He sees beauty in things some would say are old and need to be replaced. He studies every dent, rust mark, oil stain and scrape on his subject and creates watercolour paintings that convey the importance of these often ignored machines made for work. And it's that work, that willingness to keep going, despite the marks of life, that draws painter Frank Prowse to the waterfront again and again.
You may have seen him recently, paintbrush in hand, creating, while studying the huge ships that stop for loads of gravel in Sechelt's harbour.
"I think these big ships have more character. They've been around the world, been battered by storms. Cruise ships just aren't the same," says Prowse.
He's always been fascinated by ships and the time they spend on the sea.
In fact, he spent so much time sketching C-Span tug boats in North Vancouver that a captain of one of the tugs took Prowse out for a ride.
"After I'd done about 30 different paintings of tugs in North Vancouver, they finally took me out on one. I felt like I was 16 again and on my first train ride," says Prowse.
Prowse, who is nearly 80 years old, has created and sold dozens of his paintings featuring tugs and large ships. One shows a mighty tug battling white-capped waves while towing a broken tall ship to safety. The tug stands proudly in the forefront of the painting, scars and scrapes apparent, but unwavering in its duty to save the wooden ship from the heaving sea.
Prowse says he painted the dints, rust, wear and tear on the tug first, before completing the scene.
"There's just something about those marks that tell a story," he says.
Perhaps his insight has to do with his own marks of life, the events and circumstances that molded him into the avid painter he is today.
In his teens he spent time as a labourer in Vancouver before realizing he needed to pick a direction for his life.
"I thought there must be a better life for me out there somewhere," says Prowse.
He enrolled in the Vancouver School of Arts in the late 1940s and studied with some exceptional teachers, and he had a tendency to go out and try things on his own.
"I think you can learn a lot by yourself," he says.
After graduation, he took a job in an advertising department for Eatons to help support his wife and four children. From there he went on to the Vancouver Sun newsroom where he touched up photos by hand before they went to press. He then landed a job that seemed to fit him, working for a company that manufactured printing plates for magazines and newspapers. He quickly got comfortable, but 25 years later, when Prowse was around 60, he was forced to move out of that comfort level.
"There was a recession in Vancouver and a lot of us were laid off," says Prowse.
He took the opportunity to reevaluate his life and he saw the chance to get back to his first love, painting the sea and its vessels.
He had been sneaking to the sea on weekends to sketch and paint when he could, but now he had the opportunity to change his hobby into his career. He took an early retirement and became a regular on Vancouver's waterfronts.
His paintings were sold throughout the Lower Mainland and across Canada, in Switzerland, Germany and Colorado. He was happy creating what he wanted, when he wanted. The fact that other people wanted to buy his work was a bonus, he says.
Prowse wanted to settle in a home close to the shoreline. Nearly 12 years ago, he took a trip to the Sunshine Coast and found a rancher close to the ocean with space for an indoor workshop.
He still sells his work, though not as often as he used to, he says, simply because of the demands of marketing yourself in the art world.
But Prowse is a firm believer in continuing to paint just to keep busy.
"I'm sure you've seen those people who have nothing to do except watch TV. They go from one thing to the next without any satisfaction. I don't want to be like that," says Prowse.
He's starting to extend his artistic reach past the ocean and onto the land. You may see him with paintbrush in hand struggling to capture a llama's proud pose or a home's weathered lean.
But he'll always come back to the water.
"It's good to vary your work, but there's just something about those ships," he says.