Hello and Welcome Friends,

William H. Hays  July 2009The Artist's Loft logoThe Artist's Loft logo
volume 8 number 6

I'm going to start right in this month with some painting that I've done these past few weeks. Then I'm going to follow up with a little travelogue of our mini-vacation to Brier Island, Nova Scotia.

The first painting leaves off from last month's newsletter. You might recall that I included a picture of my studio in Nova Scotia? There was a painting on the easel that I was working on. So here's the finished product.

Peaceful Shoreline     "Peaceful Shoreline" Oil on Canvas 18" x 24"

Anyone from the area will say, "That's Carters Beach, right?" And sure enough, it is based on Carters Beach. But the composition is something I worked up using elements of paintings that I've done before of the place. I like the tone of it. It was a difficult painting to do.

Next, I'll show you another repainting. As you know by now, I will come back to a painting not infrequently and rework it. Sometimes Patricia will say, "Why are you working on that one. It looks fine!" My most frequent answer is, "I want it to be more." What else can I say?

Glistening Coast before    Glistening Coast, after

"Glistening Coast" Oil on Canvas 18" x 24", before    "Glistening Coast" Oil on Canvas 18" x 24", after

The idea here was to lessen the reflection on the water and focus the light. As well, I wanted to change the tone of the seaweed in the foreground, greener. Almost the entire painting was addressed at one time or another to change the balance in service to making less of the reflection more intense, increasing the brilliance of the light by contrast.

The last painting leads into the travelogue to follow. It is an image of a notch along the coastline of Brier Island. The rock is columnar basalt and a spring has, over the years, caused to line of stone to collapse into the sea in a steep notch.

Brier Island Notch     "Brier Island Notch" Oil on Canvas 24" x 18"

So that takes me to our mini-vacation. We went from Liverpool to Brier Island, at the end of Digby Neck, the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. It's about a four hour drive with two ferries for island hopping to the end. Along the way we drove from one side of the peninsula of Nova Scotia to the other through mixed hardwood and Boreal forests. At one point there was some road construction and we had to wait a while. While sitting there, watching the clouds on this clear day I noticed and photographed a wonderful cloud formation that I think you'll enjoy too:

lenticular cloud

This is a lenticular cloud on top of a cummulous cloud. The upwelling of warm air from the land causes a rising cummulous cloud that collides with a colder layer of air sitting on top. The sheering winds at the meeting place of the two differing temperatures causes the sideways, lense shaped cloud on top.

Nova Scotia Map

Going out to the end of Digby Neck, we took a short ferry ride to Long Island. On the south shore of Long Island there is St. Marys Bay and the basalt geology has left us a wonderful rock formation that is worth seeing. Balancing Rock is at roadside pullout with a trail of about half a mile through bogs and light forest. The island weather is harsh and the trees don't grow very high. At the end of the well maintained trail there are 235 steps that lead down the cliffside to the destination.

lenticular cloud

The stairs are a considerable accomplishment of hauling in materials and engineering in response to a very irregular and steep rock face. As I said before, the rocks are basalt, rapidly cooled lava. As the lava cools, it contracts and the fractures that result create columns in generally six sided shapes. You can see a couple of large column tops just beyond the stairs. It can make for a very imposingly steep cliff.

Anyway, Balancing Rock in Nova Scotia is a single column of rock, about 30" in diameter and about 18 feet high that is very precariously perched on top of a platform. It is rather startling to see as it looks like a delicate balance, indeed.

Balancing Rock, Nova Scotia

So we continued on to Brier Island from Long Island. Along the way we stopped in at a little wharf at Whale's Cove. There we met a jolly fellow artist (Stephen Kuzma) who also summers in Nova Scotia and his friend , both from New York City. There are many little wharfs along the coast and typically, like this one, they have very few boats.

Patricia at Whale's Cove     Patricia at Whale's Cove, Long Island, Nova Scotia

When we arrived at Brier Island, it was early evening and we made a brief wrong turn out to a point of land looking over to Peters Island and the lighthouse that sits on it. Finding ourselves in a beautiful spot, we sat and watched the birds and the water for a while.

Peters Island Lighthouse, Nova Scotia     Peters Island Lighthouse, Nova Scotia

Peters Island is an outcropping of rock between Long Island and Brier Island. Between the islands flow the massive tides that alternately fill and empty the Bay of Fundy. Although the bay is known for its very high tides (as much as 55 feet - 17 meters) here, the tides are much more modest, 10-12 feet. But the flow of water in this narrow between the islands is fast and furious. On a fast-flowing river, you might expect to see rapids. But on the ocean, they are more rare. Here are some of the waves that result from the rushing tidal currents:

Tidal Waves     Tidal waves

Before the sunset I went for a walk along the north shore of the small island - it is about four miles long and one mile wide. There is where I found the notch in the coastline that I painted above.

Brier Island, Nova Scotia     North coastline of Brier Island, Nova Scotia

Along the way I noticed some seals that were pulling out onto some barely submerged rocks catching the last rays of the sun. I sat and watched them for half an hour or so, listening to their grunting and watching them constantly repositioning themselves on the rocks. One was up on his back, flippers waving lazily in the air.

seals, Nova Scotia

The next morning I went out early to the far end of the island and walked around the shore along several miles of trails. The shoreline is rugged and somewhat difficult walking, lots of stones. Lining the end of a small cove, there was a sandy beach littered with jasper stones and behind it, a fresh water pond. Along the edge of the pond were fields of grasses that were waving in the perpetual wind. The blushing purple heads of the grasses were beautiful in the morning sun.

seals, Nova Scotia

After having breakfast and getting our stuff together, we went into the little town of Westport and arranged to go out on a whale watch. We had some time to kill so I took a couple of pictures that show the waterfront and illustrate how the tides affect it.

seals, Nova Scotia

seals, Nova Scotia

The whale watch is always something to look forward to. Just getting out in a boat on the water is good enough. Seeing whales, and very close at that, makes for a special day. The skies were clear and the seas were calm. We headed out a couple of miles off shore to an area where the bottom drops off into the trough of the Bay of Fundy. Here the upwelling of currents creates a concentration of krill, plankton and small fish that the whales love. And sure enough, there they were.

First we saw a smaller Minke whale. Then we came upon a pair of Humpback whales. They are magnificent. Their dark gray hulks broke the surface in low arcs, preceded with a burst of water going 15-20 feet high into the air as they exhaled. We watched them for 20 minutes or so and then headed off to the next pair that had been already identified by another boat.

This second pair was feeding and their behavior was very different. They came up to the surface after an extended, deep dive and rested there, spouting and taking in fresh air.

Humpback whales, Nova Scotia

After refreshing themselves for a few minutes, they would take in a nice big breath of air, then arch their backs (humpback, right?) and dive with a slow motion flourish of their huge tails. The whales were about 45 feet long, about the same length as the boat in the pictures below. The enormity of their bodies coupled with the exceptionally graceful motions was enough to cause repeated, collective gasps and squeals of delight from the people on the boat(s). The most frequent word heard? - "Wow!" Being on the ocean and rocking back and forth with the waves, I didn't attempt to take too many pictures. But I think you'll like these:

Humpback whales, Nova Scotia

Humpback whales, Nova Scotia

So now you don't need to ask me what we did on our summer vacation! It was brief, but full of memorable things we saw and did. I hope you enjoyed my sharing this with you. I look forward to hearing from you.


William H. Hays

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