Weir After Rain
Watercolour on panel
20 x16 in.
Available from The Flight of Fancy, Bear River, NS, Canada

Herring weirs are a recurring theme in Poppy Balser’s paintings, such as Weir After Rain. Weirs were traditionally built from wood or stones. The use of fishing weirs as fish traps scans countless years and many societies worldwide.

“Weirs were strung all along seashores of the Bay of Fundy when I was growing up in New Brunswick, Canada. They were commonplace and unremarkable. Now weirs are disappearing due to declining fish stocks. Whenever I find a weir still in use, I make sure to paint it, to document each so weirs do not disappear from our memory,” says Poppy.

Poppy recently won “Best in Show” while participating in the Parrsboro International Plein Air Festival. The painting was of one of the few remaining weirs in Nova Scotia. The fisherman who operates the weir told Poppy there has been a weir in the location for at least 180 years, showing that this truly is a practice with historic significance.

Much of Poppy’s painting approach and objectives are echoed in the comments of the festival’s juror and fellow artist Nancy Tankersley. “This painting showed great design and a good sense of the light and time of day. The point of view is quite low which heightens the monumental feel of the structures. The big shape on the left of the painting is strong and simple and leads to the smaller shapes of the rocks in the foreground and the poles and nets off in the distance. The variety of shapes lends an interesting rhythm to the piece which is very musical. Think of the bold strong note set by the shape on the left, followed by short staccato notes of the distant shapes over the lilting melody of the foreground water, ending with a quiet whisper of sound as the shapes dissolve into a distant melody. The band of strong blue color on the distant horizon helps to hold the shapes of the fishing weir together. The suggestion of shape behind the foreground net adds to its transparency  and the direction of the water helps to form a circular movement which keeps the viewer in the painting.”

“My experience with weirs began when I was a child, I was able to explore the one in the bay across the road. Every low tide in daylight hours I was permitted to enter the weir to explore after the fisherman had been in and completed his work. I never knew what I might find and thus a sense of discovery accompanied each trip. I still feel a sense of wonder as I approach a weir,” adds Poppy.

View Poppy’s award-winning painting and more paintings on Poppy’s website.

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To see photos of the weir that she explored as a child, click here.

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