My frequent collaborator and co-conspirator on many adventures Kris Krug has a new website. KK is a Vancouver-area based photographer (he lives on idyllic Galiano Island) with creds ranging from conferences to rare bird docs on remote islands to sojourns in distant countries spreading goodness.
We’ve done many projects together over the years including Frederick Varley Vancouver-address photo essay, trip to Jamaica, several SXSW and Gnomedex geekfests and all sorts of goofing around in unusual circumstances.
Kris Krug’s Flickr archive is majestic and his new website is a replacement for his previous iterations which were hijacked via an SMS hack in 2018. So frustrating and a reminder to solid up your security (including SSL) and ensure you are working with a reliable host and domain registration provider (i use Laughing Squid and Gandi for the record).
There are many posts in this archive under the Kris Krug tag as well including lots of Olympic social documentation stuff around the True North Media House project, TEDx events at which we were the “official” documentation squad, longboard hockey for Heads Magazine and a panel about Rock n Roll photography with legend bev. davies.
Included are photos of us for the record.
My WordCamp Whistler co-conspiritor, photographerKris Krug , shot video of my entire “Are you Worthy?” spiel with his new Flipcam and posted it in a YouTube playlist in 5 segments for your viewing convenience – in 2009 (when Youtube had a 10 minute limit). Meanwhile in 2018, I’ve stitched the bits together into one video for your viewing amusement.
Sure, there are gaps jumps… there is also any audio version and a roundup post with Tweets, blogs etc, plus a collection of the items in my suitcase of mystery and even a transcription of the spiel.
Artifact dossier: Collage art boards from “Forgotten Vancouver Stories (aka Poets, Punks and Revolutions)” spiel presented in various formats at Pecha Kucha Night Vancouver, All-start edition, and Northern Voice 2013 closing keynote. Video and roundup of both prezos exists elsewhere in this archive.
Each collage “slide” was handmade (obviously) with ephemera from my personal collection (exceptions credited on final “slide”) then, arranged on hemp cloth “storyboards”, photographed by Rachel Ashe, then disassembled. An analog to digital remix of sorts. Presented here in rather large size for your printing/screensaver/ amusement and posterity.
Storymaker Dave uncleweed Olson shares an eclectic variety of stories from Vancouver’s counter-culture history on a stage adorned with a record player, campfire & cub scout blanket, art easel, flowers and an Expo 86 mug – plus pulls artifacts from an old-timey suitcase to illustrate forgotten past of a city which is/was much cooler than most realize.
Presented at Northern Voice, June 2013 in Vancouver, Canada, his 11th presentation to this noted personal expression conference (and his last talk before a medical “retirement”).
Music: Derek K Miller (RIP) “(You’re the) Big Sky”
- Frederick Varley – Group of 7 painter who lived in Vancouver for 10 years
- Grateful Dead – (tried to) play free shows at Second Beach and Kits Beach in 1966
- Bob Masse psychedelic poster artist
- Gastown Riots, March on Blaine, Rock Against Racism
- bev. davies – rock n roll photographer, community chronicler, punk rock mom
- Blues in Vancouver – Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee at the Bunkhouse
- Vancouver punk rock glory days DIY spirit and fanzines (+ final days of The Clash and importance of ephemera)
- Clayoquot Sound logging blockades
- Jake Milford and the Canucks recruiting Swedish players in the 1970s
- United Empire Loyalists + Burner Boys bringing jam band culture
- Venues of note: Afterthought, Retinal Circus, York Theatre, the Cave, the Bunkhouse
- Cubscout campfire blankets
- Howard Hughes, Errol Flynn
- ++ bits of Kris Krug, Bob Kronbauer, Rebecca Bollwitt, Dan Mangan, Jason Vanderhill and campfire helpers: Mark Blevis, Kemp Edmonds, John Biehler, James Lester, Ariane Colenbrander, Nicholas Demers
At the iconic Smilin Buddha Cabaret and Restaurant in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside, legendary punk rock photographer bev. davies (sic) shows the photos in her recent “(Return to the) Scene of the Crime” exhibit featuring photos taken at his landmark venue between 1979 and 1983.
