Photo by Steve Smith, VisionFire Studios

Antigonish artist Grace Lane-Smith creates calm on her canvas

There’s no need to convince North Shore residents of the lure of the ocean. The therapeutic sounds of waves crashing across the sand and the melodic tunes of water drawing back over rocks. The dancing light, like diamonds bouncing along with the tide. The peacefulness and calm in the many blues and greens. The inhalation of fresh sea air takes away your worries and replaces them with a relaxed feeling of serenity. Not everyone has such easy access to ocean views. What if you could capture all of these feelings on canvas and create something for others to take home and enjoy anytime they felt the need for a breath of fresh salt air?

Grace Lane-Smith does just that with her ocean paintings. “I hadn’t realized when I moved to live landlocked in a city how much I was missing open water,” she says. “The sea had been a source of comfort when I felt sad, calm when I felt anxious, inspiration for colour combinations and joy when creating memories with family pointing out the prettiest sail boats.”

She surprised her family and friends when she moved with her husband, Ben, from Toronto to Antigonish almost six years ago. “The natural world beckons here. It is a place to build a home, a place of peace and quiet, a feeling of safety, adventure, and ultimately a haven,” she says.

The artist welcomes me into her home with a bright smile and eagerly shows me the two rooms she uses as a studio and office space. They’re on opposite sides of the house giving her the opportunity to take advantage of the best light regardless of the season. During the summer one room is best for painting and the other is used for the administrative side of things such as marketing, blogging, and updating her website. In the winter, she switches. The walls are clean and white, big windows fill the space with natural light, and everything is mobile. A small cabinet on wheels holds her brushes, paints, and other supplies while providing a glass-top palette for blending colours.
We sit to chat, observing her works-in-progress, from miniatures to larger pieces, hanging on wooden pegs along one wall. Lane-Smith explains that she likes to work through each stage with all the pieces in her collection before moving on to the next step.

She takes ample time in every phase of production ensuring the quality of her work is worthy of becoming part of a family’s heritage. She builds her own supports, stretches the canvas, prepares it for paint, gathers inspiration, takes photographs, and carefully plans the composition of a collection, all before picking up a brush. She sketches and makes notes, referring to her favourite art books, setting parameters for a series and jotting them down, keeping them close by as she paints.

Her mindfulness of each detail continues, adding carefully selected colours through under painting, middle layers, and final layers. Each builds contrast, creates flow, and inspires emotion.

“Oil paintings consist of paint layers that are softly brushed to allow for very subtle shifts in colour so no two areas are the same,” explains Lane-Smith. “They take longer to dry, sometimes days between layers, and it takes a week after the final layer before a special varnish can be applied.” She plans to spend about three months completing this set.
Lane-Smith has enjoyed public showings and exhibitions, but the last 18 months have been different due to the pandemic.

“We’ve all felt a loss of connection,” says Lane-Smith. “I started sharing more openly [on social media] and regularly. I think that has been one of the biggest changes.”
“I also reconnected with an old artist group I was a part of a few years ago as well as connecting with a new group, a mentorship group to help me move forward in a more structured way. The community has made the biggest difference both to my work and to my mental health.”

There has also been a shift in those purchasing art. “When the pandemic hit more people started staying at home longer than they thought they would,” she explains. “I heard a lot of comments about how people wanted to travel or were tired of staring at blank walls. More people started talking about how their spaces were affecting how they felt and wanted their spaces to better reflect who they are.” This added opportunity for her work to adorn those walls.

“I really want to paint big,” says Lane-Smith about future endeavours. “The struggle with big is shipping—shipping becomes much more challenging the bigger you go. I’d love to do some collaborations next year, perhaps partnering with local designers, or creating work for hospitals as well as homes. I really love the process, so there’s this desire to keep pushing the limits and painting, getting better, honing my voice.”
Regardless of size, one goal remains constant. “I hope my paintings capture feelings of calm, comfort, inspiration and joy because the colours and movement of the waves really have been a haven for me,” says Lane-Smith.