Anticipation for the journey ahead peaks as the plane approaches Pangnirtung on Baffin Island in Nunavut.
Billy Arnaquq' (Nunavut Experience Outfitting) and I discuss plans for the next several days of exploring the Baffin coast outside the community. We're in his mother's house next door, where Marten and I rented rooms ( home stay as they call it here in the north) for the night to organize our stuff, and charge our batteries:both literally and figuratively.
Billy's mom Ragelie, using a traditional ulu knife as she finishes cleaning a seal skin.
First polar bear of the year in Qikiqtarjuaq, and my first polar sighting ever. Marten and I were just settling down for tea after supper when we got word, and then hopped in the back of Billy's pickup truck to go check it out. So did a number of others from the town. Though he was far enough away, he was still impressive!
Heading out from the community in search of icebergs, we came across these interesting chunks of ice. Not icebergs, but still some nice forms.
Never did get the official name for these waterfowl, but they seemed quite happy in the icy water.
After a 40 minute boat ride, and a lot of ice pieces, we come across my first genuine, for-real, arctic iceberg! Knowing that I wanted to paint one or two, Billy had been doing some scouting prior to my arrival and had found a couple not too far from the community.
Billy's camp was fortunately within sight of the icebergs. His traditional canvas wall tent, made by his wife Daisy, stands in contrast to the more modern stylings and materials of the one in the background the Marten and I were sleeping in. It was neat to compare the pros and cons of each as used in this environment.
A portrait of Billy's tent Marten took from the nearby beach after the sun went down.
Billy and I enjoying some tea while his dog Jabez looks on from the rock.
Learning some local history from Billy during breakfast. In addition to guiding BIlly is also a pastor of the local full gospel church in Qik, and as I was to learn by spending a week with him, a real nice guy too.
Billy checking in with folks on the CB. He, and many of the Inuit who travel the land, always bring the radio with them during their trips. As their outings are many, and often long, the radio becomes a great safety device, and allows them to keep in touch with those back home.
Billy's 24' freighter canoe and the icebergs that we passed the evening before while heading into camp. The canoe comes without the cabin, which the local build themselves. Each boat has it's own uniqueness as the cabins are often slightly different, though they are often based on a shared template.
The lovely shape of a distant iceberg.
Even with the grey skies, the icebergs seem to emit their own rich glow.
Getting up close and personal. The day after arriving at camp, we came back out to have a closer look at these majestic is sculptures. In that short time, this one had tilted a bit more, causing a long ice shelf ot break off. Of course icebergs undergo constant change, but it was fascinating to see it take place so quickly.
Details in the ice. Incredible patterns form by nature. I think this part of the berg must have been underwater too long before our arrival.
Having had a closer look, Billy maneuvers the boat around the iceberg while I try and decide what angle to paint it from.
Billy holding position for me while I begin a new canvas. We were always very conscious of the danger here: if the iceberg were to tip over, causing violent waves in our direction, Billy was ready to move us to safety in a flash.
It's amazing and challenging to try and capture this wonder in ice while bobbing around. I could almost smell the cold coming off the ice!
Laying in the composition loosely.
A few more strokes here and there. Then a few days in the studio to finish.
Billy's dog Jabez finds a little snack... and guards it.
I've always had a passion for canoeing. There's a magical quality about floating around and feeling like I'm truly part of the scene. Taking a Pakboat canoe in-a-bag to Baffin Island allowed me to have that experience in this new environment. A one piece canoe would be very difficult, to fly around with.
After putting it together from the duffle bag it came in , I have a final look to make sure I got it right. Very cool design and engineering!
What started out as a bunch of pasts in a bag turned into a 16 foot tandem canoe!
The big test... finding an iceberg and painting from my canoe. What a unique and humbling experience! The sheer size of the iceberg, and especially seeing ice-blue extending below the water's surface... majestic and eerie at the same time. As I had seen this berg actually flip the day before, I felt it was safe to paddle up close to it.
The distant iceberg appearing through the fog made for a ghostly background.
Graceful lines of the recently flipped iceberg from the perspective of the canoe.
Very close to the perspective I chose to paint. The photo doesn't adequately show the richness and depth of the the iceberg's colours. I hope my canvas will do it justice!
After dropping off Marten at the airport, Billy and I head to Coronation Fiord in Auyuittuk National Park. This time entering the park was from the north via a 2.5 hour boat ride through rain, fog and wind. My goal was to explore and paint parts of the coast only accessible by boat, including the incredible Coronation Glacier that enters the water at the bottom of the fiord.
