In the summer of 2018, I was contacted by the Foundation office at NSCC. They were looking for potential work and being a proud alumna I was happy to meet with them. Upon that initial meeting I didn’t quite grasp the scope of the project I was about to take on.
It turned into and remains one of my most fond experiences as an artist thus far.
The Foundation was wrapping up their Make Way Campaign, an endeavour to raise $25 million in financial aid for students. The campaign was blown out of the park totalling over a whopping $33 million. They were looking for a meaningful way to thank their donors and campuses for such a success.
They proposed an art gift; a series of 13 paintings to represent each campus across the province as well as one final provincial painting. The paintings would then be hung in each campus and reproduced into art prints to gift to the donors. I won’t lie, the idea of multiple large scale paintings was terrifying to me. But I knew the opportunity was too good to pass up. I took the job.
I started with research, and what better way to research communities across Nova Scotia than by asking Nova Scotians themselves. I reached out on social media, listing each campus region. I asked folks to respond with local icons, historic aspects, etc. Any defining features of each town and surrounding area. And boy, did Nova Scotia deliver. We maritimers are proud of our home.
I then took to the drawing board. With the help of the Foundation team, we selected various icons from each community that would work best artistically and representationally. I sketched these in collage-style layouts (similar to my sketch-blogs) and sent them off for review.
Once we were happy with the rough sketches, I began painting. Each piece was 3′ x 5′. Since most of my work is in black and white, we agreed to keep the paintings that way. A sort of pen & ink painting, if you will. I worked with acrylic.
My workspace wasn’t set up for large scale painting, so I worked from the dining room. I didn’t even own an easel, so I used two stools from our kitchen island. I eventually borrowed one from my best friend, which made life much easier.
I worked on the paintings in sets of five. The first set was the hardest, as I was still figuring things out. As time went on, the work became easier and faster. I enjoyed it, especially once I was into a good flow. Getting lost in each element, figuring out values and depth using only black and white was both a blessing and a curse. I have never been overly comfortable with colour, but it was a challenge to portray certain elements with only black paint. The lessons learned along the way were invaluable.
Once the 13 campus paintings were complete I took on the final larger piece, a provincial painting. We chose elements from each region to paint around a map of NS. I embellished it with floral elements to fill in the outline.
Since this piece was bigger and painted in a different layout, the white space was striking, making it stand out among the rest. This was definitely one of my favourites. The final piece now hangs in the presidents office at the IT Campus in Halifax.
With the paintings complete and submitted, I had no idea that the best was yet to come. In the following Spring, the Foundation held events across the province to celebrate the success of the campaign. Each event was held at the associated campus. A slew of great speeches and thank yous, good food, and company. I had the honour to attend each one, and unveil my paintings.
The events made for a great excuse to play tourist in my own province. I was especially tickled each time we would pass a landmark I had painted and not yet seen in person.
My favourite part? The love and passion for this province was undeniable in everyone I encountered. NSCC does amazing things for our little corner of the world, and it’s clear that they are dedicated to their students and the prosperity of Nova Scotia. I am forever grateful for not only the amazing portfolio addition, but for the opportunity to experience my home in a way I hadn’t before.