Snow day art

Halifax painter takes to the Citadel for snow day

Alex King braves the cold in the name of art

Alex King painting the snowy Citadel
King never paints from a photo, even if it means standing in the cold for hours.   Blake Prendergast

A huge gust of wind blows up behind him. Alex King dives for his easel just as the front legs begin to lift.

The freshly fallen snow is well over the top of his boots. He shifts his weight back and forth as though it might help. Gently, he sets his paintbrush down to rub some colour back into his hands.

“Oh, maybe about four or five hours,” he says when asked how long it will take him today. “I’ll have most of it done. I’ll just have to come back for touch-ups.”

King is finishing the final year of his undergraduate degree at NSCAD. He, like many others in the city, was told not to come to campus this morning.

Haligonians awoke to 20 centimetres of fresh snow and, more than likely, an email telling them to stay home.

But when King looked out and saw the sun breaking through the clouds, he knew how he would be spending the rest of his day.

King mixes a brown paint
Painting in the cold has its challenges. King adds more solvent to his paint to keep it from thickening.   Blake Prendergast

As he speaks, his eyes flick rapidly back and forth between his white canvas and the landscape in front of him. He is about to paint a snowy landscape of the Halifax Citadel.

He squeezes several blobs of paint onto his palette and then carefully opens a small round container of liquid.

“When it’s cold, your paint thickens. You have to add more solvent to it,” he says. “It’s slower to dry too.”

He sets the lid to the container down and it immediately blows away. His eyes follow it for a moment and he lets out a little sigh.

King never paints from a photo, no matter how windy or cold it is outside. He is originally from Newfoundland, so he’s used to the hardships of painting in an Atlantic winter.

He will have an exhibit this summer at NSCAD before he begins his master’s degree at the New York Academy of Art. Landscapes are his speciality. He paints in a representational style with a focus on colour and brushstroke.

He pauses and steps back from his canvas. He squints at the coarse lines he painted. A cold wind blows his hair in front of his eyes.

“This is my career,” he says with a smile.

King's landscape with a rough outline
When Alex King saw the fresh snow and the sun, he packed his paints and headed for the Citadel.   Blake Prendergast

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6 comments

    1. Oils with linseed and distilled spirit of turpentine. If using watercolour you can add vodka to your water so it doesn’t freeze

  1. so proud of our neighbor Alex…. he is outside painting here all summer in Gros Morne NP

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