Friday, May 7, 2010


The question is not what you look at, but what you see.
~Henry David Thoreau

"Clothesline", oil on canvas, 20"x20"

You may or may not have seen those commercials on television encouraging you to visit Newfoundland and Labrador. You know the ones...crashing waves, miles of pristine coastlines, and always a blowing clothesline or two? Well, let me tell you, that's EXACTLY what you find on The Rock. 360 degrees of unfiltered beauty.

As I explored the northeastern, north and northwestern areas of Newfoundland from Wesleyville to Rocky Harbour, I repeatedly came across clotheslines blowing fiercely in the wind. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the wind is always blowing there. Always. It is with you every step you take. I remember having to walk headlong into the gales in Gros Morne National coat flapping furiously. I swear they were 80km/h gusts. But this wind keeps the air so fresh, right off of the ocean, that you appreciate it as an intrinsic component of that special place, as necessary to its identity as partridgeberry jam.

After seeing a few clotheslines I became inspired to paint one. Yet I didn't want to approach the subject matter with a traditional composition of coastline and the clothes above. No I wanted to create almost an abstract piece. The shapes created by the clothes flying on the line intrigued me. I thought, what if I used the clothes as a horizon line? Perhaps people would look at this painting and not know what it was at first. Or perhaps they would. It didn't matter, because the fun is in not knowing how people will see a piece.

I can tell before I even start painting if I will like it. The composition is SO important, as important as any colour that you mix or how you apply the paint. Usually when we see clotheslines they are above our line of sight. Yet here I wanted to lower the subject, and thus emphasize the vast spaces of fresh wind and sky above. The skies are tumultuous and ever changing in Newfoundland, probably partially due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Yet on this day the sky was robin's egg blue, pale and constant with no clouds at all. I love painting chunky, threatening clouds, but clouds were not the subject here. The billow of the clothes, the play of fabrics as they whipped on the line was the focus. I loved that the wind filled the towels and clothes like invisible bodies, shapeless until they encountered one another, and just as quickly were gone, replaced by other gusts.

If you do visit Newfoundland and Labrador, you will undoubtedly come across clotheslines such as these. I can also guarantee that you will encounter gorgeous coastlines, purple-blue water, and perhaps a part of yourself that you never knew existed. You will certainly meet beautiful, authentic, windblown people who inhabit this truly unique corner of Canada. That's a promise.

The Canadians of those days, at least, possessed a roving spirit of adventure which carried them further, in exposure to hardship and danger, than ever the New England colonist went, and led them, though not to clear and colonize the wilderness, yet to range over it as coureurs de bois, or runners of the woods, or, as Hontan prefers to call them, coureurs de risques, runners of risks.
~Henry David Thoreau


Vern Schwarz said...

Heather, this brings back memories of my childhood. I found myself trying to identify what was hanging on the that just a bit odd?...ha! Interesting and beautiful piece that makes you wonder who this line belongs to.

jbkrost said...

This is really beautiful!!
what does the multi-colored lines with a line through them represent?

Unknown said...

Many thanks Vern, I always love reading your comments :)

JB: Thanks as well!! The multi-coloured lines with the line through them is my is HH but in different-coloured paint :)

Have a beautiful weekend both of you!! :)

Peter Brown said...

Heather, I'm becoming a frequent vistor to your blog, and often find my way here to revisit some of the posts and paintings I've already seen. I guess that tells you how much I admire your work! I love the freshness of your paintings and the diversity of your subject matter. The series of paintings inspired by the wanderings of Chris McCandless is especially interesting and stirs something in me which was roused when I saw the film based on his travels. Regards.

cynthia newberry martin said...

I love clotheslines, and I love your painting of this clothesline!

L.Holm said...

This is enchanting. I love the abstract nature of this very realistic piece. You have a unique vision, and great talent. Lovely work!

r garriott said...

Wonderful!! One really gets the sense of a billowing wind.