Dave Stevens


(posted on 14 Mar 2023)

Night smelt, also called eulachon or candle fish, is native to the west coast. At spawning they are so oily that they can be dried and burned as candles. The illustration shows a night smelt ready for bed carrying a candle, a sneaky way to connect the night smelt to the idea of a candle.

My exposure to them came from two Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka’wakw) artists, Beau Dick and Russell Smith, with whom I developed friendships while at university. I lived on the main floor of a house while they were in the basement with their families. One evening they invited me to join them in a feast that coincided with the spawning of eulachons, or night smelts. They had acquired eulachon oil up the coast and brought it down with them. Roasted potato quarters were combined with salmon and held together by hand as they were dipped in fish oil and salt. This combination was eaten and the procedure was repeated until you were full or the eulachon oil ran out.

Beau Dick, who was a chief with the Kwakwaka’wakw nation, died in 2017. His work can be found at various galleries, such as the Fazakas Gallery
Russell Smith, also descended from chiefs, died in 2011. His work can be found in various galleries, such as the Spirit Gallery

Look under Artists to read about Beau and Russell.

Here are a couple of designs by Beau Dick from our collection. We also have a silver bracelet by Russell Smith but it is in a box somewhere.


(posted on 11 Feb 2023)

“Business in the front. Partying in the back.” Is an anonymous quote that describes a famous hairstyle. Some English words have more than one meaning. A hairstyle that popped up in history from the French aristocracy to modern days shares its meaning with the name of a type of fish. Combining the fish with the hairstyle of a 1980s drummer was a natural fit.

Jose Urbay, a Spanish-speaking friend from Cuba, has had to learn the

idiosyncrasies of English.

Recently, he and his family moved to  Kentville, Nova Scotia, where

 he works as a graphic designer to support his work as a visual artist.

A surreal painting by Jose of mysterious figures and a narwhal hangs

in our living room where it elicits a number of comments.

Gracie, his wife, designs and creates jewelry.

Current News:
I am exhibiting nine of my paintings at the White Rabbit Coffee Co, 321 Selby St., just off Fitzwilliam Street in the Old City of Nanaimo. It is on from Feb 7th until March 7th.

I will be at the White Rabbit on Sat., Feb 25th from 1-4 p.m. to answer questions and to meet visitors.
I would love to see you there!

                     White Rabbit Coffee Co. Art Display                      Front and back covers for new book


(posted on 14 Jan 2023)


An unattractive name for an unattractive fish, especially as portrayed in this illustration. Rocks don’t move but if they do, they are probably lumpfish waiting for their food to swim by. It is like waiting for inspiration to strike before you create, whereas experience tells us that creativity follows sweat. There is no denying that there are moments of inspiration, some of which come unheralded and out of the blue, but usually artists have to put the work in.
An artist who put the work in was Frida Kahlo from Mexico. She was a woman who wrestled with infertility, depression and physical limitations. She was bedridden with an upper body cast, but she took her experiences in life and applied it to her art. A number of artists have been able to take the pain of their lives and translate it into motivation or directly into their artwork.

Like Frida, I was influenced in my own art when my younger brother, Robert, died of cancer in 2001. Using erosion of wood and sandstone as a theme, I produced the following painting in colours that were a departure for me but which reflected my pain of grief and loss.


One of the things I hoped for from these books was new information. I always wanted to add to my knowledge and the “King of the Salmon” did this. I did not know that the Makah tribe on the West Coast honoured the ribbon fish as a precursor of salmon to the extent that they forbade catching and killing them as it would negatively affect the run of the salmon and their harvests for food.
Indigenous people saw cycles in nature and life and worked to perpetuate those repetitions for themselves and future generations. One source of First Nations’ beliefs talked about actions today that are good for up to seven generations of their offspring.

Some of the work of M. C. Escher echoes the cycles in life. He was a mathematician/artist whose work was all over North America during the 1960’s. Rooms were decorated with wooden tables that were originally rolls from the phone company, parachutes inverted on the ceiling and Escher prints on the walls, often in colours designed to glow in black light. He was known for many things such as invented creatures, perspective images that captured infinity or street scenes that morphed into books on shelves. Many of his works dealt with mathematics and our perceptions. Detailed drawings, etchings and wood engravings were what he worked with.  Rather than the black light colours of the 1960s most of his images were in black and white.

His work can be found on: MC Escher

(posted on 15 Nov 2022)

Jellyfish was shortened into jelly and it just seemed natural to imagine it with peanut butter, one of my staples. Combined on bread or toast it forms a beautiful union, one that would be known by many kids and their parents.
This substitution was one of the first coloured images I produced and although I had a plan for a book it was just starting.
On our way to New York City, Diane and I stopped over in Toronto where we visited my Aunt Helen, who’s turning 100 now. While in Toronto one of the trips I wanted to make was to see the Group of Seven in the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.
I was surprised when I discovered that a major show of Mary Pratt’s work was on at the same time. I have been fascinated by her detail and lifelikeness with everyday objects such as trout on tin foil and the dinners she was making. She shot slides of these meals so they didn’t have to sit as models while she recorded the details. Slides also helped her remember subtleties of colour and shape.
She transformed ordinary jars of jelly and jams into rich textures that held the secrets of the universe. All she needed was a little peanut butter.
There are a couple of videos on the National Gallery website:
Mary Pratt

If you are around the Nanaimo area on Sat Dec 3 from 10-4 or Sun Dec 4 from 12-4 you are invited to the Old City Panache, located at 250 Prideaux St. Dave will be there for Art Walk showing some of his paintings, prints, books and cards.
10% of any sales will go to the Parkinson’s Society of British Columbia.

