Stewart Marshall. (Submitted photo)

Stewart Marshall. (Submitted photo)

The ‘Paddling Painter’ exhibits at the Whale’s Rub Pub in Sointula

Stewart Marshall works in watercolour, acrylic and oils


Stewart Marshall, the “paddling painter,” will be having a show of his work at the Whales Rub Pub in Sointula from Aug. 12 to 19, from 1:00 to 8:00 p.m. daily.

Marshall grew up in Montreal in abject poverty. His father was trained as a baritone singer but suffered from an illness that kept him from working. His mother washed floors for a living. She was a “professional quality tennis player” who refused to go professional because she believed that sports should only be an amateur thing done for fun.

Marshall ended up graduating by age 14, the result of his mother enrolling him in school early. By age 15 he was on his own, hitch-hiking to Acapulco and travelling through South America.

Marshall received art training at Sir George Williams University (now known as Concordia University) in Montreal. He also struggled with poverty and hunger as a student. He received a couple of scholarships, but still had to make ends meet by working as a model.

He had a lucky break when a friend of his who was working for a big commercial art studio informed him of an apprentice position available that paid $35 a week. He says he “became their best man.”

When an accounts man and an art director decided to break away from the studio and start their own, he was given a beautiful penthouse suite and was “making bucks.” He says he was paid $15 per hour, “just sitting there thinking about stuff.” He never ended up finishing his degree because he had “accomplished more than many of the best graduates.”

Marshall quit working as a commercial artist because he considered art as “more like a religion” than a financial pursuit or a profession. When he was working as a commercial artist he thought, “I was getting paid a lot of money but not getting more happy.”

Marshall came to the west coast at age 25, devising an approach to enable him to “go and paint and be free.” He built a kayak with running lights that he could sleep in and cook in. He travelled the beaches of the west coast from the spring until the fall and painting “without interruptions” while living off the land.

Although he was largely reluctant to sell his work, because “they were never good enough,” his paintings have made their way around the world, including as far as New Zealand and Hawaii.

After about 40 years of kayaking alone and painting, it all came to an end one windy moonlit night while riding 25–30-foot crowning swells in early November between Calvert Island and the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Accepting that he very likely would die that night, he made a dangerous landing on a gravelly beach, managing to have the wherewithal to jump out of the kayak and throw his paintings to higher ground to save them. The experience left him essentially disabled, with three crushed discs in his spine.

After his accident Marshall met his common-law wife and they raised a daughter who is now 20. These days Marshall gets his inspiration from whatever strikes him in his everyday surroundings. He also has “hundreds of paintings from years past” that he can work on. He says he doesn’t have any desire to go back out on the kayak. It was fine when he was young and keen for adventure, but that “it’s a darn cold and…a hard life.”

Marshall works in watercolour, acrylic and oils. He paints portraits and abstracts but considers landscapes and seascapes to be “a big part” of his life.

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