The sketchbook of Métis artist Toe Fish chronicles a road trip across the country — in watercolours

Toe Fish and his partner left Toronto last year to return to his hometown in B.C. and reconnect with nature.

Toe Fish and his partner left Toronto last year to return to his hometown in B.C. and reconnect with nature

Watercolour of Ontario's Pic Island Lookout in Toe Fish's cross-country sketchbook. (Joshua LeClerc/CBC Arts)

What can you learn about an artist from paging through their sketchbooks? See the rough drafts, tossed-off ideas and intimate musings of some of Canada's most interesting artists in our self-shot series Sketchbook.

Hometown: Fort St John, B.C.

Current location: Charlie Lake, B.C.

Primary art medium: Acrylic on wood

Something unusual from your sketchbook: Line drawings that my partner and I collaborate on; using different colours and perspectives to convey separate ideas, resulting in a chaotic but cohesive image

Tool of choice for sketchbook: Paint markers, watercolour 

Three words to describe your art: Intuitive, eclectic, upcycled 

Fun factoid about you or your art: My first solo show was compiled entirely of materials found within a ten-block radius of both our Toronto home and the exhibit

Strangest place you have used your sketchbook:  The edge of a precarious cliff, held together by only tree roots and moss, in pursuit of the perfect vantage point

A watercolour of chokecherries in Winnipeg from Toe Fish's cross-country sketchbook. (Joshua LeClerc/CBC Arts)

Métis artist Joshua LeClerc donned his artist name "Toe Fish" in a romantic fashion. He and his partner got matching tattoos of fish on their toes ... and thus, the name "Toe Fish" was born.

During the early stages of the pandemic, Toe Fish was living in Toronto — a city that obviously isn't known for having an abundance of nature. He was feeling the effects and decided it was best to return back to his hometown in BC. So he and his partner road-tripped across the country, and he managed to document the various landscapes they passed through via watercolour drawings in his sketchbook. 

"It was kinda my first time doing any open air landscape painting, my first time kinda using watercolours as well.... I was just feeling so grateful to have done this cross-Canada trip in such a hard year for so many of us. It was amazing to get back out in nature and just, I feel like I learned a lot from this experience."

A forest in British Columbia from Toe Fish's cross-country watercolour sketchbook. (Joshua LeClerc/CBC Arts)

Toe Fish's art practice is a wholesome and genuine experience. As he describes it, "My work is a combination of my environmentalism, my beliefs, and my mental health. My art tends to reflect the different regions and landscapes I find myself in, and the consequent emotions those places evoke."

As for his goal for the near future? "Learning more about my role as an ally and an educator alongside our indigenous communities, and finding responsible ways to portray it in my art, is my top priority."

Follow Toe Fish's work here.


As a young child, March Mercanti would play with his action figures for countless hours because he was obsessed with telling himself. Currently, March is a filmmaker living in Toronto, ON. He works at CBC Arts creating documentaries for artists across Canada.

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