Colorful buoys, rusted anchors and long coils of rope strewn hither and yon, and vibrantly painted sheds dotting the rugged shore of Westport on Brier Island, N.S., provide unmistakable signs that this place is a longtime fishing village. Situated as the westernmost part of Nova Scotia, this compact but charming island is just a modest drive (and two short and scenic ferry rides) from the much larger port of Digby, which is a little to the east up the the gorgeous Bay of Fundy coast. People routinely make the trek here for the beautiful coastal vistas, to go whale watching or just to meander to and through a quieter place and time.
When I first came across the geometric landscape paintings of Vancouver’s Elyse Dodge, the towering mountain images composed of colorful polygons brought to mind The Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. That song’s not-so-veiled allusions to psychedelic and kaleidoscopic visions seems fitting for the vibrant playfulness exhibited in Dodge’s art.
In an artist statement, she notes that her “work aims to capture the vibrant beauty of the landscapes that we call home. . . . The contrast between the crisp geometric lines of the mountains and organic textures of the trees has become my signature aesthetic. The polygonal shapes transform the peaks from being something that is recognizable as a mountain to a faceted, diamond-like form. These surreal scenes encourage the mind to imagine what an alternate and more vivid world could look like.”
Dodge’s work as a professional illustrator (you gotta pay the bills!) and the techniques she borrows from that undoubtedly informs her expressions as a fine artist and her deft manipulations of the iconic landscape of western Canada.
I love the compositional aesthetic of Dodge’s art, but even more I appreciate the deeper ideas about perception that she explores through her paintings. Her work is a wonderful example of how a talented artist can use her art to challenge us to see our world in a different way and conceive of possibilities we might not have considered otherwise.
(Image Credits: Elyse Dodge)
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In Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley wintery weather maintains its grip late into March as the province bounces back from the fierce winds and driving snow of this past week’s Noreaster. Although this old relic of a farm combine sits in a forlorn state shortly after the storm, it’s a beautiful piece of machinery with its pops of orange-red on the wheels and threshers contrasting nicely with the muted colors of the rest of the combine and the bleak surroundings.
Out in the country people work hard, and back in the proverbial good old days they worked even harder. Whether on a farm, a fishing village or in the forest, rural folk have always had to put their bodies and souls into their labors to eke out a living.
As these vintage postcards from the eastern parts of Canada attest they at least did so amidst beautiful settings.
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Aside from its overall weathered appearance and striking shades of blue, this barn stands out for its second-story house-style doors and its slightly asymmetrical design with an upper window thrown in for good measure.
“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
Evening Sunset, Phinney’s Cove, Nova Scotia
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore
Happy Canada Day!
As many know, throughout 2017 Canada has been marking its 150th anniversary as a confederation. Of course, the history of the country is much richer and extends more than twice as far into the past. More notably, in recent years Canada has truly shined as a stellar example on the world stage. Like any country, it has its issues but it generally gets a lot of things right and that resilient effort, its vibrant culture and its wonderful people deserve immense appreciation.
Best wishes on this day and in this year and for 150 more!
Marshes in the Minas Basin, Looking Toward Cape Blomidon, N.S.
Can Spring just come on and get here already?
“The progress of the intellect is to the clearer vision of causes, which neglects surface differences. To the poet, the philosopher, the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all [persons] divine.”
~~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Postmarked July 12, 1921 (Note Is Below)
Back in the day writing letters and cards was the routine thing to do if you wanted to stay in touch with distant friends and relatives. Picture postcards also allowed the recipient vicariously to experience what the sender did and saw. As suggested by the note below on one of these cards of British Columbia, the folks back at home expected a long form letter if possible and sending only a postcard from a trip was an occasion for an apology (being Canadians and all). 🙂
Note Side of Card Above of Gorge Bridge, Victoria, B.C.
Our fresh snow cover here this morning sent me looking for some wintery inspiration, which I happily found in the wistful watercolors of Saskatchewan artist Bob Pitzel. Pitzel’s art captures the stark and vanishing rural landscapes of western Canada, typified by imposing grain elevators, graying farmhouses and sheds that dot wide expanses of prairie, and weathered fences erected more as barriers against the elements than to fence in or out people or creatures.
