Monday, August 4, 2014

Road Trip Report: Miramichi and St Andrews, New Brunswick

Ritchie Wharf, Miramichi NB
I apologize for my long absence since the Castine Plein Air Festival, but I have been on the road, teaching workshops.  If you're not from New Brunswick, Canada, you may not have heard of Miramichi. It is about two hours north of the provincial capital of Fredericton.  A group called the Miramichi Art Core, which consists of mostly studio painters, contacted me to see if I would visit and give their plein air painting efforts a jump-start.  Always an evangelist for outdoor painting, I jumped at the offer.

 I'd never been to that part of the province; most of my travels have taken me along the coast.  After two ferry rides, I finally reached the mainland and took a less-traveled route due north (785) to Fredericton through fifty monotonous miles broken only by the occasional logging road.  (It's not a place I'd want to travel at dusk or in the dark; I imagined vast herds of moose roaming dangerously across the road.)  This dullness was broken, however, when I began to get fleeting glimpses of a brook with sandy banks.  It was quite pretty, and I began to think of painting the picturesque.

After Fredericton, it was another two hours to my destination through little river villages along Route 8, which follows the Miramichi River and offers some lovely vistas. The landscape opens up near the town of Miramichi and is filled with rolling hills.  Miramichi didn't exist as a municipality until about 15 years ago, when the twin river communities of Newcastle and Chatham joined.  Prior to that, over two hundred years ago, Newcastle was settled by the Scots and, on the other side of the river and a little downstream, Chatham, by the Irish.  These two mill towns had their differences, both political and religious - the Scots were Protestant and the Irish, Catholic - but they laid these aside for their mutual benefit.  Once surrounded by farms now mostly gone, Miramichi has lately recognized the importance of culture and tourism along its beautiful river, and so groups like Miramichi Art Core have sprung up.

The group's home base is the Ritchie Wharf, which was home to a thriving shipbuilding and salmon fishing industry.  Today, it is one of the town's many public parks and offers river tour boats, a playground, snack bars, coffee shops and gift stores as well as the Miramichi Art Core's gallery.  The gallery is a quaint, two-story building that's a perfect space for showcasing the group's art.

Painting at Ritchie Wharf; Miramichi Art Core Gallery has the yellow doors
View of the Trestle Bridge, 9x12 pastel

Miramichi River and Clouds (oil demonstration) 9x12
This workshop was only for two days, but we covered a lot of material, and now the group is ready for their plein air festival, which is scheduled for August 23-24. I always enjoy giving groups a hand in learning about plein air painting.  If you think your group would be interested, please contact me.  By the way, I also teach custom studio classes; some topics might be color usage, composition and design, or plein air sketch-to-studio.  I do plan my schedule over a year in advance, and I'm already booking for 2015 and 2016, so don't delay!

Pendlebury Lighthouse, St  Andrews NB
 St Andrews is always a treat.  I've been teaching my plein air painting workshop there for several years.  Immediately after my Miramichi workshop, I drove the four hours back to the coast.  St Andrews, a historic resort village, sits on a peninsula at the mouth of the St Croix River, and has restaurants, galleries and shops, whale watch tours and options for lodging.  There's also a new gallery in town, Symbiosis Fine Art, which I'm proud to be part of.  Besides my paintings, it also offers fine jewelry made by friend, Matt Watkins.  (It's right next to the best coffee shop in town, Honeybeans.)

Pottery Cove, 9x12 pastel

Painting at Pottery Cove, St Andrews



Here, I teach for Sunbury Shores Art & Nature Centre.  The building recently underwent a huge renovation, and I was pleased to see how much light now fills the space.  They have truly maximized their view of the river.  They also expanded their print shop, run by master printmaker Robert Van de Peer, and spiffed up my classroom.  The Centre also houses a gallery, and currently on display is a show of instructor work.  I have a piece in it, as well.  The show runs until August 20.

My painting is in the gold frame, just to the right of the large painting.
This time around, my students in St Andrews were mostly local.  (In the past, I've had students from  as far as Calgary and Ottawa.)  Despite the ongoing early morning fog and persistent daytime haze, we had a great time painting the misty Maritimes.  Views of the town wharf and Pottery Cove are some of my favorites.  It was a busy weekend, what with Monday being New Brunswick Day and a holiday. The town had lots of events going on.

Summer in St Andrews, 9x12 oil (painting knife demonstration)
Now I'm back on Campobello Island and preparing to teach another workshop at my home, Friar's Bay Studio Gallery.  I'm ready to be home now for a few weeks - but it won't be long before I'll be flying out to the Grand Canyon for the Celebration of Art plein air painting event!

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