As part of a military family, Maurice Bernard spent his childhood moving from one Canadian Forces base to another across the country.However, one constant in his life was each summer when he and his siblings returned to P.E.I. after school ended.
“We were a one-car family. My father would drop us off at the cottage in Union Corner, go back to work (on the base) and then come back later in the summer to spend two weeks with us.
“So for eight weeks we didn’t travel anywhere. We lived in a cottage without electricity and without running water,” says the artist.While some young people might consider this to be a dreary sentence, it became an open door to creativity for Bernard.
Having no access to a car or television, I spent my days walking the shore. Back then, boredom meant having to come up with ideas to entertain yourself. So, I’d take my sketchpad and sketch old houses, old cars and the beach scenes. The beach was the simplest line for a 13-year-old like me, who wanted to sketch something that was concrete. There are basic triangles to connect with.
“So my evolvement as an artist began unconsciously during those summers at the beach. And, in the process, I connected with the landscape and P.E.I. became my emotional home,” says Bernard, who has been attached to Canada’s smallest province since moving here permanently in 1982.
His love for P.E.I. is reflected in Shorelines and Waterways, an exhibition of 30 new oil paintings and pastels on view at Eptek Centre in Summerside, until Oct. 5.
Whether it’s a painting of teenagers jumping off the wharf in Basin Head Beach, the spectacular Sunset at Twin Shores or his father’s Ford Custom driving across the bridge in Winter In Tyne Valley, it’s easy to feel his passion for the Island.“I have been able to connect with the landscape here more than any other place,” says the artist.
Bernard’s ability to move viewers with his paintings is impressive, says P.E.I. artist Henry Dunsmore, who attended the recent opening of the show.“
His work appeals to people because it captures the beautiful simplicity of the Island landscape. It also reflects people’s moods and dreams — their romanticism of P.E.I.
Whether it’s the use of lush colour in the sunsets or his ability to capture the mannerisms or essence of people, especially in the painting of Basin Head or the family at the beach, with water lapping up on the shore, this comes through loud and clear,” he says.
Bernard says his paintings are about rekindling memories.
“My life spans 51 years. My life is not made of wonderful memories at every point. But wonderful memories can carry me on.
“Coming down to this place gives me a warm feeling and the really good times that we had,” says Bernard, pointing out his children, Neil and Wade, in the painting of Basin Head.
“My kids have since grown up. One is 17 and one is 26. And we don’t do this anymore. But the feeling is still there. And anyone who has had that same experience will have the same pull or feeling about it,” he says.
Another thing that visitors to the gallery will notice is the variety in the show.The paintings encompass the four seasons, as well as many Island locations.
“The place that is most well represented is on the north shore, from Twin Shores to Cavendish,” says Bernard, adding the paintings have taken four years to complete.
During those years I didn’t realize that I was getting a lot done ... But when I come here and see the work hung, I realize that I’ve worked hard.”
AT A GLANCE
Shorelines and Waterways is the first show in 17 years for artist Maurice Bernard, also known for his work as a sandcastle artist.
Although he lived in bases all across the country, Bernard’s parents were Island Acadians who loved to return home each summer.
Bernard’s mentors include Dr. John Robertson and Leonce Bernard. (The exhibition also showcases a dozen bird carvings by Robertson.)
Eptek Centre summer hours are Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.