Archive for the ‘Newfoundland 2011’ Category

More from Newfoundland


by Barry Coombs
gouache on paper

We’re home from our summer wanderings. After the workshop ended, we had several days to enjoy Newfoundland. Our first priority was to visit Duntara and the Yellow House that was home for us in June of 2011. I started my series of gouaches in Duntara.

Duntara is now on the cultural map of Canada. Our friend, Catherine Beaudette, has opened Two Rooms, a charming space which combines contemporary art with displays of traditional artifacts.

Catherine Beaudette and Myself in Two Rooms

Keels is just down the road from Duntara. No single photo can do justice to this scenic outport. Keels was our favourite sketching spot last year and it was great to be back.

On the way back to the Sherwood Suites and Motel in Port Rexton, we stopped in for pizza at the Bonavista Social Club in Upper Amherst Cove. The Club wasn’t open yet last summer so this was our first visit.  We were overwhelmed with not only the delicious and fairly-priced food but the friendly, welcoming atmosphere. I can’t recommend it highly enough.


Our ferry was cancelled and we had to drive across the island, approximately 600 km, to the other departure point at Port-aux-Basques. Our setback did have a silver lining, though. We visited Gros Morne National Park and it is truly spectacular. That’s the Lobster Cove Head  Lighthouse above.

Below is the view from the deck of the Cat Stop Pub in Norris Point. The Cat Stop is currently my favourite pub in the entire world. Quidi Vidi beer on tap and weather-watching at it’s finest. Life is good.

We made it all the way across the island and didn’t hit a moose; no mean feat in Newfoundland. They’re here in numbers, as the evidence suggests.

Thanks for following. Fall term starts soon in my Toronto studio. Check out the calendar and join me.



Bayview Watercolour Society Demo


Tony Cook, Me, Julie Junger, Lizbeth Rodger

Last night, I gave a demonstration to the Bayview Watercolour Society. Lizbeth Rodger is the current President, Julie Junger is the Workshop Co-ordinator and Tony Cook, who I’ve known for several years, gave me a lift to the venue.

I prepared a half-sheet of Curry’s 200 lb. cold press paper ahead of time with a preliminary wash and the drawing. My theme was a Newfoundland fishing village and I approached it from a ‘cubist’ point of view. Actually, multiple points of view are a key element of the cubist philosophy and I enjoyed fragmenting and re-arranging my village. My reference material was from my summer sketchbook and my memory.

I didn’t expect to finish the piece over the course of the evening but, as soon as I get back from Italy, I will. I concentrated on the boat. It took a while for it to become visible to the audience.

While painting, I talked about my interest in Cubism and about brush-handling, colour and the techniques I employ.

When I got home last night, I stared at the watercolour for an hour, glass of red wine in hand, and I’m already itching to work on it. Once completed, I’ll post the final result.

The demonstration was well-attended and I appreciated the good questions and enthusiasm of the group. The BWS uses a camera and screen, rather than an overhead mirror, and the cameraman handled this tricky job very well. Thanks, everyone.

Grand Manan Island – Parting Shots


Cheney Cottage

We’re back home from Grand Manan. As usual, we enjoyed every minute of our stay on this spectacular island. Our home for three weeks was the Cheney Cottage, just outside of North Head. If you’d like to stay here sometime, call Holly at the Surfside Motel.

The Netmaker's Yard

This might seem like an odd subject for a sketch, especially when the island offers so many inspiring spots to paint. Here are just a few of them…

Seal Cove

Southern Head Light

Ingall's Head

Ross Island Light

Swallowtail Light

You can see what I mean. Next year, I’ll be back to teach another plein air workshop from July 29 – August 5. There’s a spot for you.

My calendar of 2012 plein air painting holidays will be updated soon. In addition to Grand Manan, New Brunswick, I’ll be returning to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and Charlevoix, Quebec. My new destination will be the beautiful Trinity Bight, Newfoundland. Stay tuned for dates and details.

Final Days in Newfoundland



This is a view of Duntara, the village we stayed in for the month of June. The crooked white shed is evidence of last autumn’s visit by Hurricane Igor. Igor did a lot of damage in Newfoundland and Duntara, hit hard, was cut off for several days.

We stayed in the provincial capital of St. John’s for a few nights. St. John’s is one of the oldest cities in North America. It’s sheltered harbour is accessed through the Narrows. The whole city is overlooked by Signal Hill where Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic wireless signal in 1901. There’s a great hiking trail in St. John’s. We walked along the edge of the harbour and past the Narrows to a windswept point. I thought the climb to the top of Signal Hill would kill me. We then took the long way back to the city centre via the village of Quidi Vidi, home of the micro-brewery of the same name. Good beer.

By the way, the green-hulled vessel below the cannon barrel is the Esperanza of the Greenpeace fleet.

