Sunday, September 15, 2019

Leif Erikson slept here

Springtime in L’Anse aux Meadows, NL
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2019 Charlene Brown

Dating to about 1000 CE, L’Anse aux Meadows is the only confirmed Norse site in North America. It is located on the northernmost tip of the Great Northern Peninsula on the island of Newfoundland. It was discovered in the 1960s and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.

Reconstructions of the original sod buildings can be seen in about the centre of this painting, to the left of the grassy mounds protecting the actual location of what's left of the eight structures that have been found – leaving this area accessible for continued archeological digs. Evidence has been found indicating the largest of the original buildings may have been occupied by Leif Erikson.

Lush new grass and the tiny flowers of early spring (in mid-June) were everywhere from just below the still-melting snow on the ridge along the stream to the Norse settlement.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

View from the coast

Western Brook Pond gap
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2019 Charlene Brown

Early in the morning of our first full day in Gros Morne National Park we hiked 3km in from the coastal highway to the west end of Western Brook Pond, planning to board a boat for the trip to the end of the fjord 15 km inland for this iconic view.  

After waiting a couple of hours for the clouds to lift, during which the view of the mountains didn’t vary much from what you see on the right, the boat trip was cancelled.  

The next day, however, as we drove by on our way north to L’Anse aux Meadows, there they were – the near vertical cliffs framing the gap in the 800-metre high plateau of the Long Range Mountains, with a dusting of fresh snow, as shown in the painting above.  

This plateau is actually the most northern section of the Appalachian Mountains.  Who knew there was a fjord in the Appalachians? 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Canada’s most adorable bird

An improbability of puffins
Watercolour and marker
©2019 Charlene Brown

Groups of puffins have been given several names, ranging from ‘colony’ to ‘improbability.’  

Hard to say where 'improbability' came from, but it may relate to their ability to fly.  Actually they do very well flapping about and diving to catch fish, often surfacing with several in their big beaks – once they manage to take off.  It’s just getting airborne that looks like an improbability. The only way they seem to be able to get going is to fall off the grassy ledge at the end of their burrow, beating their wings (and their feet, I think) as fast as they can.

We went out in a boat to see a cliff-face colony or improbability on an island in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.  You can’t go ashore of course, so I took dozens of blurry pictures of these adorable birds while bouncing around on the boat.  The blurriest among them were the ones trying to take off seemed like the only way to get them in focus was to paint them.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

A significant (religious) first

Colony of Avalon NL
©2019 Charlene Brown

Our tour of the reconstructed Colony of Avalon south of St. John’s included a hike around the settled part of the peninsula to see the original home sites, remnants of the water system, newly planted and strongly fenced food gardens, a look at a string of islands across the mouth of the harbour which still accommodate small herds of sheep herds that spend their summers there - unaccompanied but safe from land predators.  We also explored various waterfront buildings dating from the 1620s, housing a working bakery and a (non-working) alchemist’s operation as well as furnishings bearing the carved insignia of Elizabeth I.

There is also a large new building with a museum and a well-equipped archaeological research laboratory where the many artifacts found at the site are studied. Of particular significance is an ornate baroque cross believed to have fallen from the steeple of the Catholic church here. The presence of this artifact in the colony symbolizes something of a breakthrough. Despite the severe religious conflicts of the period, when Lord Baltimore launched the colony he secured the right of Catholics to practice their religion unimpeded, embracing the novel principle of religious tolerance for the first time in North America. Only 3-D printed replicas of the cross were available for viewing – see photo on the right – owing to its fragility.

The bergy bits in the lower left of the painting are the remnants of stranded icebergs.  Hard to believe that this cove, at latitude 47 degrees N is more than a degree further south than Victoria (48.4 degrees N) - where we have palm trees.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The prettiest place in all of Newfoundland + Labrador – well, one of the prettiest places...

Trinity NL from Gun Hill
Watercolour and marker
©2019 Charlene Brown

This lovely town, which featured prominently in early European contact with North America, was named by Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte-Real when he arrived here on Trinity Sunday in 1501.

Fishermen from England began using Trinity as a base in the 1570s and gradually began to settle the area and export fish to Britain.  Due to its importance in British-Newfoundland trade it was captured twice by the French during the Anglo-French Wars of 1696-1713 and once more during the Seven Years War of 1756-1763.

Trinity was also the site of the first court of justice in North America, the Court of the Admiralty, held in 1615.  In 1798, vaccination for small pox was introduced to the New World in Trinity by John Clinch, a medical colleague of Edward Jenner. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Cove with Pirate Cave (Not)

Brigus NL
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2019 Charlene Brown

This picturesque fishing village, first settled in 1612, has many attractive features, including the Hawthorne Cottage - a National Historic Site of Canada, the Stone Barn Museum and the Harbour Pond shown here, neatly lined with stone walls, as are the small rivers flowing into it through a community park. But the main attraction, sometimes thought to be a pirate cave (it really does look like it could be one, opening out to deep water from a sheer cliff) is the Brigus Tunnel.  It was built by the famous Captain Abram Bartlett because he sometimes had trouble finding a place to park and unload his fishing schooner in the sheltered cliff-side harbour in the right foreground. He purchased property behind the church in the upper left of the painting, and had a 25-metre-long tunnel dug (and blasted using gunpowder) through the ridge at the edge of the property. 

So, no treasure chests full of ill-gotten gains hidden here, but right up until about 1910 lots of fish went through.  And more recently lots of tourists.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Neighbourhood Icebergs

Quilts in the breeze at Gunners Cove
Watercolour and marker
©2019 Charlene Brown

Large icebergs which have ‘calved’ off glaciers in Greenland drift south along the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador every spring. Some get hung up on shoals or trapped in coves and stay in town for weeks providing a steady supply of almost perfectly pure ice for anyone brave enough to go out in a boat and chop some off (those things roll, you know).  I’m sure there are many uses for this unique resource, but the only one we were told about was the brewing of iceberg beer.

 I took a lot of photos of these icebergs in various neighbourhoods, including an especially decorative one in Saint Lunaire-Griquet (shown on the right) two kilometres south of Gunners Cove.   I even considered including this particular iceberg in the painting of Gunners Cove, which provided a more paintable foreground, but decided to stick with the ones that were actually there. 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Versions of History

Cupid’s Cove NL
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2019 Charlene Brown

This is the view of Cupid’s Cove from the Cupids Legacy Centre which was built in 2010 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the first English settlement in Canada. There are those who dispute the claim that this settlement was the first, but the near-by Cupids Cove Plantation archaeological dig has yielded ample documentation and evidence of construction activity and farming beginning in 1610. It was certainly among the first.

The Legacy Centre also flies the three flags that are official flags of Newfoundland and Labrador – from left to right in the painting, the Provincial flag, adopted in 1980, the Canadian flag adopted in 1965, and the Union Jack, the official flag of the Colony of Newfoundland before Confederation in 1949, when Newfoundland and Labrador became a Canadian Province. The Legacy Centre does not fly the Newfoundland Tri-colour (pictured on the right), mistakenly thought to be an official flag and sometimes flown by contrarians but mainly seen on ‘Republic of Newfoundland’ tee-shirts.

Another source of variations in the history of Newfoundland is included in this painting – the two towers on Spectacle Head on the other side of the cove. Depending on who is telling the story, these towers:
  • predate the Norse colonization in the late 10th century
  • predate English settlement, having been erected in sets of three all along the Atlantic coast to guide European fishing fleets to safe harbour
  • predate Confederation having been built by a man who still resides in Cupids Cove.