Seascapes and Landscapes
"Balancing Rock, Nova Scotia", 2019, 12" x 36" acrylic on gallery canvas (private collection)
Balancing Rock is a Nova Scotia coastal geological formation in Digby County. It’s a must-see attraction for visitors to this area of Nova Scotia and is located on the St. Mary’s Bay side of Long Island at the tip of Digby Neck. It’s a 9-metre high columnar stack of basalt rock that appears to be balancing although it’s narrowly attached to its base. Only by viewing it from water’s edge can you see half of it is actually attached. It’s thought to have been like this thousands, if not millions, of years. There are many such basalt formations along the coast of St. Mary’s Bay. Water erosion has caused many to tumble.
There are two islands at the tip of Digby Neck. The Bay of Fundy is on one side of the Neck and its two islands while St. Mary’s Bay is on the other side. Petit Passage separates Long Island from mainland Nova Scotia. The island is accessible by a short ferry ride. Grand Passage separates Long Island from Brier Island. It was Samuel de Champlain who named both of these passages between the Bay of Fundy and St. Mary’s Bay.
Balancing Rock can be seen from a viewing platform at the end of a 2.5 km trail that can be walked in just over an hour.
"Cold Winter Night", 2017, 8"x16" acrylics on canvas
Cold Winter Night began life as a potential throw-away in a loosening-up exercise. I put out a few colours appealing to my mood at the time, picked up a brush, and put paint to canvas – ready to accept what happened. It was play time. A background emerged. Cold Winter Night apparently came from a down and moody day.
The background done, where to go next? I kept it simple and a few non-descript trees did the trick. Painting something like this without concern for success and without planning a colour scheme releases me from bringing in the details I easily tend towards. There’s only the thought of playing. After Cold Winter Night, I made a commitment to do this more often. They don’t always turn out, but then, that’s not the purpose of the exercise.
"Until Tomorrow", 2019, 16"x20" oils on canvas
This is down at the wharf in Centreville on Digby Neck, Nova Scotia. I’ve visited this wharf since childhood. Doing this painting took me back to being a young Joy Graham, trailing after my father, brother, grandfather, and sometimes an uncle as we went down to the wharf just to see what was going on and who was there for a chat. The ready-made colour scheme attracted me with its juxtaposition of a turquoise boat and a rusty oil drum. Centreville wharf is on the Bay of Fundy at Trout Cove, named after the abundant Sea Trout in a salt water creek fed by the Bay of Fundy tides. A wharf of some kind has stood here since the late 1700s. Human activity led to the disappearance of the Sea Trout. Today, the creek barely flows inland at high tide. Centreville’s large triple-pier wharf used to enjoy a thriving fish processing plant – fresh, salt dried, and canned. Thomas Alfred Boutilier began the operation in 1896 with a few vessels running all sorts of goods back and forth across the Bay of Fundy between Centreville and Saint John, New Brunswick. Captain Robert Chesley Graham, an ancestor of mine, captained the S.S. Centreville out of this wharf.
"Autumn Splash" (after Lucy Manley), 2018, 18"x24" oils on canvas
Autumn Splash came from a day painting alla prima with Lucy Manley at a workshop through the Kawartha Arts Network. The day was intense and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was new to oils and not used to painting quickly to capture the look and feel of a scene. I really had to move along to keep up. I was happy with what I achieved and think I captured the feel of the scene in Lucy’s reference photo. Moving far out of my comfort zone was a healthy and rewarding experience, and one of my turning points.
Furnace Falls, Irondale River, 2016, 18"x24" acrylics on canvas
Where the Irondale River runs under Highway 503 in Haliburton County, there’s a small picnic rest stop area with a short path down to the river’s edge. Here, the small but dynamic Furnace Falls will fill your senses. The shallow falls cascade over a collection of large flat rocks. Despite the roar of the falls, there’s serenity and calmness in this place. An autumn day with its changing colours rewards you with a stunning vista if you look upstream from the falls to where the river sneaks around a sharp bend before approaching the rocks. The water tumbles gently into a pool where there is just one more large rock to navigate before the river calmly wends its way under the highway.
