From the moment I first saw Emma Fitzgerald’s Hand Drawn Halifax I enjoyed her funny, spontaneous, uninhibited sketching style. My own amateurish attempts tend to be fiddly and fussy, with lots of dithering and erasing in trying to get everything just right (which it never is). So this summer I couldn’t resist an advertisement for Emma’s week-long course at Lunenburg School of the Arts “for those who want to sketch on location, in public, without fear.” That’s me.
Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offering the aspiring artist colourful historic buildings, a working harbor, a vibrant boat-building culture and lots of human activity. Over a lovely warm August week, thirteen of us explored the town, drawing and painting with (non-erasable) Sharpie pens and watercolours – on the streets sketching buildings and their details; in the Fisheries Museum sketching nautical items (and in some cases making friends with people interested in what we were doing); at the weekly Farmer’s Market trying to capture moving people; inside the eclectic home/studio of a resident artist; inside the historic boat shed in which the legendary schooner Bluenose was built.
The grand finale to the week was gathering on the shore opposite the town, where a long table had been covered with a roll of paper on which we were to paint a panorama of Lunenburg’s iconic waterfront. Then we took our masterpiece back to the school, hung it up, along with other examples of our individual work, and celebrated with what was, for many of us, our first experience of being an exhibitor at a public art show and reception.
I got thinking about that mural recently while musing about the variety of religions. Thirteen of us had looked at the same truth, and each did our best to interpret it in our own way. We could have painted thirteen individual interpretations but, working together to share ideas, and blending the edges of our respective insights with those of our neighbours, we produced something beautiful in which strangers with differing preferences might find something that resonated for them. It is, perhaps, a metaphor for building relationships among differing religious traditions – working together, learning from each other, blending the edges and presenting a common and beautiful tapestry to the world.