Painting Cape Spear Lighthouse

Painting Cape Spear Lighthouse

The Eastern-most Point in North America: Painting Cape Spear Lighthouse

It was my first week in Newfoundland and my plan for this first week in residence at the James Baird/Pouch Cove Foundation was to explore and soak up some iconic locations. The impressions I arrived with about this distinctive Canadian locale were as follows; fishermen, cod, Sou’Wester hats and lighthouses. I never set out to paint lighthouses before, even though I have visited a few on my west coast island home. This tells the story behind painting Cape Spear Lighthouse.
CapeSpear_NEW_6 by Brandy Saturley on

As we began our day, a drive down the coast of the Avalon peninsula, through St. John’s and up and over a hill hiding the eastern-most point on the coast of North America. As we came through the dense dwarf pines and juniper of Newfoundland a naked point appeared where the rock looked like dinosaurs and was colored iron oxide red. Cape Spear offers many things besides the tall angular white lighthouse. There are a few buildings that dot the landscape all dressed in whites with stripes and details of coast guard signal red.

On this day the clouds and light were shifting quickly and dramatically, the scene changing from minute to minute. The wind on this day was hurricane force, it was a challenging climb up the side of the hill to the top and once there we really had to hold on or be blown out to sea! The historic happenings at this place are astounding, to say the least. On Canada’s most easterly point of land, the oldest surviving lighthouse in Newfoundland and Labrador offers a glimpse into the lives of 19th century lighthouse keepers and their families. Marvel at icebergs, migrating whales, and hunting seabirds on this rough Atlantic coast.

Discovering Cape Spear: A Journey Through History

We began a journey through time as we unraveled the captivating history of Cape Spear, a region steeped in heritage and resilience. From its indigenous roots to its pivotal role in World War II and its iconic lighthouse, each chapter reveals a unique facet of this remarkable destination. Long before the arrival of European settlers, the Cape Spear region was home to the Beothuk peoples, who thrived amidst its rugged beauty. Their presence intertwined with that of the Mi’kmaq communities, whose nomadic lifestyle echoed through the land, leaving an indelible mark on its landscape. Venturing into the annals of time, we discover the origins of Cape Spear’s name—a testament to the resilience and optimism of the human spirit. From its Portuguese roots as “Cabo da Esperança” to its French adaptation as “Cap d’Espoir,” and finally, its anglicized rendition as “Cape Spear,” each iteration carries with it a tale of hope and endurance.

Guardians of the Sea: World War II

As the world plunged into the darkness of World War II, Cape Spear emerged as a strategic stronghold, guarding the entrance to St. John’s harbor. Canadian-manned gun batteries stood sentinel, their silent vigil a testament to the bravery of those who defended these shores. Today, remnants of this pivotal era stand as silent witnesses to history, offering visitors a glimpse into the past.

Beacons of Light: Newfoundland Lighthouses

Perched majestically upon the rugged cliffs, the Cape Spear Lighthouse stands as a beacon of hope and guidance for seafarers navigating treacherous waters. With its origins tracing back to 1836, it holds the distinction of being the oldest surviving lighthouse in Newfoundland. Step inside its hallowed halls, where echoes of the past reverberate, and discover the legacy of those who tended its light through the ages.

Preserving Heritage: A Legacy of Protection

In recognition of its historical significance, Cape Spear has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada. The meticulous restoration of the original lighthouse and keeper’s residence transports visitors back to the bygone era of 1839, offering a glimpse into the lives of those who called this rugged coastline home. Wander through the halls of the visitor center, where tales of yore come alive amidst a treasure trove of memorabilia.

Navigating Nature’s Fury: Cautionary Tales

Amidst the breathtaking beauty of Cape Spear lies a reminder of nature’s untamed spirit. The mighty waves that crash against its cliffs, though mesmerizing, bear a solemn warning. Parks Canada’s vigilant efforts to safeguard visitors underscore the importance of heeding these cautionary signs, ensuring that all who tread upon these shores do so with reverence and respect.

Whether you seek adventure, enlightenment, or simply a moment of tranquility amidst nature’s grandeur, Cape Spear awaits, ready to unveil its secrets to those who dare to explore.

The Work Behind The Painting: Cape Spear Lighthouse

As my process goes, it begins with my attention being drawn to something specific, in this case it was planning a day long excursion to Cape Spear. Then the exploration begins on foot with Nikon and iPhone in tow, documenting the day through photography and video. Hiking to the top of the point, hanging onto the white picket fence-line, letting the wind carry me along the the fence until I could sit in the Parks Canada red Adirondack chairs. Watching the light, shadows and clouds move and the scene change rapidly.

Having my hair catch in my mouth and blind me as I hiked along. Walking through the tunnels under the site and standing where the soldiers of WWII stood. Feeling the pounding waves shake the ground, mesmerized by the continuous metamorphosis of the white crest of the wave. Breathing in the salty air, touching the rock beneath my feet, sometimes sharp and sometimes smooth. Letting the sounds of the wind and waves block out all other sounds, the white noise of nature. Feeling the energy of the wind, it’s playful like a child dancing around you and screaming loudly. Thinking, it would be humorous to open an umbrella in a place such as this, with dreaming of it carrying me up in the air like Mary Poppins.

The wind dances here, the waves are like a dramatic conductor of an intense symphony and the sky and clouds like sheep being herded my dogs across a never-ending field. Returning back to my studio at Pouch Cove, sitting down to write. Then five months later finding myself back in that place at Cape Spear while looking through my photography and video. And now with this painting, number 11 in a series that continues to unfold here on the west coast of Canada in my Vancouver Island studio.

The resulting painting finding a title, through my love of The Beatles music.  With Wind and Without – a play on words from a Beatles tune and sentiment, ”life goes on within you and without you”.

Painting Cape Spear Lighthouse

With Wind and Without, 48×30, acrylic on canvas, 2024 – Brandy Saturley

See more about this painting, here.