Category Archives: Godfrey Stephens the artist

Book Launch of Wood Storms, Wild Canvas

“Weaving all these wonderful people into a warm blanket of appreciation, the memories of tonight should be something you would want to wrap yourself up in.  So set sail with your book, Godfrey, and please ride on the sea of your admirers, friends and family.  And may we help carry you to beyond the horizon beyond Godfrey’s navigation, beyond the now”

Above are words from the emcee of the evening: the enchanting Misty Britskaya, singer, rapper, artist, muse.  Below she is posing next to “Square Diamond.”  The long-awaited book was finally launched on the 75th Birthday of Uncle Godfrey at the historic Swans, owned by the University of Victoria with Victoria’s finest local art including Godfrey’s portrait of Michael Williams and the 11.5 tall Klukchitl red cedar abstract column.

Misty to crop

10 Times Chief (Nakapinkim) Tony Hunt, wore the ceremonial blanket weaved by his grandmother in the 1800s.  As a hereditary chief, Tony Hunt has only ever recognized two people as family in his big house in Fort Rupert.  One is Godfrey.  The two were regaled in these beautiful blankets (one of which has been photographed as the cover of a book).  The Chief then spoke at length of his admiration of Godfrey’s work and the frustration we fans have with Godfrey’s refusal to deal with galleries.  Chief Tony Hunt also spoke at length about how everywhere he travelled around the world, exhibiting his own art work, he got to see works of all the famous artists around the world.  He kept saying to himself, “My friend Godfrey’s better than that”. We all nodded. Yep…


unnamed(photos of Chief Tony Hunt and Godfrey by Aija Steele)

Robert Amos, writer and artist spoke next.  Robert Amos has probably published more articles about Godfrey than anyone else.  Check out his review He talked about finding more about this legendary artist when he moved to the West Coast.  One of Robert’s cousins had dropped out of school in back east and made it out to the Wild West Coast in the 1960s.  But guess what? Godfrey was already there.  As Robert famously has written, “Godfrey never dropped out, he was already out there”.

DSC_0498(from left Chief Tony Hunt, Robert Amos, Godfrey, Luis Merino)

Arran Stephens, my dad, read from the book.  His lines are beautiful, starting with the phrase, “When my brother Godfrey was made, the mould, like the clamshell he climbed out of, was broken.”

unnamed-4above left: Chief Tony Hunt, Godfrey and Arran


My parents Ratana and Arran with Chief Tony Hunt above.  Their generous support of me and this project made this book a reality.  Peter Grant gave the book lavish praise, making me feel honoured and a little bashful to have been able to tie it all together with such talented, accomplished individuals.

Gof alex arran megan aijaAbove: Arran, Godfrey, Alex Von Kleist, Megan Parris and Aija Steele.

Alex Von Kleist told a few stories about Godfrey whooshing into his life many summers ago.  Alex brought us into a scene when Bill Reid once spent about half an hour looking at a small yellow cedar Abstract of Godfrey’s and explaining it to him.  Masterful- as the abstract turned about its base, new images and hidden iconography were uncovered at every degree. Artist Luis Merino, whose portrait and words grace the book, said some delightful words in Spanish (does anyone know what cabron means?!).


Aija Steele is the main photographer of the book.  Aija came over from Duck Creek Galley on Salt Spring Island, where she sells her photography, enhanced prints and original Godfrey Stephens.  (The Square Diamond, a limited giclee reproduction in the photo with Misty is currently for sale).  She is standing with film-maker Peter Campbell, of Gumboot Productions below. Thanks again to Tessa Lloyd for this photo:

Tessa photo Peter and Aija

We missed several important peeps. Lloyd Kahn, writer, publisher, blogger and photographer extraordinaire inspired me to make this book.  Lloyd sent good wishes from California. Check out his review Also sorely missed were Elsie Johnson, Sarah Chritchley, Marial Shea, Jan Westendorp, Bruce Stotesbury, photographer Doug Van Sickle, Joe Martin the master canoe carver, and artist Tilikum Redding.  David Carey, who designed the beautiful cover and some book elements was there, listening to praise of his work.  Below I am next to there “Swamp Pookmis” painting, getting ready to give Godfrey a book.


