Euyral calls out from the ocean.  She is captivated and curious about what she sees.  Her life was with the ancients until she was caught by the wind and moved to what would be her resting place at that moment when she breaks on the shore.  She is unlike no other, not the endless number that came before her or will follow in her wake.  She will disappear like a lost love that slips though the sands of time.

The tide was just starting to pull away from the shore when Jaye and I kicked off our sandals for a stroll on the beach to talk about her work and her involvement in a new exhibit at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

It was late August and the colours of summer were starting to change. Subtleties that most of us would simply dismiss with our acceptance that summer was coming to an end but for Jaye Ouellette they are the details that resonate in her painting of waves that have become her signature work. A move from Toronto to Antigonish 16 years ago brought a shift to Jaye’s creativity. She was once focused on glass as a medium and them moved to acrylics capturing both the sky and the water in her paintings. Her sight line gradually shifted from the horizon to the water for a clearer reference point and it is here that she has made some of her own discoveries.

As we walk our conversation wades in and out of her work and where our own lives have taken us.  There was only a slight breeze and the waves on the sand bar were merely ripples however enough evidence to how they have become a metaphor of life’s changes and one of the few things that we celebrate for their impermanence.  Waves create a balance thrilling us with their power at the same time soothing our souls and finding their place amongst the elements of the earth. It is the essence and ephemeral quality of Jaye’s waves that no doubt landed her amidst 29 other artists in the new and ongoing “Terrior” exhibit at the Nova Scotia Art Gallery.

The exhibit references the cultural and organic landscape of our region while juxtaposing the traditional with more contemporary work and has been heralded as a long over due survey of the nuances of Nova Scotia art.

Selected from over 100 submissions, Jaye believes that she was chosen simply because her painting was about water.

“We are mostly made of water so waves are very compelling.  They are always reacting differently.  Most people will look at a wave and think it is just blue foam.  I have heard people say that after they see one of my paintings that they look at waves differently. They take a harder look.  There is a myriad of moods in a wave.  Not that I think my paintings are political but I also hope that people think more about what we are doing to the ocean,” says Jaye.

As her interest in what the wave was doing intensified, Jaye started to pay more attention to the reflection of light and colour inside the wave itself. The result, influencing new dynamic personalities emerging with each completed work, a fascination and reverence for the ocean that is also revealed in the naming of many of her more recent paintings.

Euryal, Iiliah, Axta and Dirae are a few of a sisterhood of sea goddesses surfacing from mythology to her artist studio in Antigonish.

“I might eventually run out of sea goddess names but I will just make up my own.  They are my sea goddesses.”

We make our way back down the beach. We talk some more about a commissioned piece she is working on and how long it usually takes her to finishing a painting-four months for a larger canvas.  We talk oil versus acrylic and galleries and private collections. I learn that she admires the work of Vermeer and Manet and that she was likely most influenced by a group of young painters that she lived with in a Toronto warehouse when she was in her twenties. I ask Jaye if I can take photo of her by the water.  She turns and lifts her hands as if commanding the water but I think it is more of an embrace and a thank you to what it has given her and what it allows her to share.

For more information and to view Jaye’s work, visit

Jaye Ouellette is a visual artist living in Antigonish. She has exhibited her work many times in galleries in Canada, the U.S. and France. Ouellette’s work is included in a number of private and corporate collections.  Her commission work is extensive, most notably the Skydome Hotel in Toronto. Her primary focus is painting in her studio by the ocean.