Fresh eyes

New art by Victoria Leader

I’m no art critic, by any stretch, but i do appreciate viewing an occasional handful of paintings as part of a lively cultural scene. A new art show opened Saturday at Main Street Gallery & Espresso Bar (in Tofino Sea Kayaking, 320 Main St.), at which emerging Tofino artist Victoria Leader displays some recent work.

As i’ve written about before (and taken some flak for), the West Coast visual art scene spans a pretty narrow spectrum, shaped largely by what tourists buy (and what artists think tourists want to buy) to commemorate their trip to our shores. That pushes us into a niche of often idealistic images of the natural world that i refer to, in cynical moments, as “eco-porn.”

This is not that. Known for her pencil portraits, drawn live at the Tofino Saturday Market, Leader here branches into acrylics with her own take on the West Coast beach and wildlife.

The two below, shown with the artist, anchor the show, to my eyes. (Sorry for the poor photo.) Startlingly stark, they are yet immediately recognizable as West Coast beach-and-sky scenes for anyone who has ever experienced such, but are likely a mysterious, possibly Arctic abstract for those who haven’t.

beachscapes -- Victoria Leader

The paintings, in a way, illustrate our little secret: that, in the large scale, ours is an abstract landscape: blocks of monochrome grey-greens fading into distant mist, flat beach expanse rippled with shadows, a dozen different skies on any given day, the ocean a mosaic of any number of different greens and blues.

West Coast painted landscapes tend to be representational — the sunset pink-and-orange, the cunningly rendered crashing wave, the fine brush-strokes of arboreal or animal photorealism, have all been turned into high art by local painters. Leader’s textured slabs of colour, worked with a knife over backgrounds of unusual and decidedly non-West-Coasty burnt orange, flip that tradition upside down — an arresting take on what is otherwise a pretty uniform art scene.

Raven Knows All, acrylic on birch, by Victoria LeaderOther paintings in the show feature fish and birds, dreamy and icon-like in their representation, perhaps echoing First Nations art — which, as Leader said at the reception, is “in the air around us, like nowhere else in the world.”

The paintings are boldly offered, acrylic on board, no glass, and with a variety of raw and finished wood frames by Tofino Woodworks. They also feature reasonable prices (another West Coast rarity), which may entice a few of them onto the walls of locals, and some of our more adventurous visitors.

Leader is a relatively new painter, i gather, still experimenting her way into the medium. Some pieces feel less polished, to be sure, but that may make them more approachable, in a folk-art kind of way. What she does bring to the scene is fresh eyes. I for one appreciate it.

The show continues until May 31, 2017.

Artist site ( and blog (

crowd -- Leader reception 2017-04-15* * *

Thanks to the Main Street Gallery & Espresso Bar (320 Main St.), for putting a regular series of art shows on Tofino’s cultural calendar. A dedicated show is a significant step for any emerging artist, and MSG&EB provides pretty much the only spot in town for such a venture. Excellent coffee and view, too!

The Dreamer Examines His Pillow: review

[Addendum at bottom]

dreamer posterThe language in a play is like language nowhere else in life. You get eloquent soliloquys out of nowhere; tight dialogue batted back and forth without the ums, ahs and hesitations; you get ordinary, bumbling real life boiled down to killing intensity and presented in three acts that build like ladder rungs, elevating you to a view you don’t ordinarily get.

It was good to hear this language, and three brave local actors delivering it, on stage at Clayoquot Community Theatre last night, in the opener of The Dreamer Examines His Pillow. Continue reading

‘other men’s wives’ hot off press

other men's wives (What was i thinking?)I’m pleased to announce that my chapbook other men’s wives : love poems to a village of creative women is fresh off the press, as of a couple of weeks ago. Only 55 copies were printed — we’ll see how long they last.

We held a triple launch party on Nov. 22, as the kickoff event of the Clayoquot Oyster Fest. In addition to OMW, the packed-house evening featured a (very) dramatic reading from Tofino Timeless, a collaborative story by 10 members of the Clayoquot Writers Group, and David Floody’s wry Kittenstein and Frankenfur, the Gambling Cats (ebook here).

I must admit to some trepidation about publishing two dozen mostly bona fide love poems, most quite personal and many about women who still live here on the Wet Coast. I did my best to disguise all references to individuals (there were many), but i fear there may be a backlash of some sort.

UPDATE THREE MONTHS LATER — There are just four copies left. No significant backlash, though i did have a couple of “corrections.” Not surprisingly, about 80% of the copies were bought by women. As i say in the foreword, Women, wonderfully, are still susceptible to poetry. They get it; they understand it; it touches them.

September Non-Disclosure?

DOLT September non-disclosure formLooking for the September Non-Disclosure Form (as mentioned in my piece in September 2013’s Tofino Time magazine)? Click the thumbnail to download it.

Wondering what the heck this is about? Read the piece (below) and all will become clear.




The DOLT Revolt
by greg blanchette 2013

I kicked up my skateboard, glanced up and down Campbell Street, and casually pulled open the door to the district office, like I was going in to sign up for a macrame class, maybe, or ask about the noise bylaw.

Laura was expecting me—all smiles as usual, but you don’t mess with a gal who knows a dozen ways to take you down with her bare hands. I nodded politely and gave the password. “You’re late,” she said. Continue reading

The shadow show

Well, that was interesting fun! After a crazy-making few days cutting up cereal boxes with an Xacto knife, and piecing together a screen (bedsheet over a wooden frame) and backstage framework, i gave my first shadow puppet show ever at last Sunday’s Lantern Festival at the Tofino Botanical Gardens.

It had turned into an entirely last-minute exercise. The previous days of damp overcast and/or pouring rain were not a motivating factor and, wondering whether the whole Lantern Fest might be a washout, i procrastinated right up till the last minute. Continue reading