Dave uncleweed Olson — with attorney Lindsay Lazlo Bailey — asks about her process, the stories behind photos, anecdotes about the subjects and flashbacks about the shows.
Plus, they discuss:
* various parenting tips and stories with heavy metal warlords (Bruce Dickinson, Lemmy Killmister, Dee Snider)
* ideas for a book of bev’s photos (form, cost, etc)
* the history of her remarkable calendars with Nardwuar
* some friends who’ve died (RIP Dave Gregg, Brain Goble)
* hollandaise sauce and skateboards ramps
Note: As a fan and supporter of bev’s work, i’ve also interviewed her (along with new-school photographer and activist Kris Krug) at Northern Voice in a talk called “Building a Scene — Rock n Rock Photos” and another interview to appear soon.
* Smiling Buddha Cabaret Restaurant
* bev smilin buddha photoset
* Rock n Roll Photo talk video
+ videographer’s notes
* Rock n Roll photo recap
* Rock n Roll Photo talk slides
* Bev on Twitter
* Miss 604 annotations from talk
* DaveO photos from 144 punk photos
More bev. davies articles:
BEV DAVIES AND DOA in the Skinny Magazine
Originally published in Heads Magazine Toke on the Porch blog on January 22, 2007
Out n’ about on assignment for a forthcoming Heads article, I witnessed a sport hitherto unknown to me which combined many activities I enjoy into one sublime recreational pursuit: full contact hockey, tasty weed, chillaxin’ and longboarding (I am a newb – just cruised the Stanley Park seawall a couple times).
Anyhow, ace photog KK+, fashionista Kdon and my rolling amigo Cousin Herb chronicled the action – both the ongoing hockey games and boarders running the six story garage kamikaze style while sliding hard stops at the bottom and riding elevator back up for another go. Besides KK‘s tasty snapshots, I shot some video I’ll cobble together into a clip soon.
Here are a few outtakes, anecdotes and pics of the exploits:
On the stuffed elevator ride to the 6th floor, before I can pull the fattie of Chocolate Jack Herer from behind my ear, a smiling chick in blond pigtails and a Team Canada jersey sparks a beauty doobie.
Turns out she’s The Bloods’ goalie Natasha getting in another run before playing her former team, the North Shore Slashers after they finish off the Shitmix. She doesn’t seem insane yet she eagerly faces wildmen firing beer cans at her head, “It’s nuts out there, there are no rules, everyone should try it.”
Some incredible boarders (behold the mightiness of King Brian!) and a bewildering assortment of boards, mostly Landyachtz and Rayne.
“The Meathheads” are up 2-1 thanks to a wiry dude sans helmet who snakes through defenders – hard sliding to the left while shooting off the right, one foot flying behind.
Just when it looks easy, he takes a hit goes Bobby-Orr-flying through the air onto the pavement, then leaps back up before being run down. Turns out this savant is “King” Brian who skates for the 9-0 Chilliwack team. He’s also the Longboard Hockey League’s defending scoring champ and frequent curator of the Chanley Cup.
Besides the Longboard Hockey League, Coastlongboarding organizes a 4 day festival in May on the Sunshine Coast with a downhill race, championship hockey game and punk bands at a reserved campground at Danger Bay.
I ask another Chilliwack Meathhead called Tyson what possesses them to drive out from the farthest burb of Chilliwack – a town I remember mostly for grow houses and cow shit – “it’s about the community” he says rolling up a huge cone from my ample first aid kit of bud. His buddy adds, “Yeah, all we do is skate and smoke weed.”
Sounds good to me, pulling a hoot with my head fogged and face grinning. “Good stuff” he says, as i dodge a bearded dude on a six wheel skateboard barrelling down the garage ramp.
An intriguing evening at the LHL games for sure – I spread the custom Heads rollies around Cousin Herb rolled up the aforementioned Chocolate Jack Herer using the “made in Spain” Raws and those clear rolling substrates I’ve become so fond of.
