Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Glorious Gros Morne: Musings on Newfoundland, Part 4

"When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence." ~Ansel Adams

This is my fourth entry about the powerful and gorgeous province of Newfoundland in Canada. I am not surprised. After taking over 900 pictures in two weeks, after being swept up in its magic, how could I not write about it over the course of a month and a half?

By the way, here is the official Newfoundland and Labrador website. Just like everyone must get to the Grand Canyon once in their lifetime, everyone should experience Newfoundland and Labrador as well.

When I last wrote about Newfoundland, we were exploring Gros Morne National Park. After our hike on the Green Gardens trail in the park we decided to book a boat tour of Western Brook Pond. We had heard that the boat tour of the fjord was breathtaking and thus trekked out to jump on board.
It was cold and foggy as we hiked out along a meandering boardwalk that cut a line through unique marshland and bog, wetland that is ubiquitous in Newfoundland. We soon realized that the low lying clouds would prevent a full view of the splendor of the cliffs in the fjord and decided to abandon our boat tour in hopes that the following day would have clearer skies.

Here is the view from our walk along the 3km trail to the base of the pond where the boats leave from. Each boat holds about 70 people so we knew that we would have to arrive early the next day to assure ourselves a spot on board.

The clouds dissipated as we took another hike along one of the coastal trails of the park. We were impressed with the lack of refuse, lack of people and lack of intrusive, every day thoughts that pervade the mind on a day to day basis. It was as though the wind swept out all of our stress and cares about life back in Ontario for a brief time.

On our return visit we were met with a spectacular view of the fjord beyond the dock where the boats embarked from. While we waited little whiskey jacks landed on my hand as I held out some crumbs for them. They entertained those of us waiting, many Ontarians were there, along with some British Columbians and a smattering of American folk too. We knew we were in for a special experience. The tour we took was via Bon Tours.

The entire tour took about an hour and a half. Our tour guide grew up scaling the hills and cliffs of Western Brook Pond and thus had a particular attachment and knowledge of its unique history. The lake is 16kms long with an average depth of 165 m! Apparently as high as the cliffs tower above the lake they correspondingly sink to that depth below the water level.

One of the handful of waterfalls that we saw as we traveled further down the lake.

This shot gives you a good idea of the scale of the cliffs. That small dot is the sister boat to ours that toured the lake. I had never seen cliffs rise so immediately out of water before. It is a very unique place as well from a geological perspective. These cliffs are estimated to be over 1 billion years old!

Almost at the terminus of the lake at this point. We passed Pissing Mare Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in North America!

At the end of the lake two hikers jumped out quickly with lots of gear, big smiles and waved to us as they quickly left the tiny dock and headed out into the bush. These hikers have special permits given to them as they embark on a 9 day traverse of the peaks and valleys of the park. I was envious!!

On our way back to the dock clouds settled in and provided a very moody atmosphere for the remainder of the voyage.

We were so thankful to have been able to see Western Brook Pond. I will never forget it.

We did another side trip up to Norris Point, another charming little village in Gros Morne. Everywhere we went the rocks seemed to be looming down on us, petrified and forever peering at us.

As we prepared to leave Rocky Harbour I shot this picture of another quirky sign. I loved the signs in Newfoundland..many blank, many with makeshift letters. It was as special as any mountain. It is a part of that place that makes it singularly unforgettable.

I love Wesleyville's sign with its coat of arms. I believe all of the villages in New-Wes-Valley had the same coat of arms.

Back in Wesleyville and before our departure for Twillingate in the Northern area of Newfoundland another storm was rolling in. I loved the threatening clouds that made for some great reference shots.

I plan on doing a self-portrait from my time in Newfoundland. This shot will not be the basis of the painting, but something along the same lines. By this time I was feeling as though the roots of the province were settling into my bones, the quietness everywhere was seeping into my heart and mind, freeing it from worry. I knew that although I paint people usually, that the paintings to come from Newfoundland would be special, each one. I knew that each painting would be a portrait in its own right, whether it be a kind local or the house up the hill. Besides, it is the mood, the message, the impression that one can glean for oneself that makes each painting unique.

I have heard that as an artist you should not spread yourself too thin by painting too many different types of subject matter, that people should recognize your work by what you paint. I disagree. I think it is HOW you paint that distinguishes an artist's work. It is the technique and the original impetus behind the piece, the emotion and composition that frame the subject matter that distinguish it as your own.