This polar sizes us up as we passed by with the boat. He wasn't too concerned though, he kind of hung around that spot for the next couple of days.
While trying to find a camping spot by boat on the way into Coronation Fiord (Auyuittuq National Park), we encountered this fella. We figured it might be best to pitch our tents on the other side of fiord, and leave him alone.
The fog peels back just enough to reveal a glowing Coronation Glacier.
Light filter through the fog creating dramatic lighting in the fiord.
Traveling by boat along the face of the glacier offered a new view at every turn.
Getting closer to the glacier revealed some of the different kinds of ice it's composed of. On the left, the ice is clear is deep blue, and covered in glacial debris. On the right, more toward the centre of the glacier, the ice is more opaque, and lighter in tone.
In the end, the diversion to the south side of the fiord because of the polar bear on the north shore was a great thing. Billy found this fantastic piece of beach jutting our from the side of the fiord's walls, with a great view of the glacier and the distant mountains beyond the glacier that revealed themselves briefly.
The big rock at our campsite was a great shelter for eating next too. Every time the wind changed directions, Billy and I just moved our "kitchen" to another side. Better than that was the great view of the glacier.
A peek at some distant peaks gracing the background of a rock-strewn part of the glacier.
The Penny Ice Cap topping off the mountains in the morning sun.
The jagged peaks of Coronation glacier are echoed by those in the background. Some an amazing array of shapes and form!
The ice arch on the far side of the glacier caught my eye as it revealed some great colour where the ice had fallen away into the ocean. I also really liked the river that ran down the mountain to the right of it. Billy was very helpful in holding his boat against the current so I could work on this piece.
A rock hangs in "teeth" of the glacier, waiting to take the plunge.
A view of the right half of Coronation Glacier from the ridge near camp.
Billy from atop the ridge. As can be seen by his sweatshirt, he is a Canadian Ranger, working with the government and military. As such, he is an integral part of a group of Inuit our are our "eyes and ears" in the north.
Our hike part way up the mountain gave us a great view of camp below. After realizing how loose the rock actually was, and seeing it from here, we decided to relocate to tents a little further away from the base of the wall to avoid any falling rocks.
The left side of the glacier shows the incredible power of ice. Huge rocks and tons of earth are scoured from the ground and taken for a ride.
Morning sun on the glacier.
The morning sun didn't last too long as the fog began to move back in. If there's one thing that constant up here it's the continuous change of the weather... which can be a great thing when you are looking for different things to paint.
A small piece of ice, fallen off the glacier, catches of bit of light and looks like a crystal sculpture.
Beautiful shapes within the glacier. Exploring by boat gave me the opportunity to study an incredible array of perspectives before painting.
Is it the famed ice-dog of the north? No, it's a cool chunk of ice from the glacier floating in the fiord. But look at that dog head profile!
By now I should be able to write down what kind of ducks these are.... sorry. But they were nice to look at.
If you look closely you will see a couple of gulls flying by the glacier. Their colours blended into the ice quite well.
Fog and ice, mix to create a moody image.
I liked the way the backlighting caught the gulls against the shadowy ice forms.
After much decision making, I began this painting of Coronation glacier that will feature the section composed of many jagged "peaks".
Very shortly after beginning this painting, the fog moved right in and obliterated most of the scene! (see left side of photo). One of the additional challenges of working in the field.
A detail of the amazing textures of the ice. The warming sun no doubt helped to form the patterns as it melts the ice.
A big chunk of ice near the river mouth. Not only was it melting quickly it the sun, but I could hear the small waterfall created by the falling water as it hit the rocks below.
A portrait of Billy with his pot of tea.
The last evening at Coronation Fiord finally gave me the chance to see the big picture: the fog lifted and for the first time I was able to see the entire glacier and the dramatic mountains leading up to the Penny Ice Cap in the distance.
Coronation Fiord in the last afternoon. Later on in the evening I began a painting of this dramatic place from a perspective near the water.
Painting of the great glacier, begun in Billy's boat while he enjoyed tea on shore. Pushing it away from the land a ways an dropping anchor gave a most satisfying composition.
The beautiful and vast Coronation Fiord on my last afternoon.
A little evening colour after the sun set over the fiord, as we packed the boat to leave the fiord.