Of course, I recorded interviews and action for a forthcoming Choogle on with Uncle Weed podcast. Recent episodes make fine companions to my HeadFirst articles, “Rebagliati Positive for 2010” and “Zen Rambling in Japan.” Check out “International Heads and Hemp Oil – Choogle on #34” for some behind the scenes commentary and anecdotes from the articles plus my interview with Ross is at “Coffee talk with Gold Medalist Ross Rebagliati.”
My article “Rebagliati Positive About 2010” was published in “Heads – the Marijuana Lifestyle magazine” Vol. 6 Issue 10 “The Stoned Cold Issue.”
Like “Zen Rambling in Japan” the Ross article is the “Head First” lead article and over 3000 words and I also managed one photo in there (the one with the big nug). A great layout and Kris Krug‘s fine shots of a candid Ross frame the article nicley indeed.
The article discusses 1998 Nagano Olympic snowboard gold medalist and Canadian sporting legend, Ross Rebagliati’s quest for 2010 Olympics in Whistler/Vancouver plus his training routine, fundraising efforts, quest to make the team role on tour and recreational interests.
Importantly, he breaks down the events and emotions of the big shakedown in Nagano. Hear more about the fallout from his positive marijuana test from an interview I did in Vancouver during the 2006 Turin games.
Originally published on Aug 17, 2014 at Vancouver Observer. Republished here intact for posterity.
What follows is Part 3 of a three-part series exploring the decade which Group of Seven painter Frederick Varley lived in Vancouver and played a pivotal role in the creation of a west coast art movement and sensibility.
Trained in Belgium, and unlike the rest of the G7, primarily a portraitist, Varley explored his rugged new location – from a Jericho cabin to summer-long camps in Garbaldi – and often with a group of students and artists along, before moving to a cheap place in Lynn Canyon with his mistress. While there, broke and often drunk, he painted true masterpieces on insulation paper. Commemorated with only a trail along Lynn Creek, come along to learn about one of Vancouver’s (almost) unknown shapers.
As these artifacts are assembled and cherished by subsequent generations they inspire and demonstrate the struggles of existence, evolutions of culture, sagas and stories, and idealized figures, through paintings and other medium.
But art is not static – or shouldn’t be anyhow. In the best works, the influences and interpretations are able to inspire beyond generations. And of course, there is no end of stories about artists who are undiscovered or underappreciated in their own time.
Frederick Varley fell somewhere in between.
Early notoriety came with the Group of 7 and adventures with Tom Thomson and the idea of hearty artists clambering mountains, canoeing rapids, and laying thick swaths of paint in free forms in the then emerging country. These painters created a new kind of Canadian hero, artistic Coureur des bois, adventurers seeking views, rather than pelts.
Unlike his peers, Varley was a portraitist and a reluctant landscape painter. However his landscapes were often so stirring, when complete the images somehow “felt” like nature more than “resembled” nature. So it goes, the painting which defines Varley to many art historians and enthusiasts is “Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay” which hangs in the Canada’s National Gallery.
The public (read: art dealers) always wanted more grand natural scenes like others of his Group produced – to great acclaim and often financial success. But Varley felt there was no challenge in landscapes, and since several other of his G7 colleagues had painted this same bay over the years, so he saw no point in creating an industry of this one location.
By any measure, during his time in BC, he produced his most transformative works. The mix of his eye and energy, coupled with the stunning, rugged vistas and interesting human faces, was a perfect match for Varley to create without restraint or direction from anyone.
By fusing Chinese scroll paintings and unique perspectives, colour symbolism, and pushing the subject to the outside of the canvas, he created a purely original aesthetic which was unlike any paintings hitherto created on the rugged West coast.
Though not a landscape painter per se, towards the end of his time in Vancouver area, flat broke living in Lynn Canyon he returned to landscapes because there were no other models besides the two of them, both of which he’d painted many times.
The results of these final months are often watercolour gouache on insulation backing paper, or odds and ends of colour tubes, and board. Yet even with scraps of supplies, his subtle technique captured both the tranquility and promise of unexplored nature, and the quiet potential power of the same nature around him.