Stay tuned. I will be writing about Twillingate and posting pictures from Twillingate and Fogo Island next week. Thank-you for reading and feel free to email me with any questions you might have about my work or anything else for that matter. Be well and have a wonderful day!

"Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind."~Seneca

Here is some information on my solo exhibition in November 2009. If you have any questions please contact Abbozzo Gallery.
Newfoundland Portraits
November 5-22nd, 2009
Abbozzo Gallery, Oakville, Ontario
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm

Have a wonderful day and take good care,


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Priceless Gift

"Nations will rise and fall. Wars will be lost and won. Lives will begin and end, but a true friend is eternal." ~Jon Koroluk

Happy Holidays to you!

No matter what your faith, if any, I wanted to wish you all the best and I hope that the coming year brings you much joy and fulfillment.

Ok, I must wax sentimental here for a moment. At this time of year when we gather together from far away or even next door from one another, we usually exchange gifts. It is a custom and it is wonderful to share things with one another but honestly, to be together and to have our health is the greatest gift of all. I guess I'm being quite George Bailey about all of this but it is true: hold close to you not the present that is given but the person giving it . THERE is the real gift.

I have a small immediate family. I am an only child so it is VERY small...but we are large in gratitude for the fact that we are all together. So often illness or a sudden flux in life jars us back to appreciating the very things that we sometimes take for granted: friends, family and our health. We are having a very small and humble Christmas, which is just fine by us. We have many years of great memories of large gaggles of kids and parents gathered around a turkey that seemed to strain the legs of the dining room table. Well, times change and given that I am vegan now there's Tofurkey instead of turkey and no leaves are added to our table as our family is rather far flung geographically. However, misting over with nostalgia can be counterproductive. I look to the present....to what is here and now, WHO is here and now...and appreciate every second with them.

Take some time over the holidays to reflect on the year that is almost over. What have you accomplished or hoped to accomplish? What dreams have become reality? Which ones continue to elude you and how can you make them happen? This past year was a watershed one for me. I have traveled and experienced so much, made amazing friends which I will have for the rest of my life and grown as an artist through these experiences. I have realized how full the world is, in every sense of the word. I realize that anything is attainable with enough hard work and the belief in yourself to buoy you along. Yet all we need is right beside us too, with friends and family that stand by us in the hard times. Truly, these are the best gifts of all.

I urge you to cherish your time with friends and loved ones this holiday season. Rejoice that you are together! If you are not together, for whatever reason, rest in the hope that you will see them soon and hold them tightly in your heart. If they are far away there is always Skype to bridge the gap.

With Joy!


"What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life-to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories."~George Eliot

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Glorious Gros Morne: Musings on Newfoundland, Part 3

Sitting on the beach at Green Gardens, Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

"Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart 
give yourself to it."~Buddha

After a six hour drive across the top of Newfoundland we made it to Gros Morne National Park. It had a topography unlike anywhere else I had traveled in Newfoundland. Large cliffs rose almost vertically out of the grey waters, the wind continued to blow me about and of course I loved every minute of it.

Flags at Lobster Cove Head in Gros Morne National Park

The eastern portion of Newfoundland had a different feel to it and possessed different landscapes than we had encountered previously. Here in Gros Morne the land rose up to meet you, it had trails that beckoned you to follow them, and we followed many of them. 

Looking out across Bonne Bay Towards Lookout Hills

Sitting for a moment at Lobster Cove Head

Gros Morne is a geologist's paradise. There are all sorts of rare rock formations there, some found nowhere else on earth. 
We were giddy to explore the park and stayed a total of five days in the park hiking and taking it all in. The weather held up very well for us. The wind of course was ever-present but we had a lovely, moody grey atmosphere for most of our time there, which suited me fine. The mood in and around Gros Morne seemed almost primordial to me...like nature had shrouded the land in secrets, good secrets, secrets that when discovered opened up my eyes to this wild corner of Canada that is simply, Newfoundland.

There was a small trail that wound around Lobster Cove Head where we found an assortment of unique rock formations and these beautifully coloured fronds of kelp and other marine vegetation.

