Artist Profile

Photo or painting? This artist's work makes it hard to tell

Much of the inspiration for Katharine Burns's ocean oil paintings comes from her time spent kayaking in Nova Scotia.

Katharine Burns says her ocean paintings aren’t 'the classic Maritime scene.'

Katharine Burns grew up in Prospect Village, N.S. She now paints from her Halifax apartment. (Dave Culligan and Gavin Hatheway for CBC)

Before Katharine Burns's brush touches the canvas, her paddle hits the salty water.  

The ocean is her muse.

Katharine Burns turns her photos of the ocean into paintings. Video produced by Dave Culligan and Gavin Hatheway. 2:32

And much of the inspiration for her oil paintings comes from her time spent kayaking in Nova Scotia.

She snaps photos to serve as guides.

"I don't do kind of the classic Maritime scene," says Burns. "There's no boat. There's no lighthouse in it. And oftentimes ...  there's very little land."

Her work is so realistic, it's hard to tell whether you're looking at a photo or a painting.

Katharine Burns has been painting the sea for about five years. This is a painting. (Katharine Burns )

People often tell her that her work feels like an immersive experience.

"Rather than like a scene of a boat, it almost feels like you're in the boat," Burns says.

That's a place of peace for the 32-year-old.

"Personally, [the ocean] makes me feel happier and healthier and that's kind of what I'm trying to do with the paintings."

Katharine Burns snaps pictures of the ocean from her kayak, which serve as inspiration for her oil paintings. This is a photo and not a painting. (Submitted by Katharine Burns )

Burns grew up near the ocean in Prospect Village, N.S., and now paints from her Halifax apartment. Her paintings land in homes around the province or travel places where there's no ocean in sight.  

Burns says the subject matter is both intimidating and inspiring.

"Like the sky, it's not something solid. It's fluid, it's always changing."

Fluid by Katharine Burns. 14x22. (Katharine Burns)

Burns's passion for art is inspired by someone who loved change.

Her father, Manfred Neumann, was a self-taught artist. He was a gardener by summer and painter by winter.

During those cold months, he would study different masters and try out different styles.

Neumann died when Burns was seven years old, but she still feels connected to him while creating. 

Katharine Burns's painting South Beach, Sable Island. 24x36. (Katharine Burns)

"I do wish he were here so I could get some feedback from him," Burns says. "I think he would be proud."

Burns is experimenting with adding land and icebergs to some of her work, but the ocean theme remains.

"I feel like I've just barely scratched the surface of what I can do with the ocean."

With files from Natalie Dobbin

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