While your humble writer attended school diligently in then barely sprawling suburbs of Vancouver, stomped around Lynn Canyon (and the free suspension bridge!) with my brothers, as a scout hiked along the Baden Powell trail, at no point did I hear of Frederick Varley – until I moved to a new neighbourhood, and found a perfect trail which led me to learn who Varley was, and what he left behind.
From a practical standpoint, he left debt to his partner in BC Arts College, his wife Maude and children (who later bought and lived in the Lynn Canyon house for many years until she died in 1975), his mistress/muse Vera Weatherbie, who after relationships with both Varley and Vanderpant, married Harold Mortimer-Lamb, a painter (whom Varley painted).
Later in her life, Vera received more appreciation of her art but, by that time, she had left her artist life mostly behind and preferred to promote interest for her husband’s works.
We know Varley left Vancouver towards Ottawa. We know he easily found art-minded ladies to be his patrons, he emerged for sketching and painting journeys to the Arctic, the USSR, and returned as far west as the Rocky Mountains. And he emerged for this film in 1953. Still somewhat spry, still somehow sad. But, tracing his steps amidst the neighbourhoods in Vancouver, where he captured his artistic lightning, i can’t help to feel like something of importance is missing from these seminal days of local art. A slice of the story, yet unpreserved or underused.
Link Library: Further Frederick Varley reading: This link library contains dozens of links to Varley bios, critiques, histories, plus anecdotes from local historians and hikers.
Film: In 1953, Varley played himself in a 16-minute film directed by Allan Wargon and produced by the National Film Board.
In the film which really has no dialogue, we see Varley returning from a hike in the hills. He hitchhikes back into town and into a small apartment and studio with canvases in various states of completion. Fred mutters and fumbles around before going out for bread and cheese. Soon after a nibble, he finds his spark, his flow, his inspiration and begins a new creation.
In the background, you’ll notice the his late masterpiece, the translucent and radiant “Liberation”. A skeletal man in a state of bliss or transcendence – or perhaps he is suffering?
The film also available for download or on DVD.
CBC Interview: “A Visit to Frederick Varley” was again created by Allan Wargon. While not available for embedding or downloading, this interview which aired on CBC on April 20, 1965 (4 years before his death), is likely the last video footage of Varley. In this clip he candidly discusses his technique for painting portraits – including his opinion about beautiful people.
Book: Frederick Varley: Portraits into the Light (available as Google eBook)
A voluminous tome with great care given his artistic legacy and includes many rare sketches of Inuit from his trip to the Arctic.
Ephemera: Illustrated Vancouver’s Fred Varley tag — @JMV’s carefully curated collection of murals, folkart, beer labels and lost fine art and pointed out Varley’s sketch of, what looks like, a lady on a laptop.
Blogger: Eve Lazurus in Spacing.ca also turns in a charming personal account of hiking around Varley’s Lynn Canyon home (and also stopping in at End of the Line cafe) in her Frederick Varley’s Vancouver.
Photographs: Kris Krug displays his favourites Kodachromes from the exploration of addresses on Flickr, KK Varley tag.
Megaphone Magazine: Published a 1500 word version of my discourse as Varley’s Vancouver, Discovering the City’s Artistic Hearts in Frederick Varley’s Past.
Gallery: There is a Varley Art Gallery in as part of the Varley-McKay Art Foundation of Markham, Ontario and a street in Unionville, Ontario bears his name. McKay refers to a patron who supporting Varley later in life.
VAG: Vancouver Art Gallery has collected 19 Varley paintings or sketches as well as a fond of personal papers including some illuminating letters from his son who became an art dealer and was agent for selling the elder Varley’s work.
Varley paintings at Vancouver Art Gallery
Portrait of H. Mortimer-Lamb, c.1930
Untitled Figure Study, 1939
Steeple Mountain, Kootenay Lake, 1956
Sketch of Garrow Bay, c.1935
Mountain Vista, B.C., 1929
Swimming Pool at Lumberman’s Arch, 1932
Untitled (Vera and Mr. Weatherbie), 1929
Young Artist at Work, 1924
Ice Floes, Low Tide, Cape Dorset, 1938
Blue Ridge, Upper Lynn, 1931
Bridge Over Lynn, 1932
Girl’s Head, c. 1931
Evening-Georgian Bay, c.1920
Mount Garibaldi, 1927-1928
Artists influenced by Varley
Along with the aforementioned Ms. Weatherbie, other painters influenced by Frederick Varley – either as students or contemporaries – include: Emily Carr, Charles Scott, Jock MacDonald, Irene Hoffar Reid, Beatrice Lennie.