(posted on 14 Oct 2022)

This was a new one for me.
There was a time when I was aware of thinking that I had become an idiot, and although I never had to wear a dunce cap at school I wasn’t a stellar student. I received physical punishment when as a new student in grade 5 I got the strap for a snow ball fight and then later I received a spanking for misspelling a word at a boys school. I went into Grade 11 when I was 14 because they thought a private school put me ahead so I would graduate sooner, but I got out of Grade 12 when I was 19. I needed 3 years to complete grade 11 and 2 years for grade 12. I thought any brains I had before had slipped out of the back of my head.
It was at college and then university that I realized I could do school and do it very well.
To the world I was an “idiot” but I learned that I was smart and could do the work that was required to maintain good marks.
A printmaker that I have always admired is Antonio Frasconi, an Uruguayan born artist who immigrated to the USA. He illustrated numerous books and did woodcuts that focused on his political beliefs. What I liked most about him was that he used the character of the wood in his prints, whether it was the grain of the wood or marks.
He didn’t try to hide the flaws and from him I learned that it’s OK to have imperfections that make you different.






(posted on 15 Sep 2022)

Herring is the correct spelling but you might see it as “hairing” which might in turn lead to imagining fish with hair all over their body. They also tend to school and show up in numbers during specific times of the season. The Scandinavian countries were very good at fermenting or smoking these fish and they became a staple and delicacy of their diet.
When I was thinking of hair and groups I gravitated towards the hippies of the 60’s who often grew their hair, believed in free love and practiced back-to-nature practices. There are still people around, especially in out-of-the-way places such as the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, who continue with aspects of the lifestyle advocated by hippies. Many of their values have now become mainstream and they have contributed much to our culture.
I don’t know him to be hairy but I would see a shot of “Angel of the North“ by Antony Gormley whenever I watched the titles for Vera on British TV. It is a huge steel sculpture on a hillside in West Yorkshire. It is a stylized figure in which spread out wings replace arms and it measures 20 meters high by 54 meters from wing tip to wing tip.
Another series of his that I like includes European Field and American Field. In these he covers the floor of rooms in buildings with small clay figures which all look up at you with cavities for eyes. It is both disturbing and enthralling at the same time. Mostly I wonder where he stores the sculptures between shows.

Antony Gormley

(posted on 14 Aug 2022)

We often think in terms of what we know and it can influence our understanding of the world.
A goose barnacle is named after a bird that can also float and paddle along the top of the water.
We see geese near pounds in Stanley Park, in marshes or in open fields.

I enjoyed sharing space with them but they were often indiscriminate in where they deposited their droppings. When we played rugby on some of those fields we often came away with cuts and bruises but we had to add infections from the geese droppings.

Joe Fafard is from the Prairies of Canada. He grew up on a farm and most of his sculptural work is influenced by animals and people that he saw daily. Cows, horses and characters made up the bulk of his work. One piece I always enjoyed was his tribute to Emily Carr and her animals on the street outside of a gallery on Granville St around 8th Ave. (It has now moved the Emily Carr University of Art and Design on 1st Ave.)
His work has been widely recognized nationally and he was represented at the Canada House at the Expo in Vancouver. He has worked in clay, concrete, steel and bronze. He has also been an artist and a teacher for local youths and college age students.
Joe Fafard (web page)

(posted on 14 Jul 2022)

   Which is more important, decoration or function.
    It is a question that has plagued artist for years and I recently heard a Haida artist, Tejas Collison, talking about art as reflecting life. There was no word for art in his native tongue. The distinction between art and craft is non-existent. Both are important and both can be creative in their production.

    Personally I think it comes down to the creativity of the individual and the purpose for creating the work. Function isn’t really a concern of art but it is a concern if it was made for a purpose. A Shaker quote encapsulates this conflict nicely. “Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful (functional); but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful (decorative).” The fin whale illustrates the decorative at the expense of function, where the fins are so long and floppy they become more decorative than functional.

    There have been movements  or artists who have sought to combine function with decoration. Groups  such as the Bauhaus furniture design, or Art Nouveau. The understanding of craft is often associated with the products of these movements but the lines are blurred and the term Art can easily be applied.

    A modern artist who was known for his decorative work was Matisse. Due to advancing age and deteriorating health he took the technique of cut outs from quality coloured paper. Originally it was a technique he had used as a compositional aid and he made them into his finished work. Some of his earlier work reflected this direction but he made it into a decorative method for producing art.

    You can look him up on Google or YouTube where there are some videos explaining his art.

(posted on 13 Jun 2022)

    I’ve always been fascinated by seals and sea lions but I know they are the bane of commercial fishers’ lives. I mostly thought in romantic terms and I idealized them.
    It was on the news that I saw footage of sea lions entering commercial nets containing salmon. The nets were high enough to keep the fish in but not to keep the sea lions out and they feasted on the salmon while the fishers stood helplessly by.  Those log booms and rocks where sea lions congregated suddenly became staging areas for a marauding host.
    It’s interesting that what seems normal and beautiful to one group is the opposite to another. We can look with eyes that see beauty or a species at risk while another group looks at the loss of a way of life.

    This conflict reminds me of the work of an artist, Alex Colville, whose work has been labelled magical realism. He was from the east coast of Canada and his artwork that is particularly impressive is the Horse and Train, from1954. In it a dark horse runs between some tracks towards an oncoming train. It is impressive because the beauty and majesty of the horse is going to lose to the mechanization of the train. It could point to the conflict of the change over from horse powered energy to the machine age or could be more personal and deal with the fear of someone we know who is on a path to self destruction. The horse, like the person we know, just needs to step off the track to be safe. They don’t, or won't, and instead are headed towards tragedy.

Alex Colville

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