"Out of Petit Passage" 2017, 16"x20" acrylics on canvas
Petit Passage on Digby Neck, Nova Scotia – We wanted to do something special the day after my brother Bruce’s burial. A family member operated whale watching excursions out of Petit Passage with his converted lobster boat, so I booked a tour for my mother and me. I captured the tourists on board with us as they braced against the cold of the Atlantic Ocean on a warm August day. We had good fortune that day and saw a lot of Humpback whales. A lobster boat has low sides and sits low in the water. Imagine the experience when the boat rocked as a whale approached very close to us – the signal to head back in. Ever mindful of the regulations surrounding whale watching, we never approached the whales and kept our distance. They came to us – very close that day.
Mum had never been out to sea but finally got her sea legs. Yes, you can experience a sloshy feeling in your legs after being on the ocean in a fishing boat for several hours. Your legs seem to still be at sea for a while after you step back onto shore. We were only about 7 miles out in the Atlantic, but it was far enough for her!
Petit Passage flows between the Bay of Fundy and St. Mary’s Bay to separate Long Island from mainland Nova Scotia. Further down Digby Neck is Grand Passage between Long Island and Brier Island at the tip of the Neck. Samuel de Champlain named both passages.
"Into the Bush", 2018, 18"x24" acrylics on canvas
Portage Lake, Haliburton, Ontario – As we were leaving our cottage near Haliburton, this small cluster of dried russet leaves caught my eye. I have a habit of glancing into the bush as I’m getting into the car. On this day, I saw a painting and knelt in the snow to capture this view. A few twigs and branches rested atop the freshly fallen snow. I wanted to capture the beauty we frequently overlook in our quick glances at nature.
"The Woods" (after Joyce Washor), 2018, 5"x7" oils on canvas (private collection)
The idea of doing a small painting captured my imagination when I purchased a collection of small canvases and frames on sale at my favourite art supplier. With my career in full swing I wasn’t up to the challenge back then. I stashed them away, confident one day I would do something with them. The Woods was the first piece to rise from that box of small frames and canvases. The challenge in painting this small landscape was cropping the image without losing depth of scene and largeness of place.
After working with acrylics for so many years, I further challenged myself to do this small piece in oils after much encouragement and support from my friend Michèle D. Roussel. I had the pleasure of meeting Michèle at Robert Bateman’s 2016 course Passions and Practices in Haliburton. Michèle and I have become very good friends. We share and critique each other’s work and have stimulating conversations about art.
Photo: Robert Roaldi, https://robertroaldi.zenfolio.com/
Hillside Birches, 2018, 16"x20" acrylics on canvas (private collection)
This piece came out of a workshop with Cindy Allan through the Kawartha Arts Network. Cindy’s technique for painting these trees produced an interesting result. This piece was sold through a silent auction.
"Centreville Wharf Study", 2018, 4"x4" oils on canvas
4″ x 4″ study – I did this very small painting as a study for a piece in progress entitled Centreville Wharf, Nova Scotia. Several villages or towns in Nova Scotia are named Centreville. This particular one is a fishing village in Digby County where my family’s roots go back to 1782. I took my reference photo many years ago when the wharf was more active than it is today. The spit of land in the background is where they built the first lighthouse in the area, the subject of another painting in progress.
Workshop for Beginners - "Birch Trees", 8"x10" acrylic on canvas
This is a piece I like to use as an introduction to acrylics for absolute beginners. It takes three hours to complete and includes an introduction to the basics of painting in acrylic throughout the steps. It is suitable for adults and children. The workshops I’ve given over the past few years have been part of giving back to the community. Birch trees can be a very forgiving subject with their wonderful markings. It’s always a surprise to see the background, snow, and trees emerge as each participant expresses their individual look and feel for the scene. At the end of the workshop, everyone has an opportunity to view their painting in a frame that I bring along for this purpose. Other paintings done at beginner workshops include a mushroom study, a loose floral, woman wading at the seashore, and a barn study. Always a fun time.
"Forgotten Bucket", 2019, 10" x 10" acrylics
“Forgotten Bucket” (after R. Bradford Johnson) is a 10″ x 10″ piece. It emerged from a larger painting I was not pleased with in some spots. On a whim, I decided to try and salvage it as a smaller piece. As it turned out, the cropped image gave me a more pleasing painting than the full one ever did.