Renowned marine artist completes Ladner piece

Marine artist John Horton puts the finishing touches on his newest historical painting featuring Ladner
Marine artist John Horton puts the finishing touches on his newest historical painting featuring Ladner's harbour.
— image credit: Adrian MacNair photo

One of Canada's most famous marine artists has completed a historical painting of Port Guichon in Ladner, depicting how the waterway appeared over a century ago.

Tsawwassen's John Horton, best known for his historical paintings of maritime vessels and coastal towns, took between three weeks and a month from the beginning sketches to the finished product.

The scene's content and history was rigorously researched by Horton in order to be as accurate as possible, with the exception of it all taking place under moonlight.

"There's a bit more romance about the moonlight scene," he says, chuckling.

Horton has painted many seascape portraits that include the moonlight motif.

Mark Sakai of the Delta Museum and Archives helped with the research he needed to properly complete the painting.

It all began with a 1903 photograph of a ferry moored to the Port Guichon Hotel. That ferry used to be the main route from Victoria to Steveston, in Richmond, before continuing on to Ladner and New Westminster.

"Ladner played an important part in the history of the Fraser River," explains Horton, who looked at historical maps of the area and then cross-referenced them with modern Google Maps.

Overlaying the two, one can still see the railway running to the ferry wharf.

The painting shows the train stopped at the railway office next to the ferry. The church can be seen in the background, along with the church, the Guichon family home and the hotel.

There's also a square-rigged barque loading up goods from the cannery, a tug boat towing logs to the sawmill, and Ladner landmarks in the distance.

The last two boats depicted are a sternwheeler ferry, which would have taken people up and down the Fraser River, and in the foreground a local farmer bringing sacks of potatoes in a rowboat to market.

The piece itself will be for sale, but there will be prints on canvas available with some of the proceeds going to help the Delta museum as a fundraiser.

Horton has lived in Tsawwassen for five years, where he moved to his "dream studio" after building his reputation in Steveston.

Aside from being commissioned by the Royal Canadian Navy to commemorate events and ships, he's gone overseas to do war sketches and paintings.

"I still go with the Navy," he says. "I went to the Arabian Gulf chasing Al-Qaeda with a paint brush."

In fact, Horton was one of the first "war artists" to go overseas after 9-11.

To see his work, visit www.johnhorton.ca.

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