Blakely Island: An artist’s inspiration

Seattle Pacific University student Emily McElheran speaks to how the natural beauty of Blakely Island is inspiring for her as an artist.

Emily, a Visual Communication and Illustration double major, went to Blakely Island with Dr. Langford’s Creation Care class in the Spring of 2024. While there, she was struck by the beauty of the island.

Sitting on Bald Bluff, looking out over the San Juan Islands, with sketchbook at the ready, Emily noted, “As an artist, I definitely feel like I can like engage with nature differently and I just, I see a lot of the details, I think.”

The view from Bald Bluff that inspired Emily McElheran. Photo: Hailey Hooper-Gray

The breathtaking landscape in front of her was more than just inspiration for Emily, it was a challenge: “I see all these different like lines or all these different patterns and I just immediately think of how I could create that.”

This stunning backdrop helped Emily intersect her faith and her art. She said, “It’s so insane the different like patterns that God can create and the different intricacies that nature has. It’s like a constant puzzle of like how I could get remotely close to recreating that beauty and like capturing that.”

When asked what her artist’s eye was most drawn to on Blakely, she said that the mountains drew her attention the most: “Specifically on Blakely I think I’ve noticed honestly like more of the mountains. In the heart of Seattle, every now and then you can see them if you’re like going across the Aurora bridge or every now and then but like here that’s kind of like any opening you get, that’s all you see.”

Emily McElheran stands on Bald Bluff. Photo: Hailey Hooper-Gray

Her time at SPU and experienced eye for art helped her to engage with this unique place in a way starkly different than the biology students who frequent the island. Still talking about the mountains, she said, “As far as you can see are all these different mountains and my brain then goes to like honestly to a color analysis of them. And then I’m like, how could I paint that? And I think of, ‘oh there’s a little bit of orange in here mixed in with that blue or there’s some yellow over there.’”

Emily sat looking out from the Bluff and commenting on it for only a moment before she put pen to paper and started sketching all that she saw.