During a visit to Vancouver Island's China Beach in 1983, Barbara Howard encountered the carcass of a beached whale. Her attention was caught by the plight of the great whales in our time, and for nearly a decade she devoted herself to learning about them and trying to convey their mystery and grandeur.
In his essay Encounters and Recollections in the Art of Barbara Howard and Richard Outram, the poet and critic Jeffery Donaldson writes: "For the most part, these are portraits of the mammals in something like their private element. Their appearances are brief, ecstatic revelations, fortuitous glimpses, sudden soundings. They seem to break forth abruptly from their solitude and then slip away as quickly again.”
Some of these paintings are as much as sixteen feet (5 metres) across. The largest canvases have never been publicly exhibited and those images have been left uncropped in order to give a sense of their size.