Capturing “Mouth of the Courtenay River”

Capturing the view of “Mouth of the Courtenay River” at the K’ómoks Estuary, on Vancouver Island


Hughes’ painting studio at Shawnigan Lake

The windows of Hughes’ painting studio at Shawnigan Lake, filmed by Emily Robertson


Hughes biographer Robert Amos

Hughes biographer Robert Amos painting in his art studio


Art historian Ian Thom

Art historian Ian Thom discusses curating the 2003 Hughes exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery


“Abandoned Village, Rivers Inlet”

Ian Thom and DP Vince Arvidson look at “Abandoned Village, Rivers Inlet”


“Steamer Arriving at Nanaimo” at Heffel Gallery

Robert Heffel with “Steamer Arriving at Nanaimo” at Heffel Gallery


Painting detail

Detail from “Three Tugboats, Nanaimo Harbour”


Archivist Lara Wilson

Archivist Lara Wilson in the Special Collections Library at the University of Victoria


Examining original Hughes sketches

Hughes biographer Robert Amos and archivist Lara Wilson examine original Hughes sketches


Hughes thumbnail sketch, 1940s

Detail of a Hughes thumbnail sketch, made in Nanaimo Harbour in the 1940s


Creating a Hughes war art exhibit

The creation of a Hughes war art exhibit, filmed by Milena Salazar at the Seaforth Armoury


A Hughes view in Courtenay

Painter Lucy Schappy with the Hughes image that matches the view from her art studio


A Hughes view in K’ómoks / Comox

Artist Andy Everson with a Hughes image depicting the ancestral lands of the K’ómoks First Nation

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How did a painter who was too shy to go to his own exhibitions become one of the most successful artists in Canada?

Working alone in his quiet studio on Vancouver Island, over the course of his 70-year career, E.J. Hughes made hundreds of paintings and drawings of British Columbia, vividly capturing the province from the West Coast to the Rockies, from the 1930s to the 2000s. His colourful and charmingly detailed landscapes evoke shared memories and captivate art collectors of all stripes.

Described by some as a reclusive, sensitive soul, Hughes’ future as an artist was far from certain when he graduated from art school in Vancouver during The Depression. He was attempting to earn some income gill net fishing when he made a tiny sketch of the coastal scene before him. Sixty-five years later, he would see the oil painting of that sketch, “Fish Boats, Rivers Inlet” auctioned for a million dollars.

A beloved local character on Vancouver Island, Hughes was also one of Canada’s most prolific war artists: applying his fine draftsmanship to the task of recording army life during WW2 and profoundly changing his artistic voice in the process.

Travel through painted landscapes, through history and through B.C. communities then and now, following the twists and turns of the ordinary, extraordinary life of painter E.J. Hughes.

Writer & Director:
Jenn Strom
Kevin Eastwood

Commissioned by:
Knowledge Network

Production Company:
Optic Nerve Films