Paint Schoodic

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Nova Scotia is calling me

Heading to Nova Scotia to study watercolors with Poppy Balser, I found a good reference for choosing easels in my email.

Replacing a plank on the Stephen Taber, by Carol L. Douglas
I had time for a quick sketch of the Stephen Taber between returning from Northampton, MA and departing for Digby, Nova Scotia. At the shipyard, Captain John Foss suggested I look up a local specialty called a Digby Chick, which he said is a particularly potent kind of smoked herring. On the boat a Digby native told us there is no such thing. Who to believe? The Captain, of course.

We were queuing for the ferry, which crosses the Bay of Fundy to the Digby Gut and from there to the Annapolis Basin. I was driving Bobbi Heath’s new SUV, which has Massachusetts plates. That gave me carte blanche to drive very, very fast (or so I said). The open road, my paint kit, and new places along the hard, cold North Atlantic surf—this is an idyll.

The ferry dock at Digby, Nova Scotia
We’re in Digby to take a workshop from the superlative Canadian watercolorist Poppy Balser. From there, we’ll head north and around the Bay via Truro and Parrsboro. I haven’t been in this neck of the woods since my trans-Canada trip last October. It’s warmer now, and I’m rested. This area has the highest tides in the world, and I have the time and energy to paint them in each phase.

I am moderately competent at watercolor, but Poppy has a loose, lyrical style that I admire and want to understand. This is, of course, the end result of a highly accomplished technique. There are lots of things I want to learn from her, including how she paints her lively, moving water.

Angelique at the Dock, 2016, Poppy Balser. She did the sketch for this at Castine, on the day we shared a Scotch Egg on the landing. I left, and she bagged the boat. 
From the instructor side, I try to discourage buying stuff just for my class. I don’t like making people spend money. It’s been fun experiencing this from the student side, however. The impulse to have something new for the first day of school is strong.

So I invested in some beautiful, new, elegant Rosemary & Co. brushes. I justify this by telling myself that, unlike oil brushes, it’s hard to destroy watercolor brushes. Beyond that, my watercolor kit was pretty good, actually.

Everything I own for watercolor fits in a plastic laundry basket, in contrast to my oil painting supplies, which spill out of my studio into every corner of my house. At plein air events, I envy the watercolorists their efficiency. When it comes time to frame, however, they get their comeuppance, as they have to fiddle with glass, mats and tape.

We had time to race around St. John’s lovely old streets to seek out the commercial harbor. Our goal of finding a greasy takeout for the ferry, however, was foiled. “Opening maybe May 16,” the sign read.  Just like home.

As soon as Bobbi saw the commercial fleet at Digby she started wondering about property prices. It's beautiful.
We’re carrying four easels with us. One is a predecessor of the Mabef M32, and one is a Guerrilla Painter Flex Easel mounted on a Slik tripod. These are for our watercolors, because they have heads that can be set horizontal. If space had been a problem, we could have used either of them for oils as well. It was easier to just toss our regular kits in the car. In Bobbi’s case, that is an Open Box M; in mine it’s a pochade box I made.

I was contacted by a reader of my blog, Olivier Jennes, founder of WonderStreet. He asked me to look at an article they’d just published about easels. They’re in no way connected with the brands involved; they’re just passionate about art and design.

I’ve read their review, and think it’s worth passing along. If you’re thinking about buying a new easel, you can find the link here.


Annette Koziol said...

So exciting, your painting travels. I do have family there, of course. Let us know if you need anything. I love your blog and look forward to it. I feel transported just reading it. :) Have fun in Nova Scotia

Carol Douglas said...

Thank you, Annette!