A brush with peace on P.E.I.

Sally Cole scole@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on May 16, 2014

Joan Savage shows Party of Eight. Inspired by a family of pigeons resting on a branch, outside her window, it’s one of the pieces in Nature’s Healing Art, on view at the MacNaught History Centre and Archives in Summerside until the end of May. Savage will be at the gallery, 75 Spring St., on Saturday, May 17, 2-4 p.m.


Joan Savage has spent a lifetime creating beautiful works of art.

“I won my first contest when I was five years old, in kindergarten,” says the Summerside Art Club member who, over the years, has fine-tuned her skills as a landscape artist through instruction and workshops from other artists.

Savage has also spent a 31-year career helping people move towards better health.

“What I liked most about my nursing career was working in the area of prevention,” says the Summerside resident who, after retiring from public health nursing three years ago, continues to practise complementary therapies including reflexology, therapeutic touch and reiki energy healing.

Savage’s worlds come together in her first solo show, Nature’s Healing Art, which is on view at the MacNaught History Centre and Archives in Summerside until the end of May.

The 15-piece exhibition depicts the soft and rolling countryside and the soothing beaches of Prince Edward Island.

“Nature for me is dramatically healing,” says Savage who found the inspiration for many of her paintings while walking along the Confederation Trail, as well as exploring other nature sites.

Whether it’s Winter Wonderland, Serenity at Bowley’s Pond, Sunset at Crystal Beach or Old Boardwalk at New Glasgow, the mood created by the 15 chalk pastel paintings is a peaceful one.

At first, the positive energy radiating from her art came as a surprise to her.

“When I first started selling my work, people would say to me, ‘oh, your work is so soothing.’ Someone else would say, ‘when I look at your work I feel so calm.’ And I would go, ‘Really?’ because I didn’t know it. I just paint that way. I can’t help it.”

In fact, Savage didn’t realize how people were attracted to the calming power of her art until several years ago.

One day while attending a meeting in Charlottetown the woman sitting next to her recognized her and told her a story about the health benefits of her work.

“She said, ‘my husband just bought a number of your paintings.’ When I asked her where they would be hung, she said, ‘on the walls at his office to calm people down while they wait.’ I came to find out that her husband was the sheriff. That blew me away.”

At the MacNaught History Centre and Archives gallery, organizers are in awe of her chalk pastel paintings.

“The results are remarkable. When you see her work it instills a sense of peace (inside the viewer) and a deeper meaning,” says Marlene Campbell, cultural programming co-ordinator for the City of Summerside.

Emily Schurman is also a fan.

“I’ve purchased three pieces. I just like her work. When I look at one of her paintings, I’m there. Joan captures real time, real moments. For example, she has a painting on the Lower Bedeque Road. But, instead of doing it in the summer, when it’s green, she did it in the spring when it’s clay,” says the Summerside woman, one of many people who attended the exhibition opening.

Campbell is thrilled that the show has received a “tremendous reception.”

“People are coming in and spending quite a bit of time with it. They are enjoying the tranquility of the work,” she says.

Savage is moved by viewers’ reactions.

“I want people to love (the paintings) and have them for those reasons.”

When asked about where the tranquility comes from, Savage smiles.

“Someone once asked members of my art club whether we thought painting was a God-given talent. When she came to me I said, ‘I wouldn’t have a clue as to where else it would come from.’ So, as you can see, I feel very blessed.”


Up close and personal with Joan Savage

Favourite movie: Just Like Heaven.

Favourite music: Bach, Beethoven, Handel.

Favourite quote: “Let go and let God.”

Website: Go to http://www.natureshealingart.com.