Eventually, I presented Godfrey with a book.  He wasn’t allowed to even touch a copy of this book until his Birthday on Tuesday.  It was exciting and thrilling.  I’m totally relieved that it’s out and he can’t say anything about it!  (He wanted me to write the book in incomprehensible haikus and fill up every inch of white space with lots of random images of his work.  Of course I didn’t and didn’t want him to complain until it was too late.  I’m happy that it’s too late.)


Here is my dear friend Megan Parris, Godfrey’s wife.


I was thrilled by this delegation of Yorkies below and we signed a book for the school library.

Yorkies legs

Mariner and musician John Van Tamelin was also there, another legend.  Writer and Elephant Earth Initiative co-founder Dag Goering and film-maker Peter Campbell documented this historic event.  Can’t wait to see their respective photos and film!!!! Tessa Lloyd, Owen Matthews plus Victoria City Councillor Pam Madoff were there – Godfrey had done a stunning portrait of Pam’s late partner Nick Bawlf that I wanted to put in the book.  Sadly, it didn’t fit but it is masterful.  I met the writer and artist Philip Willey, a cool British cat who hitchhiked with Godfrey around the world.  Check out his review of the at Former Environment Minister David and Sandra Anderson attended as did singer-songwriter Kristin Sweetland.  Here she is with Misty and Godfrey behind the painting “Moss Street Nuvo.”

Kirsten and misty

Below I’m giving famous artist Joe David his copy of the book.  I wanted to include an early oil portrait of Joe that Godfrey did in the 70s or 80s but it didn’t photograph well enough to print in the book 😦


It would have gone perfectly with Joe’s beautiful words in Wood Storms, Wild Canvas: “Godfrey is one of my all time very favourite artists. And Godfrey is a true artist in every sense of the word and concept.  He is a cultural and national treasure and unfortunately not as many people know this as should.  But who are we to know the true workings of his soul, as it just might be that fame and fuss over him might spoil and alter his genius. ”

Godfrey signed dozens of books.  Here is a close-up of a book for his pal Douglas Henderson.  The next two photos by Tessa Lloyd:

Tessa photo Douglas Henerson Tessa photo Henderson


Writer and co-founder of the Elephant-Earth Initiative Maria Coffey gave us a beautiful reading.  She shared the enchanting words of missing mariner and dear friend Paul Clark.  They begin as follows “Godfrey’s muse is the sea, the silver thread where the ocean folds into the embrace of land.  Here every sense is engaged: light is refracted, atmosphere is ozone rich and the Voice is always beckoning.”


I want to thank my husband Pascal for everything.  I have been with him through thick and thin and up and down.  It is because of him and the life we have built that I am able to do all the things I do.  A year ago I could barely speak.  After two major surgeries and months of rehabilitation, I learned to walk, talk and write again.  Pascal is the lode-stone and the rebar in our home and I am blessed and grateful.  Here he is with Megan Parris and Chief Tony Hunt (photo by Tessa Lloyd).

Tessa photo Pascal Chief Megan

Here is the poster for a our first ever book-signing Saturday November 1st at Munro’s Books.


Thanks to Misty for the photos of me and Godfrey, to Diya for many of the other photos in this post, and to Tessa Lloyd and Aija Steele for letting me use some of their photos.  I’ve credited where possible!

Wood Storms, Wild Canvas

Wood Storms, Wild Canvas: The Art of Godfrey Stephens is my forth-coming book about to be released on October 28th, Godfrey’s 75th birthday.  I’m working on a second book project right now (details to follow in the New Year) and am so busy but so thrilled to share the Wood Storms, Wild Canvas cover and the press release with you all today.

final front cover

I feel a sense of accomplishment, having finished this book after being in full-time rehab from December 2013-May 2014.  (That’s a story I am not quite ready to share just yet.) Wood Storms, Wild Canvas has been so fun, informative and challenging on many levels. Most artists are complex people.  My Uncle Godfrey is even more so.  He’s an artist’s artist who refuses to sell to Galleries, has been called “Victoria’s Marco Polo” and our “West Coast Picasso”. The artist and writer Robert Amos says about Godfrey, “Uniquely at the nexus of many cultural influences, he ignores galleries and drives his admirers wild”.

