Sunday, November 30, 2008

Musings from "The Rock": Exploring Newfoundland, Part 1

Dusk in Wesleyville, Newfoundland

"Do not go where the path  may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."~George Eliot

My second major journey of 2008 was to Newfoundland in September. My good friend Robert and I flew to Gander and spent the next two weeks exploring a large part of the northern portion of the province.

It was through the generosity of my Oakville, Ontario dealer Abbozzo Gallery and David Blackwood,  that I was able to travel to Newfoundland. David is Canada's most celebrated printmaker. His etchings and paintings positively glow with an almost ethereal light amidst a palette of warms and cools. You can click on David's name above to view his website. His work is exquisite in its depiction of the unique geography and his own personal connection with his home province of Newfoundland. I strongly encourage you to look at his work. You will not forget it.

My intent with traveling to Newfoundland was to shoot reference for an exhibition of paintings to take place in the fall of 2009 in Oakville at Abbozzo Gallery. We spent a total of two weeks in Newfoundland, covering huge distances and meeting many wonderful and unforgettable people along the way.

The road to Wesleyville

Every time someone who has visited Newfoundland speaks of it they almost become wistful, as though it holds a special place within their heart. I understand why that is now. The land seems to exist between two is so unique that Robert and I often felt as though we were in a different reality entirely. The province is huge, and we were under no illusions that we could breeze around the province within two weeks. Thus we stuck to the top half of the province and explored the northeastern section, over to Gros Morne National Park, up to Twillingate and Fogo Island in the north and then back to our home base of Wesleyville.

Sunset over Wesleyville 

The atmosphere is so acutely pure and unblemished in Newfoundland. Between the fresh air off of the taiga in Alaska and the clear skies of Newfoundland my lungs enjoyed a respite this year from the often smoggy air of Southwestern Ontario where I live. 

A view of Bennett's High Island off in the distance

Wesleyville is on the north eastern shores of Newfoundland and is a sweet little hamlet with about 1,500 residents in the summertime. David visits and works from time to time at the studio and a raft of other artists, writers and creative folk have darkened its doors over the years. I was quite honored to sign the little piece of illustration board that so many others had signed before me. Everyone from Farley Mowat to Rex Murphy had visited before us. We settled in quickly and set out first thing the next morning to explore Cape Freels, a beautiful area up the coast from Wesleyville.

 We really noticed the wind while in Newfoundland...throughout the day we were almost blown off of our feet periodically as we climbed hills and traversed Gros Morne and Fogo Island. When we visited Cape Freels the gales swept in off the water and made our walk a challenge. We saw little fishing boats out on the bay fishing for cod, the fishermen in yellow rain gear bouncing amid the sprays of water. They waved to us. It was the beginning of experiencing the terrific warmth of the people who call Newfoundland home. 

An abandoned lobster trap at Cape Freels

Kittiwakes searched for food ahead of us as we walked along the shores of the cape.

One of the many signs in Newfoundland that were bare...the atmosphere had long since obscured what had been written on it. This further  made me feel as though I was in another land altogether off the map.

"The Rock" in all of its splendor...gales, ocean, rolling crests of earth that seemed themselves to have been shaped by the very gusts coming in off of the water.

We came upon this little cemetery out at the end of the cape. The stones were propped up with pieces of wood to ballast them against the elements that continually push upon the land. We noticed that many of the people who had passed on died very young. Life would have been extremely difficult in times past and the mortality rate was very high. I remember seeing these stones and thinking that it was a beautiful final resting place for these people who had died so very long ago.

I loved the pattern of the blowing sand across the beach ahead of us. It was quite cold but we loved every moment of it.

The colour of the water struck me particularly on this day. It was almost purple, perhaps due to organic matter being churned up but I was not sure. Regardless, it had a beautiful weight to it, as though it was pushing against the sky with its inky hue.

I am drawn to photographing signs of places I pass through. I think that they reveal some of the nature of the place...a window into a bit of its personality perhaps. I liked the improvised "o" in this sign in Pound Cove. 

On our way back to Wesleyville from Cape Freels we stopped in Newtown, a cute little town with a gorgeous church defining its skyline. It was pretty quiet everywhere that we went in Newfoundland. People were out working and the activity of the summer months had died down substantially. Subsequently we really enjoyed the quiet, fresh air, smiles and waves of passersby and pristine views at every turn. 

Although I am a figurative artist and I usually paint people in my work, I did not want that to dictate what I would paint for this show. Thus I let myself be inspired by what I encountered, be it a beach, a berry picker by the road or the setting sun behind darkened hills that would end up on my canvases. 

A solitary little boat by the inlet on the way into Newtown. I loved the ochre colour of the fading grasses on the wane from the summer months.

You can see the beautiful church in Newtown behind this intriguing building built on this rock jutting out of the water. It seemed ready to collapse at any moment. 

A sweet little Newfoundlander puppy in Newtown. 

At the end of our first couple of days in Newfoundland Robert and I tried to absorb all of the unique character of this truly special part of Canada. I surge of patriotism for a place I was fortunate enough to call home welled up in me and I realized how lucky I was to be in a place of such simple beauty, such kindness offered whenever required, such endlessly changing skies and a quietness that helps stress melt away.  Paradoxically I was inspired and charged with an energy to get out and snap pictures of everything I saw. I took over 900 pictures in two weeks, and of those I will distill my reference down to about 15 paintings of very special places and people I met along the way. I will write more in the next "chapter" of my travels in Newfoundland soon. 

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."~Helen Keller

Here is some information on my solo exhibition in November 2009. If you have any questions please contact Abbozzo Gallery. You can see a selection of writings about these paintings on my other blog, 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,



Andrew said...

Another great blog..

Now how am i supposed to compete with those photos? :P

jason said...

Hi nice pictures, I am from Newtown and that is my brother's dog Angle.Funny what you can find on google :) Nice Pictures

Anonymous said...

nice pictures of newtown my home town the dog in the picture is mine her name is angel not angle like my bother inlaw wrote.

Heather Horton said...

Hello Andrew, Jason and Anonymous!

Andrew: Many thanks for such lovely words about my photography! If you are interested, I am going to be producing a book with Newfoundland photos and artwork in it next year or the year after..stay tuned :)

Jason and Anonymous: Angel was so sweet! She came out to us as we wandered around town...such a darlin disposition...of course lots of wind to blow her fur around!

Thanks for letting me know the connection. Have a beautiful day and be well... :)