Mark Brennan


Open Water

Open Water oil on board 9×11

There are some places that we come to know better than others, some places we are drawn to for the memories they give or the peace they provide. This is one such place for me, a lake that I have been visiting for over 20 years. I have canoed, fished, hiked, recorded, ski’d and snow shoe’d here and every time I go back the feelings and thoughts are the same, it is like visiting a good friend. I guess, you could call it a sacred place.

January 8th 2012

Winter is upon us and with temperatures down to -22 degrees C this morning, its going to be a little better being in the woods and having my winter camp to head towards.

December 30th 2012

The third work in the sacred places series is now complete. This peice depicts my canoe entering Cobrielle Lake, located in the back country of Kejimkujik National Park, NS. We had just finished loading the canoe from the portage out of Peskowesk Lake, where we spent a week camping.

I recorded the sounds of this wilderness for several days, at times deep in the Acadian forest and then near the lake shores and streams. The weather was typical May in Nova Scotia, warm, then torrential rain, cold and very high winds, but the sounds of wild nature are never predictable! This became the the audio story of this magnificent place, which you can read about below.

Our journey took us straight ahead where the bow is pointing in the painting, across the middle of this lake to the next portage several km away. This was on a calm early May morning. Many thanks to my good friend Graham Kennedy for his inspiration.

Entering Cobrielle Lake, Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia 36x48

Entering Cobrielle Lake, Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia 36×48 oil


And so it is with great excitement I get to unveil the ‘Peskowesk’ soundscape album today. When I travel through the wilderness, after a few days, the business of normal life ebbs away and it is mostly at this time I become very aware of my surroundings. Over the years sound has increasingly played a more significant role in my wilderness experience, this awareness deepens the relationship with the place.

Peskowesk is a large lake in Kejimkujik National Park in South West Nova Scotia, and it was here I spent a week canoeing, recording, writing and fly fishing with my good friend Graham Kennedy. The album release covers the soundscape over this week, from dawn into dusk. If you listen, it is best with headphones, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The sound you can hear here are very subtle, quiet and unlike music we are used to listening too. In our busy worlds today, it is hard for us to stop, relax and listen to something like this, but I think if you can, you will find a little something to help you in your own journey. If you download this album and unzip the files to play in itunes, it will play seamlessly as one full hour track, each soundscape blending into the next.

November 9th 2012

A busy fall and as winter comes closer, more time in the studio. My trip into the Tobeatic Wilderness Area by canoe in September of this year is taking most of my attention.

Kevin and Greg Dickie, Sporting Lake Stream canoe toward our campsite in the fall of 2012.

The Tobeatic nestles next to Kejimkujik National Park in South West Nova Scotia,  and is perhaps the Province’s largest, most intact, wilderness. It is simply stunning and so very unique, especially for the wilderness painter, where every bend or turn a new painting awaits! Below you can see the growing body of small sketches from this trip, some of which will be worked into larger pieces for the Sacred Places Project.

I hope to spend a good portion of the winter producing work from this trip. To my knowledge it hasn’t been painted in any significant way. The hope is to again get back to the area with fellow painter, Greg Dickie, in the Spring of 2013. Below is a very short film of Greg painting at a chute whilst on our way out after a very rainy and wet day. It just gives the viewer an idea of how wonderful this place really is!


October 2012

Work continues on the Sacred Places Project this fall both in the studio and in the field. A recently finished work, “Moonrise Over The Boreal Forest” is now complete and depicts a moment during a train journey from Nova Scotia to British Columbia in the early 1990′s. Still in my early twenties this trip was to have a profound effect on how I viewed my new home, Canada.

Detail, Moonrise Over The Boreal Forest
Mark Brennan, 36X48 inches
Oil on panel.

The journey through Northern Ontario is long and stunning, there is nothing like the Canadian Shield to move you. Sitting there, through those snowy March days, staring through a window of constantly changing images of the wilderness is something that has stayed with me for over twenty years. One morning at around 2am while most other slept, the full Moon began its ascent, rising over the vast Boreal Forests and frozen lakes into the night sky. A sacred moment of realization of my insignificance but connection to Nature. This moment also came after I had first discovered the Oh Canada project at the Art Gallery of Ontario, where I saw for the first time the work of the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson just a few days before.

Moonrise Over The Boreal Forest
Mark Brennan, 36×48 inches, Oil on panel

This is the second piece in the Sacred Places Project. At 1.3 billion acres, the Canadian Boreal Forest is one of the largest intact forest and wetland ecosystems remaining on earth and is under increasing pressure from industrial extraction, mining forestry etc. To learn more about the threats to the Boreal Forest you can visit the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Boreal Forest website.

The Sacred Places Project”
 And so, the first work from the sacred places project, “Sunrise, French Mountain, Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia” 36×48, Oil on Birch. SOLD

I have had a long relationship with French Mountain, one that has spanned over 20 years. It was here in my early 20′s I began to explore the wonderful wilderness of the Cape Breton Highlands, hiking the trails like Skyline Trail, well before it became a well known destination for hikers. Years later, this was the setting off point for a back packing trip from French Mountain to Ingonish on the Atlantic side of the Park, some 70km on foot and through the Caribou Barrens! French Mountain also reminds me of the Highlands of Scotland, with its ever changing light and exposed barren hillsides. It was here, a deeper relationship with nature was born. 
French Mountain is a sacred place, it’s wildness urges you to look closer, to feel the raw Northern wind blowing incessantly across the Boreal plateau, to be taken in by the Dawn Chorus of spring or to experience natural silence for the first time.

You can listen to a soundscape of a Spring Dawn on French Mountain here, recorded late one May morning several years ago on the plateau.

Sunrise Over French Mountain in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia.

Exploring Our Connection To Wilderness Through Art

Over the next few months I will be traveling, painting and recording the wild soundscape on location to get a better understanding of our connection to wild nature. What does it mean to us, how does it move us, motivate us and enlighten our spirit?

Kejimkujik National Park, Spring 2012

There are many locations I want to revisit and many more I want to see and feel for the first time. From the huge glacial eratics found in the forests of Kejimkujik National Park to the remaining untouched Acadian Woods of Northern New Brunswick. The ancient Arctic plateau of Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland and the dissapearing glaciers of the Rockies, I want to capture these “Sacred Places” to produce a body of work that explores that oldest of our emotions, belonging, the one that tells us we are connected with mind, body and spirit to the Earth.

Coming Out Of The Back country, Kejimkujik Nat Park.

Follow Mark and Learn about The Sacred Places Project On Facebook.