On our way to Green Gardens across the park. This is the little village of Shoal Brook

I loved seeing the far off hills that seemed to be propping up the clouds

For one of our longer hikes we headed to the south side of the park to Green Gardens. The hike is about 16 km in a loop but there had been some flooding so it was impossible to do the entire loop. Thus we went as far as we could and then doubled back. The wind!!! We were almost parallel to the ground as we fought our way across the bleak landscape towards the refuge of the valleys in front of us. It was such a gale in fact that we debated doing the hike...it was then that we saw some other intrepid hikers donning their gear and starting the hike that we thought..."If they can do it...so can we!" There were not many people around which was nice...we basically had the whole trail to ourselves except for the intrepid hikers in front of us and some lovely people from the Gaspé area that we met on the beach. The picture below doesn't capture it well but the winds were the fiercest I had ever encountered. I had to tie my gear to myself lest it and I both be blown down the mountain.

Soon our car was a tiny dot as we ascended the trail.

The sun emerged as the clouds dissipated and the view was marvelous

The hiking was great. Lots of mud and fun slipping around whilst grabbing onto trees for stability. We really did not know what to expect ahead of us as we weaved our way through the trees and spongy earth underneath our feet. And then, suddenly...there was the water through a break in the trees.
This scene reminded me of Cornwall in England...lots of craggy beauty and clear blue water.

This is a tuckamore...they are spruce trees that have a stunted growth habit as a result of constantly being sprayed with salt water from the ocean. 

We couldn't wait to get down to the water and walk around the beach. All the while during my time in Newfoundland I was trying to do a few things: enjoy the experience unfettered by any expectations of what I would paint following the journey, seek interesting reference for paintings and to simply interact as authentically as possible with this exquisite coastal province.

I tried to assuage any feelings of expectation within myself to do only portraits of people. Instead, I approached people when I found them but I simply took every day as it came...if I met people, wonderful. If not, that was fine. You can paint a portrait of a landscape. It has just as much character and just as many stories to tell as any lines on a person's face. Every painting is a portrait when you think about it. A mountain has just as many expressions as a loved one's face...its just a matter of looking at it differently and removing preconceived notions of what constitutes a countenance. 

The beach at Green Gardens

The water was frigid so we poked around on the beach for awhile and then made our way back up the muddy slopes through the spruce trees to where we found a gaggle of park workers taking a quick break from maintaining the trail that we had scrambled up. I give those guys a lot of credit...that would be hard work. They were full of happiness and good natured. They even let me snap a quick shot of them.

I love the ubiquitous galoshes that you see all over Newfoundland

With the sun out you can really see the lovely ochre colour of the land in this area of the park. We did not hike the Tablelands but will save that trek for another adventure to the park. I loved the rolling hills and blue blue water....almost purple at times. 

The road away from Green Gardens and back towards Rocky Harbour, our home base during our stay in Gros Morne

We hiked back to the car and set back out on the road towards Western Brook Pond where we had heard that the boat tour of the fjord there is unsurpassed. I will blog about our adventures at Western Brook Pond and the rest of Newfoundland  in a couple of days. 

I know that so much of our planet has been explored....some argue that all but some of the deepest abysses in the ocean have been poked and prodded by human beings. Even so, in times and places such as here in Newfoundland and up in Alaska it gladdens my heart to see few footsteps, and those that I have seen are carefully placed for the most part; they are conscientious and respectful. These paths are walked by the inquisitive, the peripatetic, the patient and above all the Present. 

"One must know oneself. If this does not serve to discover truth, it at least serves as a rule of life and there is nothing better."~Blaise Pascal

Here is some information on my solo exhibition in November 2009. If you have any questions please contact Abbozzo Gallery. You can read about some of the paintings that I have created for the Newfoundland exhibition on my other blog, Heather Horton Artwork

Newfoundland Portraits
November 5-22nd, 2009
Abbozzo Gallery, Oakville, Ontario
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm

Have a wonderful day and take good care,


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Musings from "The Rock": Exploring Newfoundland, Part 2

"O lands! O all so dear to me-what you are, I become part of that, whatever it is."
~Walt Whitman

On the first Sunday that we were in Newfoundland Robert and I decided to drive across the entire province to Gros Morne National Park. Initially it wasn't on our itinerary but we were compelled to go from what we had seen and heard about it. We knew that there was a remarkable tour of the fjord as well as hiking the many trails accessible within the park. We also planned to loop back along the northern coast of Newfoundland to visit Twillingate and Fogo Island as well.
Sunset over Wesleyville. Another day in paradise.

