Art Retreat


Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts

JILL EHLERT - 12" X 12" - Mineral pigments, oyster shell white, oxidized Japanese silver leaf , pumice ground on cradle board.

JILL EHLERT - 12" X 12" - Mineral pigments, oyster shell white, oxidized Japanese silver leaf , pumice ground on cradle board.

I attended a 5-day workshop July 3-7, 2017 with instructor Judith Kruger at the Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts (MISSA). I had a fabulous experience. The workshop was exciting, challenging, filled with new materials, tools and techniques. Judith has boundless energy, a knowledgeable teacher who is dedicated to Nihonga - "traditional Japanese mineral pigment painting".  Judith amalgamates this ancient form of painting with her contemporary art practice, "exploring the formal and conceptual junctures between historic process and modernity as an ongoing project".

Everything in this workshop was new to me. We made our own paint and ink from organic and inorganic matter like cured oyster shells, minerals, natural ores, pine soot, mica and silica. We made a natural glue from cow cartilage to act as the binder. The materials are ecological, non-toxic and water-based. We worked with Japanese silver leaf and learned methods to oxidize it.  Judith demonstrated how to  mount Washi and stretch watercolour paper onto a cradle board. It was an action-packed week.


The Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts has been providing high caliber specialized workshops for artists, teachers and serious adult students since 1984. MISSA has a reputation for hosting  local, national and international instructors who engage with students in an intense multidisciplinary environment. MISSA welcomes students from around the world to participate in an artistic emersion for two weeks every summer. 

Artists from near and far have come together each summer to the Pearson College campus to share in spirited creative exchange. The school is positioned on the sheltered shores of Pedder Bay and looks out to the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains beyond. The campus setting provides a stimulating natural environment for artistic development and exploration. It’s easy to understand why so many return year after year to be part of the ‘MISSA Magic’!

MISSA takes place every summer on the campus of Pearson College, while the students are away. Participants at MISSA can stay in college style dorms where internationals students have spent their school year. The college campus is designed in a West Coast Modern style and takes the from of a seaside village with buildings of native cedar clustered on 75 acres of old growth rainforest. The simple, low-slung structures are linked by footpaths and stand in harmony with the surrounding landscape.


I was fortunate to attend a 5-day workshop July 3-7 which was held in the "Floating Studio", also known as the marine lab during the regular school year at Pearson College. The Pearson campus is in a fabulous location on Pedder Bay -  truly a magical place. I stayed in residence for the duration of the week. Resident students arrive the day before, on Sunday night and also stay the night of the final day of class, for a total of six nights and leaving on the seventh day. The food is fabulous and all one has to do is art all day with all meals and snacks provided. Students can go back to the studio in the evenings.

Photos by Jill Ehlert unless otherwise stated.

The Floating Studio - aka the Marine Lab.

The Floating Studio

The Floating Studio in the evening.

The Floating Studio in the evening.


THE FLOATING STUDIO/THE MARINE LAB - A view from our workshop space and one of the critters we shared the space with.


A Description of the workshop from the MISSA catalogue "In this course, students will reinterpret nature’s deep imagery and essence with a limited palette using matter from nature itself. Participants will make paint, ink and home-made gesso from inorganic and organic sources including pine soot, shells, and minerals. Natural metallics will be introduced for warmth. These arcane processes have been employed for thousands of years on ancient Asian screens and scrolls. Collage can be added and embedded for depth. A variety of drawing and painting techniques will be introduced to yield meaningful, process-driven, ecological work on varied supports, embedded with individualized expression, heart and spirit."


Judith Kruger, is an American visual artist whose paintings, prints and mixed media works address Human-Environment connectivity and their shared vulnerabilities. She is recognized internationally for her advocacy of natural painting materials and historic, ecological processes.

Judith currently resides in Northwest, CT. Her studio is located in an old hosiery mill, 125 miles north of New York City, at the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. Click here to read Judith's artist statement.



The Sumi-E ink drawings above were incorporated into the mineral pigment painting below.

Jill Ehlert ©- 24" x 18" - Sumi-E Ink, Mineral pigments, Japanese silver leaf, antique Japanese pharmacy paper, punched holes on Washi paper mounted on cradle board.

Shadows as inspiration. Photos and work (12" x 12") by Jill Ehlert 


Working on a Sumi-E mat - made of wool and polyester felt.

Working on a Sumi-E mat - made of wool and polyester felt.

Water reflections as inspiration. Experimentation with Sumi-E ink, wax relief, Japanese silver leaf and mineral pigments on illustration board - 12" x 9"

I learned so many new techniques and had a good introduction to mineral pigments. This was an excellent workshop that I would recommend. Click here to see Judith Kruger's workshop page for 2018.

