes an attractive edging that is easy to look after when trimming grass.

It's amazing how square columns and linear trim features can give a house a sense of early 20th century Craftsman style, while still keeping an up-to-date look, and making use of modern materials that are easy to maintain.

If you would like to see more photo-articles from Karen's travels, click here to subscribe to my Studio News.

Seeing Vancouver by Boat

15 June, 2015 0 comments Leave a comment

Today was another exceptional day, spent with friends, enjoying great food and fine British Columbia sunshine. This time we cruised from a dock in Richmond (near the Vancouver Airport) up the coast to English Bay and False Creek in downtown Vancouver.


My husband John's high school chum and his wife (pictured with John, above left) took us out for the afternoon on their beautifully restored power boat. It had fore and aft double sleeping berths, two heads, a galley, an enclosed lounge area finished in vintage mahogany, a flying bridge, and an open deck at the stern. Our friends did the restoration work themselves. 

We cruised westward out of the river mouth and into the channel, then headed north towards English Bay.

We saw lots of commercial vessels, such as these tankers (above) waiting to enter Vancouver's harbour.

This is Disney's luxury cruise ship 'Wonder' departing port (above). Yes, those are Mickey Mouse ears on the funnels. Way cool.

We went under three bridges to get to the end of False Creek.

Houseboats moored in False Creek. Note the high rises of Vancouver in the background.

Artistry on grain elevators in False Creek (above).

We anchored at the end of False Creek, with this wonderful view of downtown Vancouver, BC Place Stadium, and a luxury boat marina, and enjoyed a delicious barbequed dinner. As daylight faded, we cruised back to home port in Richmond. Another fantastic day in British Columbia, thanks to our friends.

If you would like to see more photo-articles from Karen's travels, click here to join her Studio News Group.

Seeing British Columbia from a Sailboat

13 June, 2015 0 comments Leave a comment

This week we had two marvelous opportunities to see the coast of British Columbia, as guests on boats belonging to friends and relatives. This article is about the first cruise.

The weather was sunny and breezy on Saturday, as six family members boarded a 38 foot sailboat that was docked at West Vancouver Yacht Club (above). My brother in law is pictured here, and the boat belongs to his brother.

Shown above are me and my husband John. Our cruise was about 90 minutes north along the coast from West Vancouver to the Elliott Bay Outstation, a private docking facility belonging to the Yacht Club (shown below).

We docked here for a few hours, ate a delicious picnic lunch provided by the captain's wife, chatted with neighbouring sailors, and walked on hiking trails in the hills above the bay.

We saw these ferns during our hike. It was a magical place.


Above is the sailboat docked at Elliott Bay. On the way back to West Vancouver, we had some excellent views of the coast, other sailboats, and a huge ferry. Below are a selection of my favourite photos.

I was surprised how uninhabited the coast appeared to be, north of Vancouver. I guess the terrain makes development too costly. As we got closer to the city, we saw more signs of human activity.

And as we neared our harbour at the Yacht Club, we saw more homes on the coast.

What an amazing day, thanks to my Vancouver family!

If you would like to see more photo-articles from my travels, you can click here to subscribe to my Studio News.