While Pitzel’s subject matter ranges beyond winter settings, it struck me while surveying his masterful work that many of his scenes are rendered with the coldest of seasons as a central element. In the biography on his site, I love the ethos of humility, practicality and community that he expresses when noting that given the remoteness of rural life “we had to help ourselves out of the corners our inexperience got us into.” More broadly, the following observation by Pitzel suggests some further inspiration for the muted emotional feel and sense of isolation conveyed in much of his winter-themed art: “As the human race, we fool ourselves that we’re in control. But look at global warming, and history. At the end of the day, we’re only spectators.”
More about Pitzel and his wonderful watercolors can be found on his artist site here.
Katharine Burns, “Perfect Day”
Capturing in a painting the emotion of the coastal landscape is a tricky thing and something that Halifax-based artist, Katharine Burns, has managed to do perfectly. Inspired by the serenity of Nova Scotia’s beautiful shores (one of my favorite places!), she skillfully renders the movement of ocean waves, with varying shades of light dancing across the water’s constantly shifting surface beneath vast expanses of cloud-covered skies. This past August, Burns had her first (of what I’m sure will many other) well-deserved solo show, this one entitled “Sea Level” and held at Argyle Fine Art in Halifax, which showcased many of her seascapes.
On her artist site she notes: “Preparing for my first solo show was one of the hardest things I’ve done. For six months I went through periods of serious self doubt and frustration along with some moments of sudden realization and inspiration. It was a bit of a rollercoaster for me emotionally but I learned a lot and grew as an artist.” You have to root for that sort of spirit and candor!
In addition to Burns’ evocative seaside paintings, her other work is also terrific. I especially like the painterly style of her series of bicycle paintings, a few of which are below. More of her art can be seen on Burns’ artist site here.
[As an side, much like the Ian Tan Gallery on Canada’s West Coast, Argyle Fine Art on the East Coast has a stellar roster of emerging and established Canadian artists and both are among my favorite independent art galleries. As I’ve done with some Ian Tan Gallery artists, this is the first of several posts I’ll be doing on a few artists represented by Argyle whose work deserves greater attention.]
Katharine Burns, “Diffused Light”
Katharine Burns, “Glisten”
Katharine Burns, “Lawrencetown”
Katharine Burns, “Road Racer”
Katharine Burns, “Linus”
Katharine Burns, “Bicycle Series 2”
Katharine Burns, “Marginal Road”
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“I’m so glad you’re here . . .
It helps me realize how beautiful my world is.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Looking across the Harbour, Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C.
“I believe a leaf of grass is no less
than the journey-work of the stars . . . .”
~ Walt Whitman
Andrea Kastner, Progress (2014)
Andrea Kastner is an up-and-coming young painter whose art deals with what she calls the “sacred nature of rejected things” and the stories that underlie society’s no longer useful objects, structures and places. The scenes she paints are ones that are readily familiar in urban landscapes across Canada and the U.S., with the constancy of the old being torn down or pushed aside as detritus to make way for the new.
Kastner is originally from Montreal, studied art in New Brunswick and Alberta and until recently was based in Hamilton, Ontario. She is now located in the creative town of Iowa City, Iowa. More of Kastner’s terrific work can be seen at her artist website here.
Andrea Kastner, Noah’s Ark (2013)
Andrea Kastner, The One That Got Away (2013)
A. Kastner, The Inventory of Dreams (2014)
Blossoming Peach Grove, Wolfville, N.S.
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
~ William Butler Yeats
Moose River, Clementsport, N.S.
“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
David Pirrie, Mt. Phillips, BC Rockies (2016)
There’s a great deal of pleasure to be found studying maps, replete as they are with seemingly arcane symbols, dots, lines and grids awaiting patient deciphering. Among the fascinations of Vancouver-based artist David Pirrie is the iconography of maps and how they influence our sense of place, which he nicely explores in a wonderful series of paintings recently exhibited at Vancouver’s Ian Tan Gallery.
Pirrie’s paintings of Canada’s western landscape, particularly of mountains in the Alberta and British Columbia Rockies, are overlayed with mapping details and pastel hues that display a slight pop art sensibility that is both intriguing and pleasing. His having climbed many of these mountains adds an element of intimacy to his gorgeous representations of these majestic formations.
More of David Pirrie’s work can be seen at his website here.