"The big world of small"

Our last evening in Bamfield we had a lab looking at plankton under a microscope; I was blown away by the beauty of these tiny creatures that came alive under the microscopic gaze. The following pictures and words are from a fabulous website calle Image Quest 3D. Please go there to see hundred's of fantastic images and articles. They will sweep you away.

Photos/ Image Quest 3D photo

Image-Quest 3D  website has the following to say about plankton:

 "The word plankton means, “that which drifts”. By this token a colossal number of marine creatures, both plants and animals, vertebrates and invertebrates, qualify as members of this extraordinarily important mass of life that glides and wanders, flaps and flips, floats and flies, sinks and swims within the oceans. The very biggest jellyfish weigh more than half a tonne, some deep sea relatives of the Portuguese Man-O-War would cover a football pitch and some of the colonial salps are the size and shape of ballistic missiles.

Much of plankton is small. Diminutive though these forms are in size, their habits, colour, life cycles and relationships are some of the most bizarre in the animal kingdom and many billions directly comprise the staple diet of the ocean’s very largest inhabitants."


"This resource is much more important for the survival of this planet than all the rainforests and prairies put together. The microscopic plants of the sunlit surface waters of the oceans capture more oxygen than all other life forms. These are the organisms most likely to be affected by global warming, climate change and man’s indiscriminate and careless pollution of the oceans. Not only are they incredibly important, they are miracles of design and structure. Victorian microscopists recognised this and converted millions into microscope slides. Those illustrated in image number two are just such an example. Many of the colours are structural - like oil on water. All images are approximately x15,000." 

Content from Image Quest 3D.

Sketches from Bamfield

We were so busy while at Bamfield moving from one activity to another that there really wasn't much time for doing art. I managed to get the following sketches done. I have tons of photos for ideas.

Click on this link to see a more detail version of this trip, sketches and sketch books. 

Quick pencil sketch of a Copper Rock Fish from the Aquarium in The Rix Centre. I painted the background later at home using a techinque that Mark Hobson demonstrated for us.

Quick Sketches from the invertebrate tank in the Whale Lab

Quick Sketches from the invertebrate tank in the Whale Lab

Algal Art - Pressed seaweeds

Pressed seaweeds

Pressed seaweeds

Pressed seaweeds

Pressed seaweeds

Algal Art

We had a really good lecture on seaweeds by the Bamfield Marince Sciences Centre Public Education Coordinator Anne Stewart. Anne's team had gathered dozens of examples of seaweed for us to look at which were displayed in water-filled glass dishes. Anne described how to make "Algal Art":  select pieces of seaweed, lay those on top of a piece of wet paper that has a fibre content that is low in acidity and high in absorbency. Lay this in a press to dry flat. Heavy duty wax paper was laid over top of the piece and then placed between many sheets of newspaper, j-cloths and cardboard. This takes several days to dry.

Mark Hobson

A lecture and demonstration by Mark Hobson was the main event for the first evening of our artist retreat. Mark gave a talk on his early life teaching science at Shawnigan Lake School and how he got to painting full-time and living in Tofino, BC on a float home. Mark gave a great demonstration on mixing ocean blue-greens and advice on how to paint underwater scenes especially of seaweeds. Our big group of 44 was divided into 4 groups and I was lucky enough to have Mark in our group. Mark is full of joy and he happily shared his knowledge of the natural world. He is a really nice person with a big heart, who was always jolly -- he was a lot of fun to be around. 

On our way to Grappler Inlet

Mark Hobson is based in Tofino BC., on the outer west coast of Vancouver Island where he has painted for over twenty years. A diverse artist in both subject and media, he is equally comfortable in watercolour, oils, and acrylics. Mark is best known for his passionate portrayals of the B.C. coast, from pounding surf to sheltered cove; from rainforests to the underwater realm. The richness of the natural environment and its wildlife comes alive in his work. Professionally trained as a biologist, he taught high school science for nine years before painting as a career. Self-taught as an artist, his paintings are simultaneously accurate and sensitive depictions of the many moods of wilderness and rural landscapes.

Mark painting in the Rix Centre

Mark painting in the Rix Centre

Mark Hobson "Green Point Rocks: Long Beach"

Mark Hobson "Green Point Rocks: Long Beach"

Mark Hobson "China Rockfish"

Mark Hobson "China Rockfish"

Mark Hobson "Sea Otters Return"

Mark Hobson "Sea Otters Return"




Out to sea

 The M/V Alta was built in 1981-82 by Little Hoquiam Shipyards, WA. The Alta operates bottom trawls, dredges and hydrographic instrumentation, has a range of 600+ nautical miles and a running speed of 9.5 knots. Maximum capacity is 12 passengers plus crew.

