Paint the Town – Aug 20 & 21, 2016

I’m looking forward to my 7th year of participation at Paint the Town in Annapolis Royal on August 20 & 21, 2016. This annual weekend event brings 80 artists from all over Nova Scotia to join in an outdoor painting race that will raise thousands for the arts council and artists.

I say ‘race’ because artists have about 6 hours each day to paint as many auction-worthy pieces as possible. The pressure is on and it’s a great exercise, if exhausting. It’s a time for painters to see what each other is doing.  And it’s also quite a bargain for the collectors, with many paintings selling for less than $100.

I am posting some of my favorite paintings that I’ve painting at the event over the years.

I spend most of my time at the Historic Gardens. The flowers are gorgeous, there is shade and the park-like setting helps me to focus and remain calm. 😉

Throughout the day, ‘runners’ rush the work to the gallery at The Academy at 590 George Street. Silent bids last all day with the auction ending each day at 5pm. Buyers have the option of purchasing paintings at full price before the auction ends.

This is a fabulous opportunity to start or add to a collection of original art by artists at all levels of their careers.  It’s also fun to watch people creating on the spot. Check out the list of artists here and the links to their websites.

paint the town07

Here is my packing list for Paint the Town

    • small canvases
    • acrylic paints
    • acrylic markers
    • acrylic inks
    • gel medium
    • Charcoal
    • Inktense crayons
    • water bucket
    • rags
    • French easel
    • stool
    • sketch book
    • marker
    • spray bottle
    • latex gloves
    • colour shaper
    • lunch
    • water
    • sunblock
    • insect repellent
    • hat
    • business cards
    • camera

paint the town poster

Painting the Diamond in the Bay of Fundy

I’m excited to be heading back to this painter’s paradise tomorrow. It is an artist retreat on an island in Canada’s Bay of Fundy. You know. The place with the highest tides in the world.
The following post is from 2012 on my first trip to the island with a group of artists.

When we arrived at Long Island in the Bay of Fundy for our Artist Retreat,  it was an overcast and showery afternoon. The mist and fog shrouded this huge rock of an island that we could see from our cabin. It looked ancient and mysterious as it disappeared and reappeared in the mist and I was anxious to see it at sea level when the low tide allowed it.

Diamond Island, Five Islands, NS.

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The Acadian Thatched House in Annapolis Royal

Not only do the Historic Gardens in Annapolis Royal recreate gardens from the past, they also give us a glimpse into the home lives of Acadians who lived here before the British arrived.

Acadian HouseThe first occupiers in this part of the world were the French in the 1600’s. Their settlers were innovative farmers who reclaimed salt marshland and transformed it into fertile growing lands. Their relationships with First Nation groups was more harmonious than the British would be. Eventually the British – French wars meant that Acadians were thrown off their lands by the British and shipped to various outposts including Louisiana where ‘Acadian’ became ‘Cajun’.

Many families were hidden by the Mi’kmaq and refused to leave their Nova Scotian homeland. Today there are still small communities of Acadians in Nova Scotia who work hard to keep their language and culture alive.

Here in the gardens, the tiny thatched house with hand-made glass windows is a visual reminder of some of that history.

Acadian House2
La Maison acadienne features the only archaeologically authenticated replica of a pre-deportation Acadian dwelling in the Maritime region. The potager is based on original diary notes from the Acadian era, while the orchard and willow hedge are heritage cultivars from the 17th Century. La Maison acadienne is based on a 1671 time period when Port-Royal (later Annapolis Royal) was the centre of Acadie.- from the website of the Historic Gardens.

Last week in the gardens I sat in front of the thatch-roofed cabin and sketched it, later adding watercolour paint at home.

Acadian House © Flora Doehler, 2014
Acadian House © Flora Doehler, 2014
Acadian House © Flora Doehler, 2014
Acadian House © Flora Doehler, 2014

Drawing and Painting Zinnias in the Victorian Garden in Annapolis

I love the Victorian Garden in the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens with the sunny, happy flowers such as the zinnias. This garden  Shangri-La  doesn’t know that the rest of us have experienced killing frost in our beds.

red zinnia

I can’t resist setting up my paints near the salvias and zinnias during Paint the Town in August. At first glance, zinnias look so uncomplicated, but the photos I took yesterday show a tiny garden of lily-looking florets sprouting out of the middle of the flower.


Each bloom is a universe of colour.

I was travelling light today and brought just a sketchbook and a fat marker. I had no chair or support for my sketchbook and stood while drawing. It was a bit awkward, but gave me a good vantage point for eye-level flowers.

Zinnia drawing © Flora Doehler, 2014
Zinnia drawing © Flora Doehler, 2014

Later, at home, I added watercolour to my drawings.

Painting or drawing a flower helps me to get to know its uniqueness better. I learn more about the shape, the veins in the leaves, the petal details, the way the flower leans.

