Sense of Place

By: Martha Stroud

Volume 16, Issue 5, May 2021
Sense of Place refers to the emotive bonds and attachments people develop or experience in particular locations and environments, at scales ranging from the home to the nation. Sense of place is also used to describe the distinctiveness or unique character of particular localities and regions. . . *                          

Exhibition:  June 3-26, Kingston ON.

Artists have often used the excitement of travel as a source of inspiration, but this past year life has changed for everyone and people are finding comfort, safety, and wellbeing much closer to home. Some have painted what is around them, others have painted happy times they remember, and still others have painted what they wish for when life returns to some sort of normal.

Most have used the opportunity to paint positivity, rather than the fear that we have all felt on occasion, over the year. I hope you enjoy the paintings and the stories, and will take the opportunity to visit the show, virtually or in person.

My 'sense of place' in Kingston has always been rooted in manmade objects, the beautiful old houses and historic public buildings, and I have painted some of the quirkier ones over the years. The pandemic sent me off the busy streets and onto the K&P Trail, between the Inner Harbour and Montreal Street. Over the year, I have seen migrating flocks of birds, large and small, groundhog babies playing in the grass, turtles looking for a place to lay their eggs and baby turtles crawling slowly down to the water, and I have watched a small swamp being colonized by a beaver. He or she has wrought havoc amongst the trees there, built a lodge and a dam, and the water just keeps rising!

Other beavers have been spotted along the river too, where they quickly demolish any small trees in sight. My sense of place in Kingston has shifted over the past year, and I am looking forward to the repeat of the seasons as we start our second year of trail walks, especially because I know what treats are in store. The painting is of Molly Brant Point, beside the Old Woolen Mill on a sunny day.

To see the full swamp series, and more  paintings by the artists in this article, visit

Pat Markovich

Last year, at the onset of the pandemic, we were blessed with a new grandson. Since my son and his family lived in Toronto, they felt that they could best protect their 3-year-old and newborn by staying with us in Brockville for a couple of months.

One of the joys of seeing through the eyes of a 3 year old, is the endless wonder in which they view the world. This painting shows little Ben mesmerized by the first big ship he saw that season. Running to the edge of the deck, he patiently watched until the ship disappeared from view. After that, each time one could hear the low thrum of the ship’s engine, we would drop everything and run to watch another giant slip by our home.

Ben would declare this one to be the “biggest boat ever,” only to be exceeded by the next ship he saw. He never tired of this game. The scene here shows Ben looking out on a lovely spring day, filled with anticipation. For Ben, just the simple act of watching this boat sail by and imagining the places that it would go was exciting. For the adults during a period of lockdown and isolation, it represented the confinement we felt, and yet the gift it gave us was to slow down and live in the moment. I hope you enjoy “Anticipation.”

Colleen O'Connell

'Village Life' illustrates small town Canada.

The Main Street is the meeting place of the locals as they pick up their groceries, purchase flowers, books and stop to chat with neighbours. It denotes a time of innocence where the pace of life is slower.

Doug Hall

'Summer at the Lake' is a feeling deep inside my soul, which reflects the sound of my children’s laughter.

The years while they grew and the joy that they brought to my unsuspecting heart linger in the colours of autumn and the splash I hear at water's edge. Those years are gone now, but the magic of the scene brings the smile on my face to a reflection in the glass. I have painted many, many scenes of forests and lakes with the same result: love of life and lovely thoughts of remembrance.

Sheila Goertzen

This historic landmark is a favourite of ours to boat around and a special area for photo taking.

Family members live on this beautiful lake, which makes for easy access with our boat.

Barbara Patrick

In his 1996 essay, “Poetry and a Sense of Place,” John Burnside describes a Celtic myth that recognizes a sense of space, which is the boundary that is neither one place or another, but the space in between the two. This is the magical space where anything can occur.

During the long pandemic, I have been searching for such a place - where bold, vibrant and shimmering colours dominate imaginary landscapes, where anything is possible.

Linda Merry

In this painting "Drawing Down the Rain", A Place in Time is represented by the ever powerful force claimed by all women throughout the ages.  

Being strong and loving, especially during this stressful time is the gift women give. 'Never underestimate the power of a woman!!'

Sian Tucker

For our dog Barley, the pandemic has been bliss, the next best thing to squirrels and liver treats. He has trained his humans to walk him four times a day, and a move from the country to suburbia provides new lampposts to sniff, to collect messages from and to send some of his own.

For me, the pandemic provides an opportunity to slow down and to appreciate what has real meaning. The walks with Barley provide time to discover our new neighbourhood at a leisurely pace, and find inspiration for paintings close to home, such as dusk in early January where lockdown and freshly fallen snow enhanced the quiet and peacefulness.

