Rush-hour traffic a happy accident

Mural declined by Chamber of Commerce turns into best seller for North Island artist

Many of my paintings of the West Coast are done in watercolour, a medium that most easily captures the images presented by this soft-edged, misty environment. Images which, like the very tides that are often a part of them, change very quickly. A sudden ray of sunshine can transpose one scene in minutes. The watercolour medium itself is like this, completely spontaneous. Just when you think you have it under control it develops a mind of its own. The final product, often a throw-away disaster, sometimes results in what painters call a “happy accident” one that seems to have painted itself into a creative gift for the artist. Ideas for paintings, happily and accidentally, are found in much the same way. So it was with one of our most popular images: “Rush Hour Traffic”.

It all began more than a few years ago when the Port McNeill Chamber of Commerce decided that the then new building in town, with its 12 feet high and 120 feet long blank wall facing the bank and post office would be an excellent place for a mural. I was approached for the job and suggested a Seascape that had been on my back burner for a while. I had done some sketches of seine boats during a salmon-fishing opening at the east end of Queen Charlotte Strait. I went ahead and created the scene that included a composite of the seiners and some other sketches I had done at sea. To manage coping with the 12 by 120 ft. image, I painted a corresponding 12 inch by 120 inch watercolour done in three equal pieces; in art circles called a ‘triptych’.The background was painted as a sunset; with a cruise ship, a log barge and a scattered number of seiners, vying for space. In the foreground I placed a pod of 12 Orcas in varying stages of their travel mode. Photographs of this triptych were then presented to members of the Chamber of Commerce, one being the owner of the building. This group approvingly agreed that the project should go ahead. After a trip to West Vancouver to see how a cement block wall is treated to receive acrylic paint, the plaster was ordered. A local merchant volunteered to supply the paint. It was the end of October and the inevitable rains and winter weather followed, postponing the start of the project until  reasonable temperatures and weather prevailed. The annual meeting of the Chamber of Commerce that year resulted in an unusually large change-over of executive officers. During the ensuing  months,  this group developed an understanding that perhaps the town’s theme should embrace logging and forestry. The seascape mural was dismissed as unsuitable for this newly planned image. Doing our own print publishing during this period, we approached our printer about the possibility of joining the triptych images to create one long and narrow print. Never having done this sort of thing previously, they took up the challenge to create what was to become our most successful print ever: “Rush Hour Traffic”. Although today it is hanging in most countries of the world, it continues to interest a public hungry for images of our west coast.

A pity they can’t come to see the mural.

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