Artist captures spirit of HMCS Calgary

Artist Derek Rickwood signs a print of his HMCS Calgary painting at the ship’s Cowboy Up fundraiser on May 11. He is joined by Lt(N) Sonja Maul-Wilson (left) of Canadian Fleet Pacific and Elida Ninami.

Artist Derek Rickwood signs a print of his HMCS Calgary painting at the ship’s Cowboy Up fundraiser on May 11. He is joined by Lt(N) Sonja Maul-Wilson (left) of Canadian Fleet Pacific and Elida Ninami.

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Nanaimo-based artist Derek Rickwood has a strong attachment to his first commissioned painting for the Canadian Armed Forces.

When Rickwood began painting a rendering of HMCS Calgary in July 2018, he says the project was inspirational, but also tinged with sadness.

With every brush stroke he thought of his father, Warrant Officer (Retired) Ralph ‘Randy’ Rickwood who died in 2008.

“Painting this meant a lot to me because of my father and his own military service,” said Rickwood. “It wasn’t any ordinary commissioning to have worked on because this one involved an organization my father devoted his life to.”

His dad wasn’t only a career soldier, he was also a talented artist who passed his love of painting to his son.

Since 1986, Rickwood, 60, has done many commissioned paintings. The Calgary commissioned work was unveiled at Calgary’s Cowboy Up event in May to former Commanding Officer, Commander Blair Saltel. The 16” x 24” oil on canvas was a gift for him ahead of his June 3 Change of Command Ceremony. The painting will be hung in the cabin of current Calgary skipper, Commander Jonathan Kouwenberg.

“This painting to me represents everyone who has served in Calgary over the years and the community it represents,” said Cdr Saltel.  “This likeness of a modernized frigate as a work of art, made by hand, really represents the reverence for tradition and the necessity for technical skills a modern navy requires for success.  People connected with the ship, either past or present crew, can look at something that is aesthetically pleasing, but also take solace that it is their ship on the wall being depicted and celebrated.” 

In the painting, Calgary is portrayed sailing past Fisgard Lighthouse in Esquimalt Harbour. Rickwood used a mixture of oils consisting of Burnt Sienna, orange and yellows to create the impact of a clear sky at dawn.

Before beginning his project, he scoured through dozens of photographs of Calgary to create its likeness. He painstakingly researched the ship’s on-deck equipment to ensure authenticity, paying special attention to detail, including the impact of Calgary’s mid-life refit in 2012, which he says changed its silhouette.

He agreed to do the commissioning at a reduced rate when he was approached by Lt(N) Sonja Maul-Wilson, a representative from Maritime Forces Pacific. He also provided at half price the reprinting of 100 smaller-sized prints and 10 art quality bamboo prints to sell in Calgary’s canteen. Proceeds from the sales will go to a medical facility in the ship’s namesake city, The Foothills Medical Centre Burn Unit.

“This painting represents the enormous potential and drive that our junior leaders have. A capable, resourceful and creative Lieutenant(N) came up with this idea, ran with it, and it not only resulted in something so impressive, but now the navy has a new friend in Derek Rickwood,” said Cdr Saltel. “I hope that Derek will continue to remain connected with the navy family and that he continues to find inspiration, success and notoriety through working with us.”

Rickwood graduated from the University of Victoria with a degree in Fine Arts in 1990. He has been in the quality menswear industry for over 35 years including running a highly successful men’s retail store in downtown Nanaimo for over 11 years, and is currently a wardrobe consultant.

For more information about Rickwood and his work visit his website:

When Rickwood's painting of HMCS Calgary

When Rickwood’s painting of HMCS Calgary

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