There is a variety of ways to connect your contemporary experience with Varley’s era. Whether you paint, record, dance, hike, write or otherwise, find a way to create and share your work.
Below are more examples, resources, ideas, ephemera and creative prompts to inspire and celebrate the birth of a Vancouver art culture, and the renegades who shaped it, and us.
“Varley at Jericho”
Two swimmers, heads bobbing way out there beyond the buoys
Varley solid after a bottle of red
with gaggle of glowing students
striving for direction and inspiration about how to go beyond
~ what is the level above?
when human and nature,
face and landscape portrait
and treatment are lost ~
all forgotten in the sublime asymmetry
Vanderpant and his photos showing more than
just the realness – tell the story beyond the moment –
the river doesn’t stop after the shutter closes
where did the rivers without end begin?
Look closely across the inlet
and you can see where to wander to find the first
drops of melting cascading over lichen and rock,
filters through alpine moss & gravel into a ravine, the
gullies collect the raw material
to begin the rivers which continue to flow until they find their end
Blackberries grow where Varley sat
Jericho now leisure-time activities
weddings for international industrialists
sandy for blue- haired lounger – leathery from routine
silhouette of grey and green, cypress to seymour divots for Capilano and Lynn
the horseshoe toes slipping into the sound
the only clears for the sky
island and headlands
fjords and freshers
lighthouses & old growth anoint the end of land
give away to the space in between
higher now they climb
wooden pioneers drifted into the concrete and glass
cantilevered over cliffs craning
to see what is directly ahead.
the veranda hosted parties
fraternized student faculty
late conversations with wine
moving rugged frontier forms and
vocabularies of culture
not contrived, not crafted
but not wrestled,
– coaxed from the confluence of river, sea and land
sit with your tools
where were you when no one was here but beachcombers and
outliers and occasional picnicers
the ferries would carry you from Jericho to Ambleside, forays and for day of weekend holiday respite
but the more, someone needs to the tell the story of how the tree became logs and people grow into the land and emerged after exploration and surrender – well affected
Varley Residence & Studio Map:
Artist Joanna Ambrosio remixed the Google Map into something more “Varley-ish”.
Choogle On with Uncle Weed, audio podcast: Portrait of Varley
Originally published in Vancouver Observer, Aug. 15 2014. Republished here intact for posterity etc.
What follows is Part 2 of a three-part series exploring the decade which Group of Seven painter Frederick Varley lived in Vancouver and played a pivotal role in the creation of a west coast art movement and sensibility.
Trained in Belgium, and unlike the rest of the G7, primarily a portraitist, Varley explored his rugged new location – from a Jericho cabin to summer-long camps in Garabaldi – and often with a group of students and artists along, before moving to a cheap place in Lynn Canyon with his mistress. While there, broke and often drunk, he painted true masterpieces on insulation paper. Commemorated with only a trail along Lynn Creek, come along to learn about one of Vancouver’s (almost) unknown shapers.
Frederick Varley, a founding member of the noted collective of Canadian painters called the Group of Seven came to Vancouver after working as a commercial artist in Toronto along with fellow G7, Arthur Lismer. Varley’s paintings are in the National Gallery (including his seminal work Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay).
After a tempting offer, they became the founding professors at Vancouver’s first arts school (which grew into Emily Carr University). His unique teaching style and exhibits were critical catalysts for the young and artistically “unsophisticated” city.
In a decade living in Vancouver (1928-37), the transplanted Brit and Group of Seven painter Frederick Varley changed addresses frequently as he rearranged living situations between his family – wife Maude and a bundle of children – and his mistress/student/collaborator, Vera Weatherbie.
