The ferry sings between rocky island outcrops that form the San Juan islands, their edges smoothed by long-melted glaciers. The tops of the islands burst in dense Coast Douglas fir. There’s a delicious slowness to it all, we’re all unhurried together.
Kids run past us barking like dogs. Grey muzzled chihuahuas totter past like octogenarians. I make quick sketches as things pass by, simple outlines to refer to back in the art studio.
Orcas Island, not named after the Orca.
Orcas Island is the largest of the San Juans, I always thought the island was named after the Orcinus Orca or ‘killer whale‘. In a weird twist of history, its name comes from Horcasitas, or Juan Vicente de Güemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, 2nd Count of Revillagigedo, the Viceroy of Mexico who sent an exploration expedition to the Pacific Northwest in 1791. Little wonder, everyone simply calls it Orcas Island.
The ferry docks and we stop at the Orcas Hotel for a pilsner to let the pulse of ferry traffic to drive away and leave the roads clear for us to explore. A group of bent cyclists stretch their calves around us and furtively eye our beer.
New maritime landscapes unfold: Salty Scenes.
We take to the road and follow the curves, through deeps forests, gently folded farmlands, old apple and plum groves. We reach Eastsound with its whispering pebbled beach, under the watchful eye of the Emmanuel Episcopal Church perched on a sheer rock ledge.
We walk and talk, stopping to draw. It’s calm, serene, the waters are clear. That night, after a good meal and a great Kobal Blaufrankisch at Matia on Beach Road, we head back to our room with a window framing the view of Indian Island. I pull out my papers and start making preliminary works that would form a new simple series Salty Scenes of Seattle.
These are simple works, almost rudimentary, that capture in a few simple colours and forms, the saltiness of the island and the surrounding waterways. For me, these evoke the smells and textures of place. They’ve been so popular on Instagram that I created a little online shop, and priced them under $500 so everyone can take home their own piece of this Pacific Northwest magic.