Square Diamond (1)

Square Diamond, 2000. Mixed media on canvas, 3.5 feet square. Photo by Aija Steele.

Wood Storms, Wild Canvas so far has been met with universal enthusiasm in the book community. Distributors are clamouring to carry it.  Folks are emailing non-stop for a copy. Every bookstore approached has said a quick yes after a cursory look at the cover and flipping through a couple pages.  Almost everyone involved in the book has volunteered their time, photos and words as a labour of love to this gifted, convoluted and loving human being.  I am honoured to tie it all together.

Signing off to go work on my second book, but please read the Media release below to learn more.

Love to you all,


Cedar Columns yellow cedar with Godfrey

Godfrey looking at the Yellow Cedar Column, 1971. Yellow Cedar, 23 feet 6 inches tall.  Photo by Lloyd Kahn.


October 16, 2014 | Victoria BC

Lavish Art Book Celebrates Work of Iconic Victorian Artist Godfrey Stephens

Book Launch on Artist’s 75th Birthday

 Godfrey Stephens, best known for Tofino’s Weeping Cedar Woman and for the two huge wooden abstract columns in Victoria’s Times Colonist building, is finally honored with the first complete documentation of a remarkable life and oeuvre. Wood Storms, Wild Canvas: The Art of Godfrey Stephens highlights the artist’s famed sculpture, painting and wooden boat building.

The book is long-awaited in artistic and boat building communities. Chief Tony Hunt said it should have been made in the 1970s. Historian Peter Grant says, “Godfrey Stephens stamps his personality on every beautiful thing that his fertile genius produces. When you encounter one of his paintings or monumental abstract wood carvings or one of his junk rigged boats, you know who made it at once. All his work is unique, one of a kind. This book documents that genius for, incredibly, the first time.” Lloyd Kahn, author of Builders of the Pacific Coast, writes, “Godfrey’s life, his art, his friends, his deep understanding of First Nations people, his sailboats, his enthusiasm, his wild energy, his sense of humour, his continuing quest for adventure… it’s hard to describe this guy.” According to the artist and writer Robert Amos, “Godfrey Stephens is the genuine article, a lifelong artist on Canada’s West Coast. Uniquely at the nexus of many cultural influences, he ignores galleries and drives his admirers wild.”

An alder wood deco faced nude sculpture recently stolen out of Godfrey’s studio made front page headlines in July 2014. This artist’s artist has been also called ‘Victoria’s Marco Polo’ and ‘legendary.’ As a teenager Godfrey was mentored by and even lived with Kwaigulth TenTimes Chief Mungo Martin. The sculpture of Godfrey Stephens has long been recognized for its unique, compelling West Coast voice, grounded both in classical and modern occidental traditions in addition to First Nations form lines. Artist Luis Merino says that Godfrey “is an integral part of BC contemporary art history.” For the first time, Godfrey’s portraiture and complex paintings are highlighted in a book. With 237 photographs, over 50 of which are full page size, including dozens of extremely rare photographs, Wood Storms, Wild Canvas captures the essence of this complicated and gifted artist who has been called our very own West Coast Picasso.

The author is Godfrey’s niece, Gurdeep Stephens, a singer and writer who was born and raised in Vancouver and is now a resident of Victoria. The first book signing will take place on November 1st at Munro’s Books on Government Street in Victoria at 1 pm. Printed in Canada on FSC Certified Paper, with a pledge to plant a tree for every copy sold, the book will be available at select local bookstores and online through Amazon from October 28th 2014.  Read more at



Godfrey and Jazz

“Painting, I think it’s like jazz”

– Brian Eno

Uncle Godfrey loves jazz. I love jazz. He loved jazz first but not best and shared that love with me. In 1990, he made me a cassette tape of ‘Kind of Blue’ with a state of the art dual cassette recorder. This tape has travelled the world. When I lived in London, and inspired by Kind of Blue, I named one my jazz groups α- blue (alpha blue). We did vocalese (putting words onto instrumental jazz solos and then singing them note for note). α- blue also fused two disparate genres of improvised musics: early music and jazz music.