He also accommodated his desire for weekend excursions into the North Shore mountains using a ferry from Jericho to Ambleside, and often further afield with long summer painting camps in Garibaldi, complete with a clutch of students in white canvas tents and easels abounding in the vibrant landscape.
Frederick left Vancouver with wreckage in his wake in the form of an abandoned family, a dismissed mistress, significant debt from the BC College of Arts failure (which he left for colleague and “friend” to sort out), plus 18 months back due on rent on the Lynn Valley house – which wife Maude later bought and raised her children in while she eeked out a living with odd jobs including door to door sales in her neighbourhood.
He also left a legacy of painters he inspired and a sense of a true west coast style which is evident in the works of his former students.
Wander the Varley Tour
Time and development have erased most any sign of Varley as most addresses which are replaced with office buildings, tennis courts and apartment blocks. However, his spirit is perhaps felt most strongly along the Varley Trail in Upper Lynn Canyon where you can practically determine right where he set his easel to paint these evocative, rugged scenes – the mountains swirled in colour and dimension, clumps of bushes giving way to darting trees in the recently clear-cut canyon, and Rice Lake through season renewal and decay.
Follow along to see the if you can catch Fred’s shadow at one of his former homes, schools or watering holes.
The trail goes from Jericho to Lynn Valley with many stops along the way. The accompanying photos of the current, rather ordinary, structures contrast with often surprising stories from an artistic past. Notably, as he changed addresses, he also changed his listed professions, identifying himself sometimes as school teacher, sometimes as artist, and finally as President of BC College of Arts.
With this annotated map created from city directory and census records with thanks to Vancouver Archives, you can explore his home and work addresses via transit, or load up a car for a day out with fellow artists.
Badminton Hotel: 7 1/2 – 603 Howe Street
Varley kept personal studio space at the Badminton Hotel at Howe and Dunsmuir – then an artist’s hangout and registered address of many of Vancouver’s early intellectuals and artists amidst a small city of longshoremen, traveling prospectors and tugboat racers.
Now another grey tower, and shiny baubles in department store windows leave no trace of the artistic area of past.
Jericho Beach House: 3857 Point Grey Road (rear), Vancouver
In 1928, he moved his young family to a small house right on Jericho Beach where he hosted lively discussions into the night on the wide veranda with full view of the North Shore Mountains.
From here, Varley would gather with his students, colleagues, and artists – fraternizing and partying into night with Varley often leading charges in the cold water or playing classical music on a piano, and falling hard for Vancouver.
Now, the address can be most closely assigned to a gardener’s shed behind a retirement manor and manicured tennis courts for Vancouver’s leisurely athletic.
Delighted with the natural splendor in front of him and pleased to have successfully moved his family from Toronto, Varley painted the tiny cabin, steps from the sea, in lavish sea-greens and blues. You can imagine a strong drink and stirring conversations on wide porch in this charming painting which sold at auction in 2006 for a thrifty $207,000.
Vancouver School of Applied Arts and Design: 590 Hamilton Street, Vancouver
Frederick lept into his position of Department Head of Drawing and Painting at Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (which eventually evolved intoVancouver School of Art, and later Emily Carr University). This was BC’s first art school and was conceived a few years earlier by the BC Art League, citizens who sought to spark art and culture in the city with the creation of a gallery and a school. The new VSAAD opened with 89 day and night students, and a first graduating class comprising of nine women and two men.
At the Hamilton St. campus (in the upper floor of Vancouver School Board offices), he extolled his students to “think for themselves without fear” – his innovative teaching methods, quest for perfection, and passionate personality inspired his students – including his first meetings with a striking student named Vera Weatherbie, who would play a variety of roles in the ensuing years.
BC College of Art: 1233-39 West Georgia St., Vancouver
The depression hit and Varley’s wages and hours were reduced by 60 per cent. Infuriated, in 1933, he and Glaswegian abstract painter and craft teacher Jock MacDonald started a competing school called BC College of Arts and set up a campus in a former car dealership showroom on West Georgia St. now swallowed by skyscrapers.
With the beloved Varley as President, many of the key students migrated over, while recent plum graduates joined the faculty working alongside with mentors in a hitherto unknown bohemian work environment.
