When he set out to paint the works now included in his Undergrowth showing, Ward Schell wanted to capture the "pretty magical" nature of his subject: Fairy Island.
© Justin Crann
Ward Schell stands beside Broken Trail, one of ten works on display as part of his Undergrowth exhibit at the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery until Jan. 5.
"This particular island is different than any place I've been. … It hasn't had a burn in 600 years," Schell told the Times-Herald Friday. "600 years is a long time. It's an ancient growth forest. Things are either bigger or more spectacularly shaped, and there's layers upon layers of death and regrowth.
"You know you're in a different place. The sounds are different. It's magical. … It has a kind of life quality of its own, and it's hard to really describe that in words until you've been there."
Undergrowth, the exhibit Schell opened Thursday, is on display at the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery until Jan. 5. It features ten works by the artist that reflect images from Fairy Island.
He said his goal wasn't simply to reproduce the sights he was seeing on the island.
"The end result doesn't mean it has to look like a photograph … it has to take on its own sort of life," said Schell. "There has to be interpretation of how you're feeling as you're working on it. … You have to be tuned in to that direction. It sort of leads you along, and you have to make it all work.
"It's intimidating in some respects, but very fulfilling, and very frustrating in other respects."
Schell said "there's a huge sense of satisfaction" in seeing his work hanging on walls.
"It always feels good to get it done and see it in place … but (there's) also sense of insecurity about how it's going to be received," he said. "I feel really great about the show. It's consistent, coherent and it really says what I wanted to say about the place.
Schell said he has high hopes for the future of the island.
"Fairy Island is that one special place," Schell said. "It would be nice if it would just stay as it is, and if that is the case, I'd love to go back up there sometime."