Baie Sainte-Marie Artist Residency

Posted by on Jun 17, 2016 in Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Illustration, Maine College of Art, pastels, travels | 9 comments

I am fresh back from a divine two weeks, thanks to Maine College of Art’s Baie Ste Marie Residency. As an adjunct professor at MECA since 2003, I was unaware of the deep renewal a residency can offer until I lucked into three nights at the Pace House a few years ago. Since then, I’ve had my eye on this opportunity in Nova Scotia, a beloved place of family ties and epic light. Thanks to the Jenny family, the house overlooking St. Mary’s Bay in New Edinburgh has provided inspiration for MECA alumni, faculty, and staff since 2009.

Our journey began by driving from Portland, Maine to St. John, New Brunswick, a five hour drive. We stayed at the charming Earl of Leinster Inn, with a breakfast the next morning that filled us to the brim. Bay Ferries now has two sailings across the Bay of Fundy, we opted for the afternoon run during which I did this sketch from the sunny deck of the M V Fundy Rose.


Upon arrival in Digby, we drove less than an hour to where the Sissiboo River meets the ocean, and the Jenny Family Compound boasts spectacular views and curious collections of critter bones.


Not hard at all to find sources of interest for sketching!


Marty enjoyed making small translations of the view down the road. The ever-changing light was magical.


For me, it was time to write, at last. I used the residency to dust off a fiction piece that has been on a back burner for too long. We spied this sign on a trip to Robicheau’s for dinner in Saulnierville.


The story involves a young girl, Penny, who surfaced during several sessions of Sudden Fiction led by Eleanor Morse and Nicole d’Entremont.


A card table, a window, raucous crows, and a salty cat ambling by became my writing prompts.

Meanwhile, Marty scouted the area and sketched also. We took breaks for exploring the local rocky beaches.

There’s a defunct fish plant down the road which became a regular destination for walks.

In the other direction, there were horses to watch, and cormorants basking on boulders in the sea.


The absolute luxury was permission to stay put. Life on Peaks Island is a constant coming and going. Our time at the Jenny House was serenely stationary, for the most part. Before writing one morning I drew from the side porch.


The road turns just beyond this cluster of simple houses that became a visual fixation.


A windy picnic on the rocks allowed a quick capturing of the fog parting like feathers over the Baie.


The light there seems to last until almost 10 PM. We drove to Belliveau Cove. I have a fond curiosity for the variety of lighthouses in Canada, quite often well-preserved structures with unique stories. Plus, they all have red doors. I grew up at the Red Doors Motel, remember?


And another day, we crunched around the low low tide at the Gilbert’s Cove Lighthouse, nearly lost in the fog.


Marty used a TV table for his portable studio. Every window was a worthwhile location.


There are several out buildings, including a shed, a barn, a log cabin, even a treehouse. Marty drew them all.


Here’s my quick sketch of the faded red barn.


I eventually found my way into the newest shed, meant for writing.


This was helpful when Daisy and August visited. They found every toy and game, from BB guns to arrows.

Meanwhile, Marty made art for mailing, adding splashes of color to his studies.


We watched a few boats that circled the Baie, and I sketched this one as the fog swirled.


After writing all day, we took a drive down Digby Neck, curious about the other side. We drove into Little River Cove, where the boat I had sketched was unloading their haul. Hello, Slave Driver.


Caught a ferry from East Ferry over to Long Island, about a 5 minute trip. The Petite Princess works the passage every half hour, 24 hours a day! That’s service. And surprise! From the mist appeared this beauty, the Boars Head Light.


We headed to Balancing Rock, well-marked at the end of a long trail through skunk cabbage, lichen, bunchberry, and black pines. Oh, and about 250 steps down to a viewing platform, next to this precarious column of basalt.

Back at the Jenny House, in time for the light show of a setting moon.

I have Peaks Island neighbor and author Nicole d’Entremont to thank, for sparking my writing and supporting my efforts with a steady hand. She spends much of her summers at her ancestral home in nearby Pubnico. She arrived for a visit in time for the peonies popping.

The residency also entails some form of open studio that engages the local community.


I’ll share in another post the blast I had at the Weymouth Waterfront Library with a crowd of local kids.

Our last evening I drew the changing dusk.




We were reluctant to leave. My gratitude is bottomless to the Jenny family and Maine College of Art. The two weeks of space and time to reflect, renew, and create was a priceless package I will unwrap for a long time.

Merci beaucoup!






  1. t h a n k y o uuuuuuu 2 ~ lovely, lovely, lovely ~ refreshingly wondrous to be taken along via your blog ~

  2. Wonderful! Beautiful work from both of you

  3. Wonderful pics and comments. You captured the essence of Nova Scotia

  4. What a wonderful post, Jamie. I can feel the strength of your renewal in your words and sketches and photos. Can’t wait to read the Penne Pieces! Eleanor

  5. I am so glad Penny is back, alive and kicking. She was one of the highlights of writer’s group. Very beautiful posting you’ve given us here, thanks.

  6. Such a beautiful posting, Jamie.
    You amd Marty were surrounded by such beauty and produced equally beautiful photographs and drawings. Looking forward to hearing more from you about Penny Pieces!

  7. Your residency looks like a dream! Can’t wait to hear more about it. I hope you got everything you needed (and more!) From your stay.

  8. Dear Jamie,

    You, and your work, are such a gift to Nova Scotia and the World.

    With deep and abiding gratitude.

    Shine on!

  9. Thanks to everyone for reading, I am filled with gratitude!

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