We spent an hour and a half on the M/V Alta out in open water cruising around the group of Deer Islands. There's Jeanne again.

Onboard the M/V Alta

Onboard the M/V Alta

The captain did an open ocean sampling, the dredge brings up a big bucket of what looks like sand and broken shell and dumps it in a big container. After our instructor Anne Stewart added ocean water she then separated things and found all these treasures which she put in the yellow dish pan. What delighted us the most was a little tiny baby octupus about two inches long. The beige coloured octupus darted around madly and squirted ink a couple of times; Anne immediately scooped the toxic ink out of the yellow container. The little octupus found refuge on top of the big star fish and went from beige to red and crumpled itself down into a little mass shape that looked like worms in order to disguise itself. Here it is on the side of the dish pan still in it's red colour. looking for a corner to hide. 

Arriving at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre

This is the view of the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre as we were approaching the dock. 

The BMSC website states "that for over 35 years, the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre has provided world-class facilities to a community of world-class research biologists, ecologists and oceanographers. It supports diverse coastal and marine research of the highest calibre and is recognized as among the very best research and training facilities in the world.

BMSC was established in 1972 by the Western Canadian Universities Marine Sciences Society in order to provide a permanent base for marine-oriented field operations on the west coast of Canada. The property consists of 75 hectares with approximately 3.0 kilometers of waterfront at the confluence of Grappler and Bamfield Inlets."

The Society has a mandate to:

  • Provide world-class research infrastructure for marine and coastal scientists from the member universities and from other Canadian and International institutes

  • Offer senior undergraduate and graduate courses and programs in marine and coastal sciences

  • Provide training for graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and technicians in practical aspects of marine and coastal research

  • Offer in-residence programs in marine biology and general science to schools, colleges, First Nations and other public groups

 The National Award-Winning Public Education Program provides multi-day immersion field trips for school, college and adult learners. While our focus is on marine and coastal sciences, we encourage custom programs that make use of the incredible environments and people of Vancouver Island's West Coast. As part of our commitment to community we are involved in stewardship and conservation projects as well as facilitating innovative and extremely successful volunteer work experiences for young scientists.

Anne Stewart

Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre

100 Pachena Road

Bamfield, BC V0R-1B0

Phone: 250 728 3301 x226

Fax: 250 728 3452


A group of 36 artists from the Federation of Canadian Artists participated in the 2nd Oceans of Art retreat from January 24-27, 2009. The event is designed to be a fundraiser the Public Education Program at BMSC. Artists will donate a piece of work created from the retreat and proceeds will continue to build a bursary fund to help support school fieldtrips to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. Artwork will be available for viewing and sale at the Nanaimo Art Gallery from June 11-29, 2009.

The proceeds of artwork sold from the "Oceans of Art" Gallery exhibition will go towards the BMSC Public Education Program’s bursary fund. Teachers of students requiring financial assistance are invited to contact the Public Education Program for further information.

Or, to assist entire classes with their BMSC Field Trip fundraising efforts, a piece of Oceans of Art work can be donated to them to use for a fundraising activity. Participating classes are asked to please acknowledge the contributing artist in a local press release. Interested teachers are invited to contact the Public Education Program for further information.

I am off to the "Oceans of art" - artist retreat

This afternoon I am heading off to Port Alberni where I will stay overnight. Tomorrow morning our art group will be on the 8:00 am ferry the Lady Rose. The follwing images are from their website.

24th - 27th Jan 2009 Oceans of Art - Artist's Retreat

The following is from the events calendar for the Bamfield Marine Sciences centre:

"A group of 36 artists from the Federation of Canadian Artists will participate in the 2nd Oceans of Art retreat from January 24-27, 2009. Building on the success of the inaugural Oceans of Art in 2005 organized by Kat Peace, the event is designed to be a fundraiser for the Public Education Program at BMSC. Artists will donate a piece of work created from the retreat and proceeds will continue to build a bursary fund to help support school fieldtrips to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. Artwork will be available for viewing and sale at the Nanaimo Art Gallery from June 11-29, 2009.

Throughout the retreat, artists will be exposed to the variety of stunning landscapes and seascapes around Bamfield. A trip to Brady¹s and Pachena Beach, a boat trip to the Deer Group Islands and some time to reflect in the classroom (turned art studio) are but a few of the events during the retreat. The retreat will be kicked off by a marine life painting demonstration by Tofino artist Mark Hobson. Members of the local art community are encouraged to attend and become acquainted with Mark¹s work as well as the other artists in attendance."