St. John's

Lighthouse and Narrows

Those are the remnants of wartime fortifications below the lighthouse. German U-boats prowled around nearby but couldn’t penetrate the inner harbour.

Quidi Vidi

We allowed ourselves two days to explore the Avalon peninsula before boarding the overnight ferry to Nova Scotia at Argentia. Our first stop was Cape Spear, the most easterly point of land in North America and host to two lighthouses. The historic lighthouse with the red and white dome is the oldest surviving one in Newfoundland. It was also the lightkeeper’s home. We watched whales and puffins from the clifftop.

Historic Lighthouse, Cape Spear

Cape Spear

The Avalon peninsula was lovely with many scenic harbours and villages. Petty Harbour isn’t far from Cape Spear.

Petty Harbour

Our last night was spent at the charming Claddagh Inn in St. Mary’s. The next morning, we visited Salmonier Nature Park where we met the neighbourhood Bald Eagle. Newfoundland has a healthy population of Bald Eagles. This bird has been injured and is part of a recovery program.

Bald Eagle

Thus ends the Newfoundland travelogue for 2011. Thanks for following along and commenting. Would you like to visit Newfoundland? I hope so because I’m planning a painting holiday workshop for the summer of 2012. I hope to have dates and details posted here and on my website in a few months. Let me know if you’re interested.

Outsider Art, Newfoundland


We’re back. I’m going to do a wrap-up post of our final days in Newfoundland in a day or two but first I wanted to share a few examples of what might be considered outsider art. Dick’s Whales is an irresistible painted sign and we pulled right over. We were greeted by a gentleman they call Skipper and Buddy, the hobo dog. None of the locals know where Buddy came from but he’s an amiable sort and everyone looks after him. Painted whales and puffins, cut from wooden boards,  were on offer. We bought two whales.

The seabird depicted is a Common Murre, known in Newfoundland as a Turr. Turrs are a traditional food source and are still hunted for the pot. This painting is on the side of a fishing boat hauled up in Petty Harbour, a pretty spot near the provincial capital of St. John’s.

The other day I received my 300th comment. I’m grateful for all of them. The person who’s commented most frequently on my blog is Linda at LindaHalcombFineArt. Her comments have been insightful, thoughtful and supportive. Click on her link for a look at her artwork. Linda’s recent comment was #299.

Comment #300 came from Keith at NorthPennineGallery. If you enjoy pen and ink, especially with watercolour, his work will inspire you. Are you reading this, Keith?  To celebrate my 300th comment, I’d like to send you  postcards of three of my watercolours. Email me your mailing address at, if you’d like to receive them.

Flora, Fauna and Art in Newfoundland


Moose in the Morning Mist

My hobby is birding and once or twice a week I get up for a walk at about 5 am. I tour the village, check the pond and take the main road for part of the route. I rarely see a car but I always see one or two moose. Sometimes, they’re in a backyard but I usually see them along the side of the road. They probably weigh a half a ton but they run away from me. This young bull was fairly bold. It’s exciting to see them but they are a real hazard on Newfoundland roads at night.

Savannah Sparrow

These little birds inhabit any grassy field along the coast. They sing constantly and can be quite curious. We encountered the Harbour Seal while sketching at Red Cliff. The fishermen are not fond of them as they are very clever and can wreak havoc on a net full of fish.

Harbour Seal

We meet some form of wildlife on almost every hike we take, including the common Red Squirrel and Snowshoe Hare, but we’ve also seen Otters and Red Fox. An Osprey flew by yesterday with a large fish in it’s talons.

Bucket of Caplin

A few days ago, We added whales to our sightings list! Several Minke whales were feeding on Caplin in the bay at English Harbour. The Caplin are starting to ‘roll’ or spawn in the area. They come right up on the beach. Local families were out with nets and buckets as these little guys are quite tasty. We received an enthusiastic demonstration of the spawning technique from a gentleman who held a female fish, dripping orange roe, and two male fish, dripping something else, in his hands. He then showed us how to clean a fish for the pan without use of a knife or scissors. He had our full attention.

Pitcher Plant

The woodland trails are full of wildflowers. The Pitcher Plants and Lady’s Slipper Orchids are particularly beautiful.

View from Fishers' Loft

We visited Fishers’ Loft in Port Rexton for a fabulous dinner the other night. It’s a very grand property with several buildings full of original art and stunning views. Our stay here is winding down and I’m not sure how I’m going to cope without my steady diet of spectacular scenery.

Thanks again for all of the thoughtful comments and especially the encouraging words about my sketches and gouaches. Here’s a new one…

English Harbour

Live from Walkham’s Gate Pub, Bonavista


Two out of three, so far. We’ve seen Atlantic Puffins and the whales have already been reported. Icebergs usually come a bit later.

We’re having drinks and dinner at the Walkham’s Gate Pub (and catching up on email) in Bonavista. This has become one of our favorite spots in the area. Traditional cuisine, cold beer and good conversation but Steve Phillips just told us that we missed some great music last night. Two lads from nearby Newman’s Cove and Catalina.