Zinnia © Flora Doehler, 2014
Zinnia © Flora Doehler, 2014

I enjoy capturing the movement and the joy of these outrageously colourful and happy flowers. I painted these Zinnias a month ago during Paint the Town. All were auctioned and are blooming on walls somewhere.

gardens zinnia1
Zinnia paintings © Flora Doehler, 2014


The Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens Inspire me

If Zinnias were Blue © Flora Doehler, 2014

About 30 years ago some clever garden and community development innovators in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia had the brilliant idea to recreate the historical periods of the town with a 17 acre garden.

Historic Gardens, Annapolis Royal

This August, like the past 5 summers, I have painted in the Historic Gardens during Paint the Town. This fall I finally bought a membership…only cost me $35 a year…and I’ve been visiting my favorite flowers when I go to Annapolis. It’s a 25 minute scenic drive from my home in Bear River.


The gardens in Annapolis are exquisite…from wild and generous, to deliberate and precise. I love the Victorian Garden with its sunny, happy flowers and it’s outrageously oversized exotic-looking plants that look like they belong in an antique glassed-in greenhouse in England.


Incredibly, all the flowers are annuals and this is what the gardens look like before spring planting.

Historic Gardens, Annapolis Royal

What a difference 5 months makes!

IMG_0925In the days ahead, I’ll show you some drawings and paintings I’ve created lately at the Gardens.

I’m painting a series of florals for an upcoming show with fellow painter Susan Geddes…also in Annapolis Royal, so painting and drawing at the gardens is very inspiring right now and is my homework!

invitationsmallThis little painting of mine was auctioned at Paint the Town this summer.

If Zinnias were Blue © Flora Doehler, 2014
If Zinnias were Blue © Flora Doehler, 2014


Thinking about Cold Weather Gardening

Field of Frost
Field of Frost

In late September, the first killer frost arrived here in Bear River East. When I went out to the garden, the leaves on the tomato plants were black and the basil leaves were gone. It was kind of shocking, because even though the weather report had called for frost, I couldn’t believe that the third week of September would be the end! I had lots of green tomatoes left and made a note to self to start them sooner next year so that they can ripen earlier. I picked many of the green ones and placed them on newspapers in a window in the cool, south facing, unheated shed that is attached to the house. They ripened gradually and we just ate the last one a few days ago.  I wish I had a greenhouse to extend the growing season. I can imagine having a plant or two in a barrel and maybe eating home-grown tomatoes until the end of November.


A greenhouse will definitely be on the list of “must haves” for our new location, but probably not for a year or two. Last week we visited Wild Rose Farm on hwy 1 between Digby and Weymouth. We dropped by for vegetables and we hoped to get a glimpse of Gilberte’s no-heat winter greenhouse. (Yes, that’s what I was told!)

Wild Rose Farm
Wild Rose Farm

This organic farm is operated by a very energetic woman and her family. Gilberte Doelle  provides the area with tasty, organic produce as well as teaches others her gardening philosophy. Time and time again Larry and I have encountered that most people here are more than happy to share their knowledge and skills just for the asking. I made it clear that I would like to extend our garden’s season some day, which in some parts of the country would have have been a conversation stopper. After all, if I manage to grow my own winter crops, I won’t be buying any at Wild Rose Farms. But the concept of competition doesn’t enter into the conversation. Rather the idea of helping others and sharing good tips seems to be the objective.

Gilberte's Winter Greenhouse
Gilberte’s Winter Greenhouse

Last year Gilberte was able to provide her family with spring-type greens for a large part of the winter and I wanted to find out how she does this. Well, an hour later we’d had a tour through all the greenhouses and she lent me the book  by Eliot Coleman that inspired her.

The Greenhouse was moist, warm and smelled like spring!
The Greenhouse was moist, warm and smelled like spring!

The big secret is to build a greenhouse-within-a-greenhouse. Gilberte uses singleply woven plastic over bent rebar. Building it low to the ground maximizes the heat effect. She hasn’t started her winter crops yet, she’s still too busy harvesting the green peppers and tomatoes and eggplants that looked amazing and plentiful.

A few days after visiting her inspiring farm, we awoke again to a combination of fog and frost.

Meanwhile today  I chopped the last of Gilberte’s parsley into my chowder soup. I glanced out the window to where my garden had been.

The Remains of the Garden
The Remains of the Garden

The sunflowers have bowed their heads and the fall rains are rolling in. I miss the garden, but the view is quite beautiful anyway, so I pulled out my watercolours and tried to capture the feeling of the land and the sky.

The Kitchen Counter doubling as a Studio
The Kitchen Counter doubling as a Studio

The moodiness of an October sky is a beautiful site. We are so lucky that we have such dramatic seasonal changes in this part of the world. So, while I dreamed of growing spinach outside in winter, I had a really great time interpreting the here and now in my garden.

After the Harvest
After the Harvest