"Most of us have a favourite place on the ocean's edge,"; says Carol Evans, "some beautiful refuge that we return to again and again.";

For Evans, her haven is Mudge Island, between Gabriola Island and Vancouver Island, accessible only by boat. In her latest collection of shimmering paintings, The Shores We Call Home (Harbour $18.95), Evans fondly recalls her enchanting and often harrowing trips across the heavy current of False Narrows, rowing in an aluminum skiff, before she established her studio on Salt Spring.

"I had to leave Mudge Island,"; she says. "Life flows on and there's no stopping in the current. But for years after my departure, I had a recurring dream of a pulling a rowboat down to the water, rowing across to Mudge and going first thing to see the neighbours. In the dream they welcomed me warmly and said the cabin was available and I could move back.

"I discovered that when the soul is longing, it talks in the language of dreams. That's how I learned my body could live wherever it liked, but in my heart, that island and those people were 'home.'";

Evans reverence for the Gulf Islands and Haida Gwaii shines in more than 80 watercolours in her third book. Since 1981, she has held fifteen one-woman exhibitions, building a solid career from art that people actually like, and buy, beyond the effete urbanism of so-called modern art.

Born in Vancouver, Evans produces sophisticated and uplifting images of the coast, focussing on the Gulf Islands by visiting out-of-the-way locations by small boat or kayak. Although her images are realistic, they border on magic realism due to her particular skill in terms of depicting water that is dappled or shining with light.

"Oh, the water," writes Salt Spring Islander Arthur Black. "Ye, Gods, can the woman capture water. The glint and the glare of it; the lambent reflections and refractions of its flickering depths and shallows. Her brushes dance across the canvas, trailing water's near-inexhaustible palette of colours, from flinty, unforgiving obsidian through blues and browns and ochres to the softest, yielding greens."

Evans was a fair weather canoeist who became an avid kayaker. "When we were in our kayaks I could feel almost like a little sea animal myself. It's a totally different feeling out there-the breeze, the water rippling against the hull, and all of those living things around you. You spend your entire day amongst those sounds, then set up camp and sleep with them still all around you.";

She and her husband switched to sailing in 2000, usually taking off in June for most of the summer. "We still poke about on the shoreline,"; she says, "but it's in the pudgy, inflatable dingy, not the sleek, graceful kayaks.";

"I think our shores are such a source of solace and joy and uplift to all of us who live along them. And I think we sometimes take them for granted, me included. So I wanted to paint them in their best light almost to hold them up and say, 'Aren't they beautiful? Aren't we lucky?'";

Evans' book is organized with southern coastal paintings at the outset, leading further and further northward to Haida Gwaii, so it mirrors a journey.

"It is really hard to pick a favourite,"; she says, "but one that jumps to my mind is 'Passage to the Sea.' It is a very wild, untouched beach and the painting comes pretty close to what the place really looks like. It feels to me like being right there.

"I also have favourites that are places we love: Bella Coola Net Loft, Refuge Cove, and Taking the Dog to Shore. Also, the painting called 'Mending Nets with Grandma,' depicting a quiet, ordinary day in a First Nations fishing community.

"I think the human animal is really invigorated by being out in that fresh air. When you're inside working-no breeze, no sound, no little birds-it's okay, you get work done and you're comfortable, but it's not the same.";


West Coast: Homeland of Mist (Dayspring Studio 1992)
Releasing the Light (Raincoast Books, 1997) 1-55192-067-0 $21.95
The Shores We Call Home (Harbour 2010) 978-1-55017-465-6 $18.95

[BCBW 2010]