A small orange school bus is parked along the side of the road in Norris Point, NL. Beside it sits an easel and canvas and a pallet of oil paints. Artist Shawn McNevin sits and captures the raw beauty before her. The school bus is her mobile studio.
“The bus served as my home and studio for my first few years in Newfoundland. Now that my husband and I have built a home it has become my studio on wheels.”
Every summer Shawn travels from Norris Point, Gros Morne to the tip of the Northern Peninsula in the bus, using it as her home and studio. She parks the bus and hikes to remote areas only accessible on foot in order to capture the perfect picture. The bus is not only her home and transportation for six weeks, but also provides shelter from the elements when painting outside just is not possible.
“Working in the elements day after day is extremely hard, mentally and physically and takes its toll. One can only take so much wind before it drives you mad! The bus gives me a place to work when the conditions are the most stimulating but impossible to paint outside.”
Shawn’s first trip to Gros Morne was in 1999, when she was en route to travel the entire island. That never happened. She felt a strong ‘unknown force’ keeping her in Gros Morne. Shawn stayed in Gros Morne for her entire trip to Newfoundland, but that was not long enough to feed the unknown force. She had to return.
“I was so obsessed with the environment I had to come back,” she explains.
And come back she did every year for the next 14 years. Shawn and her husband have since built a home and studio in Gros Morne and it is one of her favourite places to paint. Shawn has been painting for 25 years and finds oil painting to be her primary medium.
“I feel that the strength of the Newfoundland landscape demands it. As a tactile person I was also seduced by the feel, the smell, and the touch of oil paint, it’s captivating! I also love it for its depth of colour and versatile qualities.”
Working with nature, Shawn has added pressure to complete the painting before the scene changes.
“Occasionally a piece will come together in a couple of hours, it almost paints itself. Mostly they take 6- 8 hours or longer (6-8 hours and 25 years of experience). I push myself to work hard and fast to capture the moment and complete the painting.”
Gros Morne has a great deal of motivational creativity to offer; from its sparkling blue waters, to its white sandy beaches, and from the striking tablelands to the unyielding mountains and powerful fjords. It is this stark natural seductiveness that Shawn draws from.
“Its incredible rugged beauty is a constant source of inspiration for me.”
With so much inspiration around, Shawn has a hard time choosing just one favourite piece of work that she has created. She has a few of them displayed on the homepage of her website and says she likes them for their ambiguous, evocative and meditative qualities. After spending 14 years exploring this rugged beauty, would the inspiration ever fade for Shawn, finally releasing her from this unknown force that has been keeping her in Gros Morne?
“I have always wondered if it will fade, but every time I turn a corner, the light changes, the mood alters, 14 years later it just keeps opening more possibilities that send me in another direction.”
Shawn is opening a studio/gallery in Cow Head that will be open to the public and also has Studio167 in Quebec. Her work is currently available in Gros Morne from Neddie’s Harbour Inn in Norris Point, Java Jack’s Restaurant in Rocky Harbour or from her website www.studio167.com