Margaret Ebdon

I saw these work boots riding on top of a narrowboat boat in England on the River Thames when I visited my cousin and family in 2018.

The trip to England was going home for me. It is the country where I was born and being amongst things familiar and connecting with my roots was very heartwarming. Like these work boots, I am retired and enjoying the good life. Rooted and planted! I long for a time when I am again free to visit the country that I love.

James Curtis

"Windswept"  is from my B.C. series of impressions, inspired by the visual enjoyment of travelling the Sea to Sky Highway in  B.C.

Ingrid Schmidt

In these turbulent times, I find great comfort spending time in nature.  The mighty St Lawrence River, the permanence of the rocks, and the beauty of the swaying pine trees, give me a sense of peace and hope in our current times.

Belia Brandow

'My Backyard Tangled Garden' was inspired by J.E.H. MacDonald, a member of the Group of Seven. Sitting in my garden gives me solace, joy and hope, while I do my best creative thinking sitting in the Adirondack chair with my cats nearby. I have always sought comfort in my gardens, the planning, planting, maintaining, and reaping the rewards with bouquets of flowers to share with friends and to paint.

During the pandemic, I have a sense of urgency to create a specific area in my garden where I have some sense of control and feel safe and protected. My garden is enclosed on three sides with one side open to a view of the field behind my home. Sitting in my garden, the view is different each day from Spring through to Fall, as the flowers, colours, and smells are constantly changing, from the chartreuse colour and smell of new growth, and soft colours of phlox in the spring, to the majestic form of the glorious irises, the bright reds and oranges of the lilies, and my favorite - the hydrangeas that bring back memories of my mother’s garden. What joys will my Tangled Garden bring me during yet another summer in lockdown and isolation?

Alison Storey

A very long wait. Tick Tock goes the Clock, Ding Dong goes the Bell.

Yes, I am waiting at the Service Canada office opposite the Brockville City Hall, which was once called Victoria Halland, built in 1864. A splendid historic building. I just recently moved here and need to replace my PEI health card with an Ontario one. It's a very hot, sunny, day in May 2020, and a long line of people have gathered, regimentally separated by the appropriate distance, but most are patient and chatty. One hour later, we have moved from the hot sun to the shady area around the corner. I hear the clock and keep looking up at the time. I notice the bell, columns and dome of the tower. I think to myself, "I wonder if I have time to draw this?" So, I scratch in my bag to find a scrap of paper and a pen or pencil. I'm almost finished and the line moves on. I stuff the paper in my pocket, and it is forgotten until I come to launder my trousers. It triggers an emotion from that day, and I know it would make good subject matter for a woodcut. So, the drawing inspired a small edition of 12 hand-pulled woodcut prints 11"x11" in black on Canson hot-pressed paper.

I now belong to Brockville, hoping it will be my last move.

Line Donnelly

I guess my ideal place is a beautiful one, where I can do whatever, I wish, with no restrictions whatsoever, painted with the brightest colours to make it all pretty, even war. What could be nicer than that? To me it is heaven!

Helma Gansen

My sense of place is captured in this collage. It is my garden and my small, former boat shed, now studio. Here is where I go to be creative, to meditate, to experiment, and to explore.

Both took on added importance during this past Covid year. Here I painted every Thursday together, but apart, with my TIFAA painter friends. It added structure and purpose to the days of the lockdowns and restrictions.

I really enjoyed collecting these stories about art during the time of Covid 19 from my colleagues, and hope you enjoyed them too. I noticed that no one painted 'fear, dysphoria or placelessness.' We artists must be an optimistic lot!

To see more of these artists and their work, plan to attend the Thousand Islands Fine Arts Association (TIFAA) art show at the Window Art Gallery, 647A Princess Street, Kingston, Ontario from June 3-26 2021.

The theme of the show is A Sense of Place. For more information, phone (613) 549-1528 or email

TIFAA website can be found at  You can find contact information for each artist, as well as more of their paintings.

Most of all, join us at the Window Gallery between 28 May and 20 June!

By Martha Stroud

Martha Stroud's family emigrated from Ireland around 1908, to live first in Gananoque, then Kingston and finally Toronto, where she was born. She has lived and worked on three continents, but is very happy to have retired back to Kingston and the Thousand Islands area, where she tries to capture nature ever-changing on canvas. See Martha's past articles and the work of her many artist friends here and here!

*      By K.E. Foote, M. Azaryahu, "International Encyclopedia of Human Geography", 2009

Posted in: Volume 16, Issue 5, May 2021, Artists

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