In honour of Victoria’s Annual Jazz Festival, here is one of my favourite paintings by Godfrey. A few years back this painting was turned into a poster for the Victoria Jazz Fest.

jazz taken by Gurdeep

The lines and colors scat, harmonize and improvise over the bass. Godfrey’s art is always born in and of loud blasting music, from the rhythms of Cuba, the chanting of First Nations or Turkish vocalists. If you haven’t seen this short video, do click on it. It shows Godfrey, the creative genius madly at work:

Me and the Avatar Dude

“Toruk Macto, I will fly with you”

– Avatar movie by James Cameron

me and avatar

I got to pose with the Avatar Dude (aka Lekshumy McLagan) and Katreena Weileby.  Uncle Godfrey snapped this photo of us.  The amazing Avatar look-alike made me feel about 3 feet tall!  He’s a vegan chef and was handing out cards for  A lady next to me said, “I want my husband to eat whatever he’s been eating!”  Thank you Toruk Macto  -I mean –  Lekshumy for spreading a message of hope and positivity!

Weeping Cedar Woman – Protest Piece

“To sin by silence, when they should protest, makes cowards of men.”

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox

My Uncle Godfrey carved this huge sculpture, called Kle Pil Kanimskit, or Weeping Cedar Woman around 1984 in Tofino. Her breasts are frogs and her tears spill in columns to the ground. One hand is raised in the universal gesture Stop. The other hand points down at the ground. Stop the destruction of the Earth she silently pleads, admonishes, reminds. The Weeping Cedar Woman stood in Tofino’s bay where a historic protest of thousands rallied to prevent the logging of Meares Island where some of BC’s oldest trees stand.

WCW IMG_7172

I posted a photo of this sculpture today in honour of the World’s first coordinated protest against GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), also known as the March Against Monsanto.

The deeperside blog aims to exemplify companies and systems and people doing the right thing. Standing up for our right to know what is in our food is not *just* the right thing to do…

It’s downright exemplary!

Uncle Godfrey’s Guernica

I wish everybody gets into the flow and lets their crazy out, like my Uncle Godfrey in this video.

Godfrey Stephens and his art are subjects worth several novels, art books, documentaries, exhibitions, videos, therapy sessions and blogs.  With all those pent-up words, I am paradoxically unsure of how to begin to describe him to you.  I think I wont try just now.   Uncle G has been an inspiration to me through his art- his paintings and sculpture speak volumes, whispering conundrums yelling outrages, and undulating beauty.  In an earlier post I mentioned having written a few unpublished books.   My most recent work-in-progress is a coffee table book about Godfrey’s art titled “Wood Storms and Raging Canvass”.

Keeping with the theme of this blog of inspiring change, Godfrey became a pacifist in his youth.  In recent years, he smashed and arc-welded hundreds of guns and swords into this amazing sculpture pictured below.  A work in progress, this huge piece changes radically every few months.  It is a peaceful protest piece, Godfrey’s equivalent to Picasso’s Guernica.  It wears several titles including “Nunka Mas”, “Never More War” and “The Anti-War Hole.”


May 2012 photo


This is how the sculpture looked like about a year ago. From a distance, you can make out the “Sisutil” or Sea Serpent in Chinook West Talk. Hidden on the other side, spiralling in a double helix is an ancient Greek dolphin.

Garth Woodworth

Photo of bent and smashed chains, guns, swords. Photo by Garth Woodworth

6 Guns garth woodworth

Close up of Nunka Mas, sprinkled with dew. Photo by Garth Woodworth

I remember that the original title of this piece was “Turning Swords into Ploughshares”.  May we turn weapons into art.  May those factories where bombs were built and now pesticides are produced be turned back into fallow fields, sown with organic nitrogen-fixing alfalfa, teeming with insects and birds.

Let’s transform.

Let us see infinitely peaceful possibilities.