Watercolors from Nova Scotia – Trip #1

One of the funny tricks my mind plays is confusing thinking through doing something versus actually doing it. Well, I swore I posted all my urban sketches and en plein air paintings, but I guess I didn’t! 

Lets start with a few from October, 2017. Around that time of year, I went to visit some family and Nova Scotia and took my painting supplies with me. I’ll likely do this from now on, since visiting Nova Scotia and not painting might as well be a crime…what a beautiful piece of Canada.

rock at prospect nova scotia watercolor painting
9″x12″. Watercolor on 140lbs watercolor rag paper. The ragged coastlines of Nova Scotia, featuring a prominent rock painted entirely on-location. The painting aims to be accurate while being loose and gestural. En plein air painting. ~2017

This is one of my favourite spots to revisit every year, and so I will leave it vague as to where it is. Only locals really know how to get there, and I think it should stay that way instead of being trampled by selfie-taking tourists. Not that there isn’t an abundance of landscape at any stop in the road, should you choose to paint yourself. Just this place in particular…is special. This painting was completed entirely on location in about 2-3 hours.

peggy's cove nova scotia watercolor painting by karolina szablewska en plein air painting

In Nova Scotia, much of the coast is rock with moss, algae, seaweed and tough plants that can tolerate the harsh, salty ocean winds. I love the uniqueness of this landscape, that it is all rock and no earth holding out the water. 

hirtle's beach watercolor painting by karolina szablewska en plein air painting
hirtle's beach watercolor painting by karolina szablewska en plein air painting
9″x12″. Watercolour on 140lbs watercolour rag paper. The ragged coastlines of Nova Scotia, featuring a prominent cliff painted entirely on-location. The painting uses loose, diagonal life to capture the texture of the cliff face. ~2017

Another painting completed entirely on-location, this one is at Hirtle’s Beach – a small beach at the bottom of a cliff only accessible by an hour’s hike and through a secret path. I painted this on top of a shady overlook facing the cove. The beach itself is accessible by a rope dangling off the side of the cliff, which I did not want to risk, given my leg situation and no one else being around besides Justin. We found this beach by hiking through the woods and through the help of some locals we greeted on the path. This was one of my favourite sketching trips of the last few years! It really felt like I was an explorer discovering a place unseen. I would like to come back one day, perhaps make something more elaborate.

ice on airplane window
Ice on plane window.
inktober teeming nova scotia watercolour sketch by karolina szablewska
5″x5″ watercolour and ink sketch on 140lb watercolour paper. Inktober Prompt for 2017 – Teeming, as in teeming with trees in the wilderness of Nova Scotia.

This is not created on-location, but I feel like including it in this post because I used another technique I often use for sketches – drawing from memory. Basically, I try see and memorize as much of the scene as I can, then draw it within the few following hours (while the memory of the lighting is still fresh, since that usually fades first). Much of the process is describing elements to myself, such as the S-curve of the river, colour gradient from left to right, number of lakes. I also make some decisions on how I plan to paint or draw the image; in this case, it was choosing the red pen and scribble technique instead of painting red trees everywhere in precise detail.

Bonus: I also made cinnamon buns on this trip. It was October, the house was pretty cold, but there was this strong sunlight like it was a normal summer day outside. If you’re wondering if it worked — yes, it did. You should try it, but you’ll probably have to watch out for curious animals.

cinnamon buns rising in the sun of Nova Scotia
Cinnamon Buns lounging in the sun.

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Watercolors from Nova Scotia by Karolina Szablewska

2 thoughts on “Watercolors from Nova Scotia – Trip #1”

  1. Hi Karolina,

    Very happy New Year and the best of health all year.

    Because you seem to like the East Coast and I diffenately understand why, I would like to mention I have a cabin on the coast in the Gaspe. Normally I rent it out in the high season but in the Fall the place sits empty and this is a pity. I would love to offer it to you for a week of painting in the off season in the future. Also I have another cabin in the Laurentians that could be available in exchange for some sores around the place. If you are interested let’s have a chat before the summer season.

  2. Hi Garth, happy new year! Thanks for such a great offer, I’ll definitely hold the thought for the future! I don’t really get out as much as I like, and most of the time I am travelling because of family.

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