A Gordon Henschel original painting.

A Brush with Henschel: Coast range

“The area just to the north of Telegraph Cove has become my backyard”

Most of us spend large portions of our lives in a routine we have established over the years. The philosopher, Henry David Thoreau, wrote that most people “live lives of quiet desperation” locked into a seemingly unchangeable situation. Usually, though, it’s probably more like “lives of comfortable desperation” because for most of us change is not comfortable so we go about our everyday lives not quite happy with the status quo but not willing to take the risk of jumping into the unknown.

As I grow older I appreciate my father more and more. He hasn’t been with us for many years now but one of the ways I see him most admirably is that of a taker of risks; an adventurer, if you like. Throughout his existence he made huge changes in his lifestyle without too much fuss. That was just his way.

The one that affected my family, after I was married and we had children of our own, was his decision to move from Manitoba, where he had spent most of his life, to the West Coast. One winter, when he was 65 years old, he and mother visited friends in Vancouver. On returning home, he made the unilateral decision that they were moving to “God’s Country”. Mother, having always like B.C. went along with the decision without argument. So it was that, at 66 years of age and a heart condition, he sold a beautiful home on ten acres of land beside a river and left family and friends behind to take up a new life in Surrey, B.C.

This move affected my own family in a number of ways. Firstly, we helped to move them, renting a “U-haul moving van to strike out across the prairies and mountains. They had previously purchased a house in Surrey so when we finally arrived and got them settled we felt it would be a good idea to give them some time on their own for a couple of weeks while we took off to do a circle tour of B.C. With four kids, a couple of tents and a station wagon, we headed up the Cariboo Highway, ending up in Prince Rupert where we caught a ferry to Kelsey Bay on Vancouver Island.

This was a trip that would change our lives. It was our first look at a coast that would get under our skin, enter our bloodstream and never ever go away, even after moving there.

The painting shown here is quite significant to the story. The ferry trip from Rupert was a night trip and Ann and I got up at 5 a.m. to catch the sunrise and possibly see something of Vancouver Island. Disappointingly, it was so foggy that a watch had to be posted on the foredeck of the ship to watch out for other traffic.

I was ready with my camera, loaded with slide film, when we got our first glimpse of land on the portside. It must have been Haddington Island because our next glimpse was a fairly decent view of Alert Bay. Not long after, the sun broke through the mists and exposed a breathtaking view of islands and the distant Coast Range.

The area just to the north of Telegraph Cove has become my backyard, so to speak, when it comes to painting ocean scenes. I love the islands: The Stephenson Islets, The Pearse Islands, Stubbs and The Plumpers, often landing my boat and painting from them. This painting called “Coast Range” is one of the results of these forays.

One evening quite recently, upon reviewing the old slides of our 1971 trip, we came across a beautiful picture of the sun breaking over some islands. I recognized them immediately! What a delight to realize that it was a photo of what is now “my backyard”.

Coincidence? Maybe.

Comments: email: henschel@island.net or website: www.henschelfinearts.com

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