Skip to content

Nanaimo artist splashes vibrant colours across Pacific Rim Whale Festival

Denny Provost’s brilliantly designed whale tail will cover Ucluelet and Tofino over next 2 weeks
This gorgeous design featuring a grey whale’s tail through sensationally captivating colours by Nanaimo artist Denny Provost earned the top spot in the Pacific Rim Whale Festival’s poster design competition

A Nanaimo artist didn’t let being colour-blind stop him from splashing an uplifting, vibrant wave over the West Coast’s venerable Pacific Rim Whale Festival.

Denny Provost was unveiled as the festival’s poster artist last month and his brilliantly designed whale tail depiction will cover the West Coast over the next two weeks as the festival fills the peninsula with educational and entertaining delight.

“I was just thrilled,” Provost told the Westerly News on hearing his art had been chosen by the whale festival society. “We were just thrilled to get the opportunity to showcase my art and get it out there to another place.”

The festival’s board of directors were equally thrilled with Provost’s artistic vision for the festival, which will celebrate its 36th appearance on the West Coast from March 16-24.

In a media release announcing Provost as the design contest’s winner, festival coordinator Sarah Watt beamed over the artist’s effectiveness at “capturing the essence of the festival.”

“Denny’s artwork serves as a profound visual tribute, meticulously crafted to honour not only the Grey Whale but also the awe-inspiring natural surroundings that characterize Clayoquot and Barkley Sound,” Watt said.

The announcement adds that posters featuring Provost’s art will be available for purchase throughout the festival and the original painting will be auctioned off as a fundraiser.

“I am thrilled to present this year’s art poster, which is sure to brighten up any space! As a colour-blind artist, I have chosen a unique concept that will stand out and captivate viewers,” Provost said. “This poster captures the essence of the gray whale in its natural habitat, with colours that represent the vibrant world of marine life. I hope this art piece inspires you to explore and respect the natural world around us, and to appreciate the true beauty of ocean life.”

Provost explained to the Westerly that he is currently taking his second crack at a full-time artist career, after diving back into his passion two years ago after spending the past decade building houses.

“This is our second year in business so we’ve been putting our art out to as many places as we can,” he said, adding his partner Agnes Provost keeps a keen eye on any potential opportunities to shoot for.

“My partner finds all kinds of opportunities for us all the time, which is really helpful because, as an artist, I’m always kind of focused on the art. I’m in the studio painting a lot and I don’t get to research as much.”

He said he had never put an entry into the Whale Fest poster competition and looked to put together a creative take inspired by past winning designs.

“I was trying to come up with something new,” he said. “I wanted to use different elements of design. I’ve been using some shading for the classical elements and I’ve been using lines and measurements for more of an abstract element and then I’ve been putting in a lot of spray paint and splatter paint as another element of different languages to paint with on the same painting.”

Provost explained he is Metis and passionate about math and tried to combine those two elements within his work.

“I put it all together and tried to come up with something that’s unique, colourful, fun, uplifting and positive,” he said.”I feel like I have a little bit of an Indigenous feel with the sharpness and the colour and the lines.”

He added he appreciates painting within specific constraints for contests as they help his creative mind focus.

“Being a fulltime artist, sometimes I have too many ideas and I kind of want to paint a million different things all at once, so that narrows it down quite a bit and gives you more of a perspective to narrow down what you’re thinking,” he said.

Provost is red-green colour blind, but has managed to turn that into a strength rather than a deterrent to his art.

“I think I just see colour in a different way than other people see colour. I see, kind of, how the colour is made versus what the overall colour is,” he said, acknowledging he has trouble with certain blues, purples, yellows and greens.

“Sometimes I mix things up, but when I’m mixing it myself, I find it a lot better…I can start from the bases. I can start from just red, blue and yellow and work from there, rather than try to decipher what one specific colour is. That’s why I like working with abstract a lot too because it allows me to go outside of reality a little bit and, kind of, just imagine a new reality.”

Provost took his first shot as a professional artist when he was about 28 years old.

“For a few years I tried to squeak out a little living in Ontario doing the same thing, applying to different contests and shows and going to festivals and doing that art thing,” he said, adding he then spent about a decade building houses before taking another crack at his passion.

“I’d always loved it. This is what I want to be doing, so I just took another leap.”

He added he and Agnes moved to Vancouver Island from Ontario about six months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We just packed up everything and drove out,” he said, adding Nanaimo offers a central connection to the Island’s many artistic opportunities.

“There’s lots of opportunity here and art is something that’s coming back into appreciation…It’s definitely become more accepted and now we just have to get the general population onboard with supporting it more and more,” he said.

“It kind of got taken out of schools a bit and I want it to be a profession. I want people to be able to do this as a job, so that’s kind of why I’m just sticking it out.”

He is stoked on how many local, national and international eyes will gaze upon his work during the festival, which attracts a large number of tourists to the region.

“It’s huge,” he said. “We really appreciate it…We couldn’t be happier about it.”

He said he and Agnes will experience the festival for the first time this year, though they have enjoyed visiting the region before.

“We just fell in love with the whole area. It’s just beautiful,” he said.

“The landscapes are great. I’d like to spend more time there. It’s one of my favourite places to go.”

The Pacific Rim Whale Festival was launched as a non-profit society more than 35 years ago as an effort from concerned citizens to raise awareness of the West Coast’s ecosystem as well as the endangered grey whale population.

“The festival, much like the Grey Whale population, has grown throughout the years and now celebrates the yearly migration of roughly 14,500+ Grey Whales as they pass by our shorelines on their way from Mexico to their summer feeding grounds in Alaska,” the announcement reads. “The festival features a variety of fun and educational events for the whole family including in-person and online events.”

Anyone looking for more information about the festival is encouraged to visit and those interested in learning more about Provost and his art can visit

Don’t miss out on reading the latest local, provincial and national news. Join our community and receive daily news alerts & breaking news, right to your inbox.

READ MORE: Behest of the West: Get yourself a button and go

READ MORE: VIDEO: Pacific Rim Whale Festival kicks off with parade in Tofino

READ MORE: Tofino gallery hosts West Coast Visions exhibit

Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
Read more