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Helen Opie

Helen Opie

Helen Opie was born in England before WW II, moved to the US with her family when her father was seconded into the British Embassy in Washington DC in 1939. After the war, she lived in several eastern states (Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Maine). She immigrated to New Brunswick in 1977, to Nova Scotia in 1993, moving from Chester to Maders Cove to Granville Ferry, and shortly to Freeport in September 2019.

She majored in Studio Art at Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, and has a Master’s in Education from Boston University. She ‘dropped out’ of teaching to become a mother and foster mother, joining the back-to-the-land movement before hippies were invented. She returned to school for one semester at the State University of New York in 1987 (SUNY-Albany) for more courses in drawing as well as to learn stained glass techniques. Later she attended a 7-week course on watercolour portrait painting for teachers at the Phoebe Flory School of Art in Wilton NH. She also credits Molly Lamb Bobak (of NB), Henry Purdy (of PEI), Sharon Yates (of Maine), and Wayne Boucher (Annapolis Royal NS) with encouraging, teaching, and enabling her to grow to the place she is now, along with many, many fine and supportive friends.

She is an anomaly and an oxymoron (brave wimp). She is practising to become a very old lady. Moving to seniors housing in Freeport is part of that practice.

I love being alive, alive here in Southwest Nova Scotia. I love this region; the Valley with its quilt-patch fields threaded along the Annapolis River, its flanking mountains, and the ever-changing Fundy Shore and now I love being in the midst of the confluence of waters in Freeport. I love the patterns and changing colours of the landscape, and the shapes of old houses, barns, sheds, fish stores, and wharves. I love the abstract compositions I see in parts of houses; massed roofs, overlapping sheds and ells, chimneys dancing across the sky. I also love going to the Acadian Shore and my old haunts both here and in New Brunswick. I paint all these subjects to celebrate them, to memorialise a way of life fast disappearing, to preserve their forms. As I age, I find I am transitioning to being more of a studio painter than a plein air painter.

I like working small, up to 12 x 12”, and I like working large, defined by what fit into my old tiny car; forty inches/one meter square. Working small is portable and more private; I can stand on a sidewalk, sit in a restaurant, or shelter from the weather in my car. Working large uses my whole body. I like standing up, waving my whole arm, the rest of my body following. I like the dance-moves, stepping back from my painting and forward again. This larger action makes me feel at one with the subject; for I am dancing about immersed in its surroundings. I am wholly involved, and that is how I like to live.

Helen Opie

You can reach Helen by email at

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