David Pirrie, Mt. Assiniboine, Late Summer(2016)
David Pirrie, Columbia Icefield , 1/50,000 (2016)
David Pirrie, Mt. Edith Cavell (2016)
David Pirrie, Kates Needle, BC Coast (2013)
David Pirrie, Mt. Robson Ice Fall (2016)
Walter J. Phillips, York Boat on Lake Winnipeg (1930)
Walter Joseph Phillips is yet another unquestioned master of magnificent woodcut images of the Canadian landscape. He often printed his artwork in color inks rather than just black ink as used by many of his contemporaries working in the same medium. Although born in England, he settled in Canada as a youth and resided in Winnipeg, Manitoba for much of his life (the same place, coincidentally, chosen as a newfound home by another exceptional Canadian woodcut artist and fellow European immigrant, Eric Bregman). Phillips produced the bulk of his work from the late 1910s through the 1940s. In many of his images of the Canadian west he situated people within the scene, providing both a sense of scale and nice human emotional element.
Walter J. Phillips, Mount Cathedral & Mount Stephan (1928)
Walter J. Phillips, Lake of the Woods (1931)
Walter J. Phillips, Red River Jig (1931)
Walter J. Phillips, The Clothesline –Mamalilicoola (B.C.) (1930)
Walter J. Phillips, The Stump (1928)
Pathway Near the Earthworks, Fort Anne, Annapolis Royal, N.S.
“The present moment is the only moment available to us, and it is the door to all moments.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Hillside Cannon, Fort Anne, Annapolis Royal, N.S.
“The Dream Country” by Andre Philbert
It’s definitely heavy coat and neck scarf weather around here, as it is in many places this time of year, so thoughts of winter cold are unavoidable. This painting, “The Dream Country,” by Montreal artist, Andre Philbert, with its overwhelming shades of blue and houses set with jaunty rooflines perfectly captures the quiet chill of this time of year. More of Philbert’s deep-blue winter landscapes can be seen at the site for Toronto’s Liss Gallery.
Kejimkujik Seaside, near Liverpool, N.S., is wonderfully peaceful along the north Atlantic coast, a perfect place for quiet reflection and a sun-soaked nap upon its massive granite rocks.
Capstick, N.S. (from July 2015 Calendar, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation)
Occasionally, we all encounter people, situations and things that help to remind us what a small, interconnected world we live in. Yesterday, I had one of those moments when I received this very nice email about part of the property shown in this blog’s header photo of a weathered, wood-shingled barn situated on the Atlantic, which I took several years ago in Capstick, Nova Scotia, a remote and gorgeously beautiful area of Cape Breton:
I must say, very impressed that you would travel all the way up to Capstick, Nova Scotia to take wonderful pictures of that area. Ironically, the lead picture on your O’Canada website is of our family property. Every now and again I do a Google search of images on Capstick to see what pops up and your website did appear.
The picture of the grey home in your Blog called ‘Gentle Waves Near Capstick, Nova Scotia’ is actually my Uncle Peter’s home. Unfortunately, arsonists burned down that home about 3 years ago and my cousin had to go after them in court.
Each year the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation launches a calendar to raise money called ‘Shop 4 Charity Calendar Sweepstakes’. This year the calendar highlighted a picture representing each Province and Territory in Canada.
As I sat in my home office, the 2015 calendar was up on my cork board and when I flipped to the month of July the Province of Nova Scotia was represented by a picture.
See attached picture.[Note: This is the calendar image above and is of his family’s property. Click on it for higher resolution]
I grew up going to Capstick every summer in the 1970’s and visiting Uncle Peter and Aunt Irene Kanary in that grey home. Our home (the original home from 1914) was just above Uncle Peter’s home closer to the road but it was burned down about 10 years ago.
Our family settled in Capstick back in 1840 from Ireland during the Potato Famine. The community was basically two families, the Capsticks and the Kanary’s. Not sure why they got their name on the community. Must have been there first.
Thought you might find this little tidbit interesting about your own website.
What great history and connection to place. Nice to see that the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (and its photographer) also appreciate this scenery. I asked Dave’s permission to post his email here, to which he agreed and added by way of a P.S.:
“PS: You may find this interesting as well, take a look at the history on Google for Calamity Jane (Martha Jane Canary). According to my relatives she is a Kanary (or Canary if you will) from our clan. Some of my own relatives spell their name with a ‘C’ as evidenced by the tombstones in the Capstick graveyard located in Bay St. Lawrence, Cape Breton (about 10 mins away from Capstick).”
A. J. Casson, Rooftops
As the chill of wintry winds, snow and ice continues, a compilation of Canadian winterscapes by the Group of Seven artists seems in order. As always, the scenery by these talented artists is captivating! (Click on image to enlarge)
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