Artist’s paint brush strokes colour into island buildings

May 25, 2014

A journalist could write many, many, many profiles of Salt Spring Island artists and not scratch the surface of all the artists who live on the island. Times this by many times and you would never, ever profile all of the artists who live in the province.

I am very aware of the great numbers of artists on Salt Spring Island because I worked as an art model for life drawing and portraiture groups for most of the sixteen years I lived on the island. But you do not have to be an art model to be aware of all of the visual creativity that flows out of these numerous artists. Just take a walk to the cafes and peek inside the art galleries that are scattered across the island and you will see just some of the offerings from what seems to be an infinite amount of artists.

Here is a profile I did on one of them:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

January 12, 2000

Artist’s paint brush strokes colour into island buildings

by Tanya Lester

“Her art is her anchor,” I thought to myself when I turned away from ordering a latter in Barb’s Buns last week and went to check out Susan Pratt’s acrylic paintings hanging on the wall abobe the high stools and side counter.

On an island filled with breath-takingly natural scenic panoramas and people who add all kinds of wonderfully crazy hues to the scenery, I quickly got over my surprise in response to Pratt’s documentation of Salt Spring buildings.

Pratt uses acrylic blending in a a way that brings out the exotic in these buildings (like I remember them a couple of years ago when I was only an island tourist) but her brush strokes seeem to definitely root them in Salt Spring Island’s soil.

Yet the physical structure of these buildings is about the only aspect of them that has remained constant. As Pratt pointed out when we got together for coffee, the painting titled “108 Hereford Ave.” is now the site of Piccolo House Restaurant, but many islanders remember it as the Glad’s Ice Cream and Candy locale.

“People’s memories attached to the buildings are different,” said Pratt, who has lived here for seven years and knows well the musical chairs game that Salt Spring businesses play when it comes to location.

Growing up in float camps on B.C.’s west coast, Pratt was raised on the idea that change is good while the family’s home literally floated from one of her father’s logging work locales to another.

“They taught me that the world changed but you could also change the world,” said Pratt.

The anchor in her life was her parents’ recognition that she was the artist in the family. She was the one “commissioned” to make the cards when birthdays and other special occasions were celebrated.

“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think that (art) was a good thing to do,” she said.

Enjoying change has led to a variety of jobs for Pratt. These include a nursing career, massage therapy, ranching, truck driving, horse packing and being a pilot.

Art has remained the constant in Pratt’s life, from her early pen and ink drawings inspired by animals she observed while living on the Chilcotin Plateau to the last two decades when she has worked mostly in watercolours, oils and acrylics.

Ironically, Pratt and her partner Colin Rankin decided to sell their house around St. Mary’s Lake so she could work on her art fulltime. She is now painting houses and other buildings in their rental home nears Fulford with one of her goals being to earn enough money to once again purchase a house.

But, of course, Pratt’s motivation as an artist is much more than this.

Her Fulford paintings — Downtown Fulford, Jambalaya and Blue Kayak (at the government dock)– among those hanging at Barb’s Buns , came into being because of her love for the southend village.

“I love Fulford Harbour,” she said. “I like the combination of people that just hang out there. I think the setting is absolutely beautiful. We tend to take it for granted. It’s quite spectacular.”

Pratt continues to teach art to students from kindergarten to Grade 2 at Fulford Elementary School where her seven-year-old son Mack attends. Work with these children has strengthened Pratt’s belief that we all have the potential to be creative in visual art.

This year, Pratt will be teaching brush work to the students in the style of Vincent Van Gogh, which will culminate in impressionistic murals. Last year the students’ Mona Lisa interpretations and self-portraits were quite a hit with art lovers and others on Salt Spring.

This is exactly what Pratt wants. It is her goal to facilitate opinions on art from everyone while promoting the idea that there are no right or wrong ways to view art.

“We don’t have to be nervous about ‘what if we’re wrong’, ” she said. “We can’t be wrong. I’d like to see art become even more accessible to all people. You can ask almost anyone what they think about music and they are happy to give you their opinion. You don’t need to be an expert to know what you enjoy listening to. I believe people can feel that way about visual art. Just keep on looking and decide what you like.”

When it comes to her philosophy, Pratt is putting her money where her mouth is.

Late in 1999, while her acrylics were hainging at the bakery cafe, she bought a cake from Barb’s Buns to raffle off to customers. The catch wasL in order to enter each person had to answer a survey about Pratt’s art and to suggest what other buildings and areas should be documented in this series.

Pratt intends to follow up on some of the “fabulous ideas” she gleaned from the raffle entries by, for example, including some Vesuvius sites in the series which she believes will total a dozen paintings by this summer when she aims to mount the entire show somewhere on Salt Spring.

She will also be making prints of some of her new works….


To read the first posts in this blog go to

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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Readerby Tanya Lester can be perused and purchased by going to the title and author name at or can be bought directly from the author.


2 thoughts on “Artist’s paint brush strokes colour into island buildings”

  1. Good morning, In august of 1999, I was visiting salts’ spring and came across a artwork auction created by schoolchildren, I bought one from Mack Rankin. I would like to get in touch with Mrs. susan Pratt
    please forward this message to her.
    Merci from Montreal.

    1. Hi Johanne,
      I have not lived on Salt Spring Island for over two years now (my articles on my blog were written over many years). I am not sure if Susan Pratt still lives on Salt Spring. Try to phone directory assistance for Salt Spring Island, BC and see if they have a listing for her or her husband. Or phone Visitors Information on Salt Spring and see if they can find her for you.

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