Newfoundland has hardly any police or traffic in general. We saw not one police cruiser checking for speeders or driving around IN TWO WEEKS. It was quite unbelievable. We did see one though so we knew that they were in the province somewhere! Plentiful was the wind, clean air and unspoiled views. 

Before we went to Gros Morne however we spent a few days exploring the nearby towns of Greenspond and Newtown. 

We saw many flag poles like this flapping furiously in the wind. This is at Greenspond

We took an amazing hike in Greenspond which has been hiked for over a century if memory serves. Greenspond takes its name from two of the original families to live in the area, the Greens and the Ponds. We took to its quaint charm immediately. Our hike took us over rocks to a boardwalk which petered out to a well trodden path that formed a big loop. Similar to Alaska, the lack of pollution provides a crisp view of what is on the horizon. Rob thought something was wrong with his eyes as he was not accustomed to seeing so far, so well.

I was struck with the beautiful colours in Newfoundland. Perhaps it was the light hitting or simply psychosomatic but whatever the reason I found the clarity and colours of everything around me richer, more acute, and this resonated deeply with me as an artist in particular. I kept a detailed list of potential paintings that I would do as we traveled; meticulously went through all of my photographs each night to determine potentially viable images and noted them accordingly. By the time we left I had about 27 ideas that I was satisfied with. From those I aim to do at least 15 good paintings. 

The beginning of the great walking/hiking trail in Greenspond

Our attention was captured just as much by the smallest beauty as any grand ocean swell.

It was lovely to look out and see simply beauty and no large buildings anywhere!

We saw many people picking berries to make cloudberry, partridgeberry, blueberry and marshberry jam. It was great to snack and hike at the same time!

The lighthouse which stands atop Bennett's High Island. We watched its beacon every evening from the studio across the bay.

Back in Wesleyville, Jim and Cyril, two of David's childhood friends gave us a tour of the small island that dot the bay around Wesleyville. I instantly adored these two guys. They were the salt of the earth and only too happy to show us around in Cyril's hardy Sea Runner. It was wonderful to see the studio and shoreline from the water and to amble around Bennett's High Island and Swain's Island nearby. 

Swain's Island. Once populated by 400 of the most resolute souls imaginable, now it is is quiet, with a small cemetery that documents the often too short lives of the people who once lived there. 

Worlds colliding: Cyril on his cellphone. 

As soon as I met Cyril I knew I had to paint him. That hat! You simply cannot meet someone with a great hat like that and not paint them. Cyril was benevolent, humble and so kind to us. Jim too was so thoughtful, informative about the local history and gave us the best jar of  homemade blueberry jam we had ever had! Look for portraits of these two extraordinary guys at my exhibition next autumn at Abbozzo Gallery.

Robert and I took a walk up through Wesleyville as the sun went down, always on the lookout for shots for paintings. Everywhere you turned there was a picture waiting to be taken. Above, the view towards one end of town across the cemetery. We were standing up near the large watertower in Wesleyville that can be seen from miles away.

The water tower in Wesleyville

New-Wes-Valley is a relatively recent name that encompasses about four small towns in this area of Newfoundland. I believe Brookfield, Greenspond, Wesleyville are among those considered a part of New-Wes-Valley.

I think that I will stretch my experience in Newfoundland into four posts so that I can share even more pictures with you. 

As the sun set on another beautiful day on The Rock we were excited to begin our journey to Gros Morne, all the while appreciating the unique character and geology of the little towns dotting the Northeastern side of the island. Wherever you are in Newfoundland, you are where you need to be, away from the hustle and bustle, re-examining your mind and motivations for why and how you live. I was at peace in Newfoundland, of that I am sure. At peace and motivated to recapture a bit of the magic that I felt there with my work. Stay tuned.

Sunset over Wesleyville after another idyllic day.

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks"
~John Muir

Here is some information on my solo exhibition in November 2009. If you have any questions please contact Abbozzo Gallery. You can read about some of the paintings I have created for this exhibition on my other blot, here

Newfoundland Portraits
November 5-22nd, 2009
Abbozzo Gallery, Oakville, Ontario
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm

Have a wonderful day and take good care,