Life as an Artist
Charles Macdonald was, at various times in his life, a carpenter, a sailor, and a manufacturer. But he was always an artist. In perhaps 200 paintings and several surviving sketchbooks, Charles Macdonald has left us an invaluable record of his Nova Scotia, especially the Annapolis Valley on the mainland and the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton.
The rural Nova Scotia where Charlie spent most of his life has changed a great deal since his day. Small towns have lost their wharves, farms have become larger and fewer, roads have been paved. Macdonald's paintings have great value as historical documents, showing us what Nova Scotia looked like in decades past.
If Macdonald had a credo as an artist, it was that "for the real beauties of nature, you have to go to where nature is left alone." Many, if not most, of his paintings originated as watercolour or pencil sketches done in the field, and later turned into finished works.
Charlie's oeuvre merits attention by any standard, but it is even more impressive when one considers that he was completely self-taught. His formal education ended when he was only fifteen, and his youthful dream of attending art school never came true.
Charlie could only devote his spare time to painting and so he probably never could explore his evident talents fully. We are the poorer for it.