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Frances Sky’s favourite escape is a place that offers both tranquility and change.

Where this Vancouver landscape artist finds inspiration

Frances Sky’s favourite escape is a place that offers both tranquility and change.

When the Vancouver-based artist wants to get away from the city and find inspiration for her landscape paintings, she heads to the remote islands of the Broughton Archipelago, off the northeast tip of Vancouver Island.

“I really enjoy the peace and quiet,” Sky says. “I bring my sketchbook and sketch and paint.”

Frances Sky works on her painting, West Coast Reflections, which depicts one of her most cherished getaway spots on Vancouver Island.Jackie Dives / The Globe and Mail

Reaching that serenity is an adventure. Sky and her husband Tyler paddle the 50 kilometres in a two-person kayak, embarking at Port McNeill on Vancouver Island, crossing the heavily trafficked Johnstone Strait, and plunging into the labyrinth of islands and islets at the south end of the Queen Charlotte Strait.

The archipelago is B.C.’s largest provincial marine park and along the way, they’ve had some memorable close encounters with its aquatic wildlife.

Sky recalls camping on one of the islands and seeing orca whales come right up to the beach to rub their bellies against it. “There was a half-dozen of them doing their thing,” she says, with a laugh.

A lifelong Vancouverite and graduate of its Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Sky has been visiting the Broughton Archipelago for almost 20 years, at times by kayak.Jackie Dives / The Globe and Mail

Then there was the time she and Tyler were kayaking along the passage towards Echo Bay, only to be surrounded by a mega-pod of dolphins. “There were a thousand dolphins swimming everywhere,” she says. “They went all around and under us, but they never touched our kayak. That was really exciting.”

The Broughton Archipelago is one of the treasures awaiting Canadians as they prepare to travel again with the easing of pandemic restrictions.

“Our country has so many wonders to discover,” says Andrew Wakefield, Director of Aventura Product Management for CIBC. He says a recent CIBC poll suggests 60 per cent of Canadians can’t wait to travel again. And right now, domestic trips are the easiest and safest ways to satisfy that restless urge.

Sky herself is itching to get back to Broughton. “We couldn’t get up there last year because of COVID,” she says. She and Tyler usually do a two-week trip, bringing all their gear on their kayak and camping rough on the undeveloped islands. On their last visit, in 2019, Sky did the initial sketch for her latest painting, West Coast Reflections.

It was made at one of the northernmost spots in the archipelago, the Burdwood Islands group.

The area lies within the traditional territory of the Mamalilikulla-Qwe’Qwa’Sot’Em First Nations and is known for its two archeologically protected white shell beaches.

On one of the beaches, Sky sketched a shoreline view, depicting a chain of islets, their trees mirrored in the glassy water.

“I’ve done sketches there a few times now,” she says. “I’m drawn to that area because the sky is so blue, and the shadows are so reflective and calm.”

West Coast ReflectionsFrances Sky

It’s also filled with subtle changes every time she revisits it. She says she takes her cue from Claude Monet, the great Impressionist painter who would return to the same spot continually and find endless variations in the same subjects. “That’s how I feel. I just keep going back and try to capture as much as I can.”

Sky attempts to convey the islands’ changeability in her fluid, multi-layered technique. She dilutes her acrylic paint until it is almost liquid and applies it in thin, flowing strokes, using a palette knife more than a brush. “My paint is not static – you can see the many layers,” she says. “It may be hanging in your home and each time you look at it, you’ll see a different layer and get a different feeling.”

“I just keep going back and try to capture as much as I can.”

Frances Sky

Sky, a lifelong Vancouverite and graduate of its Emily Carr University of Art and Design, has been visiting the Broughton Archipelago since 2002. She figures she’s made 10 trips there over the years. Now, with the pandemic under control, she planning to return this summer. “I’m really excited to go back,” she says.

Sky is excited to go back to the archipelago to paint and sketch. “I’m drawn to that area because the sky is so blue, and the shadows are so reflective and calm.”Jackie Dives / The Globe and Mail

Wakefield says CIBC is focused on making Canadians’ travel plans easier this year with an array of offers for clients, including special incentives for signing on to its Aventura Visa Infinite Card.

“Travelling in Canada becomes a really great opportunity as restrictions relax across the country,” he says. “Our goal is to help Canadians take advantage of it.”

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with CIBC. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved