PORT HAWKESBURY: A recent work assignment may have rekindled an interest in painting for one local artist.
This summer, Raymond MacInnis was tasked with repainting three pieces of outdoor artwork for the Town of Port Hawkesbury. The panels, which are located in a small community park at the corner of Granville and MacSween Street, were originally painted by local artist Gary Pace in 2004.
MacInnis said the images were painted on plastic puck board, and much of the original paint had worn away over the years.
“I don’t know what they used to paint them, but the only thing that remained was some of the black outline of the paintings,” he said. “Since I had the ability to do it, they just asked me to repaint them.”
MacInnis began his career as a commercial artist in the late 1970s. In recent years, he has been working for the town on a wide variety of projects, from repairing the boardwalk and building signs, to painting logos at the local ice rink.
“The job is usually different every day,” he said.
The three paintings feature images from the town’s history, including a ship, a train, and the John Cabot, a ferry that sailed on the Strait of Canso from 1947 to 1955.
“I kind of knew what the old ferry looked like, and there was enough left on that one that I was able to just kind of repaint it and add what I could to make it look similar,” he said.
MacInnis said the other two panels required more research.
“I had a few pictures I had taken of boats, so I just repainted one of them. For the train, I finally figured I’d go up to the Port Hastings Museum and see what I could find,” said MacInnis. “I don’t think it was the same one, but I found a black and white photograph of the Number Five to Inverness, which looked close enough to the original train that I used it.”
MacInnis then set up a work area in the town’s old arena and began painting.
“All these photographs were in black and white and I had to paint them in colour. It had been a long time since I did any of this work, so it took a little while to get back into it,” said MacInnis.
The project was not without its challenges. MacInnis said the only paint available to him was an oil-based rust paint.
“The light wasn’t the best and there was a lot of humidity. The puck board was plastic and the oil-based paint, let’s say it ran a lot,” he said. “I’d be cleaning the brushes and then I’d look over and the thing would look like a tie-dyed tee shirt, so you’d have to wipe it off and start again.”
It took MacInnis roughly two weeks to complete the paintings, but he is pleased with the result. He has been getting a good response from local residents who have been sharing photos of his work on social media. He now hopes to continue painting other historic places and is particularly interested in the Point Tupper area.
“I remember what my uncle’s place looked like over there when it was still a little town. There were actually little roads and streets up there and houses all around them like a community, and now there’s none of it. If I could find more black and white historic photos and switch them back to coloured prints and paintings, it would be interesting to do,” said MacInnis.
“I haven’t done it in a long time, but I think now that I’m in my sixties, maybe it’s time to go back at it.”