I’ve passed by Nairn Falls dozens of times driving up to Pemberton from North Vancouver to ski or go camping. I always noticed the mist settling into the canyon but never paid much attention to the prominent rock face just on the other side of the river. A colleague noticed something about the rock face; the striking green lichen and scrubby evergreens perched on the edge of rock. There was something about that rock slab that spoke to him each time he made his way to the family cabin in Pemberton.
He commissioned a painting from me to capture the scene, and of course I loved the opportunity to work on so many green ‘bubble trees’. Soon after starting the painting, I realized how much I had to learn. Painting the misty haze and transitioning light with pops of wet lichen was something totally different from my usual snow ghosts and blue mountain scenes. I had to re-learn how to paint sap green and greys without looking too dark or flat. Each little green tree was a step forward, but there were many many steps back! The sky wasn’t right and the rock face wasn’t showing the right depth. I was about to give up and start all over at this point….
Then I stopped at Nairn Falls to take a closer look. All those times I’ve driven past, I’ve never stopped to really look at the falls and let nature tell me the story. I walked up to the falls, noticed the colour of the water spraying up onto the rocks, how it made the rock glisten and the trees brighten up in the sun. I smelled fresh cedar and moss. It made sense. The importance of this place made sense, and so did the colours, light and depth that I was looking for. I went home and started with a fresh perspective, slowly and intentionally piecing together the spirit of Nairn Falls.