We did take in a cultural event on Monday night, attending a screening of films from Films on the Go at the Garrick Theatre. This event is part of the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival. The program featured several excellent short films. The highlight for us was STILL ROWDY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, a documentary about the life of celebrated actor and Newfoundland icon Gordon Pinsent by Newfoundland director Barbara Doran.

I’ve done several pieces with gouache and watercolour by now. Working with gouache has been a fairly new challenge and an inspiring one. Here’s my latest endeavour…

Trinity East Harbour

Trinity Bight, Newfoundland


Old Bonaventure

We’re having a delicious lunch at the Two Whales Coffee Shop in Port Rexton. This area is called the Trinity Bight and is very popular with tourists and for good reason. Every little bay and cove seems to have a picturesque village.

Trinity Bight is on the other side of the Cape from us but it’s not too long a drive. Last week, we hiked the famous Skerwink Trail, 5k of rugged cliffs and headlands.

Skerwink Trail

New Bonaventure


Trinity East

We’ve been enjoying caplin (kay-plin) weather here on the Bonavista peninsula. Caplin are the small fish that are a major food source for whales and seabirds. They come here to spawn, sometimes right on the beaches but, more recently, mostly in deeper water. Unfortunately, caplin weather tends to be foggy and wet. Oh well, we didn’t come to Newfoundland in June to lie on the beach.

English Harbour


Still painting and sketching. Here’s another sketch from Keels done in my 5 x 7″ sketchbook. I’ve abandoned any preliminary planning lines and dive right in with the pen. Proportion can suffer as a result but I like the immediacy.

Aleda has been working hard on her oil pastels and doing a lot of sketching, as well.

Hauled Up, Keels

Newfoundland Cuisine


We were shopping in the general store in Keels the other day. A gentleman walked up to the counter beside me with a roll of bologna the size of a chicken. He smiled, somewhat sheepishly, and announced “Newfy steak!”


Nolan sent me a comment asking about local food and drink. There’s something on the menu for every taste. A few nights ago, we had a boilup of lobster so fresh it was barely out of the ocean.

During our recent visit to Bonavista and Neil’s Yard we dined at the Harbour Quarters Inn. Aleda had the Cod Tongues and wasn’t sold on them so I helped her finish. I chose the Fish’n Brewis with a rhubarb relish and enjoyed it very much. We washed down our meal with a few bottles of beer from the Quidi Vidi brewery.

Cod Tongues

Fish'n Brewis

We’re looking forward to lobster again tonight with Stephen Zeifman at Mill Road Studio in Port Rexton. Check out his artwork and course offerings.

We’ve both been painting and I continue to play with gouache over watercolour. Here’s another new one.

Abandoned Pump, Red Cliff

Dispatch from Neil’s Yard, Bonavista


Thanks for all of your comments. We’re enjoying tea and wifi at Neil’s Yard in Bonavista. It’s been a week of tranquility, moose encounters, beautiful scenery and lots of painting. We’re staying in Duntara, which is in the centre of the map. We’ve explored quite a bit of the immediate area and there’s something new every time we visit a neighbouring community. Keels is just down the road and it’s become a favourite sketching spot.


This is our second visit to Bonavista. Earlier this week, we toured the lighthouse. It was socked in with fog but it’s adjacent to the spot where John Cabot landed in 1497. A statue of Cabot looks out over the new world.

Another neighbour is King’s Cove. We’re not sure why it’s called the ‘Athens of the North’ but I like to think of Duntara as Sparta. We found a root cellar with a blue door in King’s Cove. Root cellars are very common here. I haven’t seen the inside of one yet but I find them rather mysterious.

Yesterday, we explored the other side of our cape. Look at the map and you’ll find the villages of Open Hall, Red Cliff and Tickle Cove. Another artist’s paradise. The ruined buildings are an intriguing subject but don’t get the wrong impression. The homes are very well kept.

Great Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls make their home on an island a few hundred yards off the coast. As we observed this nesting colony, a Bald Eagle flew around the point and headed straight for the gulls. Utter panic ensued. The eagle ignored a hundred or so wheeling and screaming antagonists and deftly snatched a gull chick before continuing down the coast. After a few minutes, it was pursued only by a single gull.

The last village along this road is Tickle Cove. It’s known for the ‘Sea Arch’. It was a short walk from the parking area and well worth it. The red rock is typical here and I’m sure it gave Red Cliff it’s name.

Are you following the Stanley Cup playoffs? Boston versus Vancouver. Michael Ryder of the Bruins is from Bonavista and there’s little doubt of where local hearts lie as you drive around the area. The B on the flag below is upside down on one side and right side up on the other, a peculiarity pointed out to me by the gentleman who flies it at his home in Keels.