Balser painting at Point Prim

Lighthouses are such wonderful subjects, aren’t they? They project into the sky with brilliant designs from sandy and rocky shores and are beacons of hope for weary sailors. For accomplished outdoor painter Poppy Balser, there will always be a special place in her heart for Point Prim. Discover why here.

Although Poppy Balser is extremely proficient in painting a diverse range of subjects, those familiar with her work know that she’s especially skilled at capturing rocky shorelines and dramatic waves. It’s mesmerizing, to be sure. She’s had a lot of experience because her favorite place to paint is located just over six miles from her home in Digby, Nova Scotia, at Point Prim.

The lighthouse at Point Prim
Point Prim, Photo: Poppy Balser
Poppy Balser, “November Seascape,” 2016, watercolor on paper, 11 x 15 inches

It’s at Point Prim that Balser encounters a new scene each time she visits, an element that keeps her creative senses piqued. “It takes me just minutes to get there, and the view is always different,” Balser affirms. “From the lighthouse on a clear day I can see New Brunswick, some 47 miles away, across the Bay of Fundy. It was the lighthouse that brought me there the first time. A collector commissioned a painting of it. That was 2007.”

Point Prim, Photo: Poppy Balser
Point Prim, Photo: Poppy Balser

As any painter knows, even slight changes in weather and tides can spark dramatic changes in a scene, especially along shorelines. “The blocky basalt cliffs are mostly black when wet, but they reflect light from the sky and the water — I love painting that,” Balser continues. “Depending on the direction of the wind and the colors in the sky, the water can range from a deep blue green to a silver-gray. There can be quiet ripples lapping at the rocks or huge waves battering the cliffs. Some days, I just go to study the waves and the sky when the wind is too much to let me paint. Often enough, I can find a place that is out of the wind to sketch for a while. There’s also a 30-foot tidal range. Some days, the water is right up close to the top of the rocks, other days it’s way down.”

Point Prim, Photo: Poppy Balser
Poppy Balser, “Point Prim, October 26,” 2015, watercolor on paper, 7 x 11 inches. “I painted this tucked out of the considerable wind behind some shrubs. The waves were fantastic that day. That was the most extreme surf I have painted en plein air.”
Point Prim, Photo: Poppy Balser

As Balser will attest, there’s so much more to Point Prim than variable winds and seas and dramatic boulders. “There are also the weathered trees and shrubs that cling to the rocks at the top of the shore,” she says. “The worn and twisted trees are sculpted by the wind. Alive or dead, they make fascinating shapes against the sky. The wildflowers in summer are a joyous affirmation that beauty can survive in the face of adversity. Splashed all fall, winter, and spring with salt spray thrown up onto the shore by storms and growing with their roots wedged into rock crevices, they nonetheless put out lovely blooms in summer.”

Poppy Balser, “Winter Sunset Sketch,” 2017, watercolor on paper, 11 x 15 inches. “I painted this on the first warm day in February. Things were going well, the painting just flowed off the brush, and it took me a while to realize that this was because my paint was not freezing on the easel!”
Poppy Balser, “Tidal Pool Reflections” (studio piece from plein air sketch), watercolor on paper, 22 x 30 inches. “This piece is the same rock formation as in ‘November Seascape,’ but the tide has gone out a bit.”
Poppy Balser, “Winter at Point Prim” (studio piece from plein air sketch), watercolor on paper, 15 x 22 inches

Along with enjoying the never-ending variety and beauty of Point Prim, Balser uses her art to help preserve her favorite place to paint. “When I sell a painting of the lighthouse, I give a portion of the sale to the Friends of Point Prim, who maintain the lighthouse, which was decommissioned several years ago,” she explains. “It is maintained as a public open space, which gives me and many others access to our rugged Bay of Fundy coast. It is very rare for me to be there painting and not encounter at least one other person there to admire the view.”

Lucky for those who’ve never been, we can still admire the views of Point Prim through the skillful eyes and brushes of Poppy Balser. To learn more, visit Poppy Balser.

Where’s your favorite place to paint? I’d love to hear about it at [email protected]. Don’t be shy! Let’s write a story.


Poppy Balser has been painting in earnest since 2000 and learned her craft through studies with renowned instructors in watercolor and other mediums. These instructors include William Rogers, Chris Gorey, Stapleton Kearns and Jean Pederson. She is a full-time professional artist with a part-time job as a pharmacist. As well as being an artist and a pharmacist, Poppy Balser is the mother of two children. She has been blogging about being a painter in Nova Scotia since 2008.


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