For two years, the school offered a full slate adding commercial and theatre arts, design and colour theory for over 250 students while also fostering a lively lectures and performances and frequent forays into the hills. Finally, financial pressures caused the school to close.
Parakontas / West End Studio: 1087 Bute Street, Vancouver
With help from a student’s wealthy grandfather, the faculty and students worked in a studio on Bute St. in the West End called Parakontas.
Here, they worked with a sense of urgency trying to keep the school operational while evolving a west coast aesthetic.
The studio is now replaced (likely soon after their use) with an apartment block. But it was here in a relatively inauspicious unimpressive location where Varley created a Canadian masterpiece – Vera painted in a painter’s smock was unlike any portrait created in Canada and new for Varley himself who changed his technique to suit the subject and alludes to the true role of the artist in a letter to his sisters in 1936.
“The artist’s job is to unlock fetters and release spirit, to tear to pieces and recreate so forcefully that . . . the imagination of the onlooker is awakened and completes within himself the work of art.”
(F.H. Varley, letter to his sisters Lili and Ethel, February 1936)
Varley seemed to embrace the tension to produce some of his finest portraits in fresh colours, unique shapes and a fusion of European, Native and Asian styles to create arguably the first truly Canadian portraits created by a master artist. And in return, Vera painted a portrait of Varley, showing her now matured technique and became a feature in her shows.
Kits House: 3318 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver
By 1934, he’d moved the family into a house on 1st Avenue in Kitsilano – perhaps trying to salvage family life, or create the appearance of a “normal” household. But while Maude and the kids settled in, Varley spent most of his time on forays to the mountains with his band of artists, intellectuals and explorers. And more and more time with Vera.
Along with Varley and MacDonald, the wanderers included John Vanderpant, an experimental photographer whose Robson St. studio became the site of salons, discussions and concerts.
The classic Kits house with porch and mailbox which remains today is likely the original “bones” of the house, but has obviously been renovated to the times. On a personal visit to the site, I learned the genial homeowner didn’t have any knowledge of the art-ish backstory.
Lynn Valley Retreat: 4400 Lynn Valley Rd, North Vancouver
It was on a mountain excursion in 1935 that Varley spotted a house on the trail to Rice Lake. There he set up living arrangements with Vera and although poor, they painted together. Vera was often the subject, as well as dozens of paintings on the local mountains, trees, and boulders. Significantly during this time, he showed his full range of styles and pushed his experimentation with colour theory and symbolism.
Varley had found his retreat. He quickly set up “irregular arrangements” with Vera while Maude and the kids remained in Kits… with a front porch view of Lynn Valley.
The green 2-storey house sits on a slope looking at a bridge crossing Lynn Canyon and the trail onto Rice Lake, or, a left turn takes you to the trailhead of his namesake trail. The address is now listed as Rice Lake Road rather than the historic address.
The Varley Trail
The Varley Trail meanders up and down gullies and weaves between the massive stumps of trees cut years ago. Many benches share memorials of loved ones, and there are many natural places to sit and think or paint. Now there are more joggers then bears, but the boulders remain the same.
As the trail comes out at Lynn Valley Headwaters, you can read an interpretive plaque about Varley and pop into the Heritage Museum on Sundays to catch a picture of life in Varley’s time with various artifacts from the early logging days on the area.
You can cross the river at the Headwaters and return by the more graded trail, and even extend your wander with a loop around the Rice Lake, which freezes enough for skates or ice fishing every few years. But for me, doubling back along the heavily treed westside feeds my artistic dreams.
Getting to the Varley Trail by Transit
Take the SeaBus from Waterfront station (14 minute crossing) and then catch 228 Lynn Valley bus and ride to end of the line.
Take the 210 Upper Lynn Valley from Burrard Station and ride (via Ironworker’s Memorial Bridge and Phibbs Exchange) to the very end of the line.
Start your foray with a stop into The End of the Line shop by the trailhead. A remarkable selection of candies (including Popeye “cigarettes” and Pop Rocks) plus salty licorice, a variety of chutneys, lattes, and loads of to go snacks including my favourite “Trail Pucks.”