LITTLE HARBOUR – At the end of Bill Roff’s driveway sits an idyllic landscape, perfect for an artist.
Bill Roff changes his painting style often to keep himself challenged. Right now, his focus is on nature and the forest. His latest shows a trail that used to be maintained, but is now overgrown and blocked by fallen trees. AMANDA JESS – THE NEWS
The picturesque land is not lost on Roff, who loves to paint nature. Although he’s done abstract work, he prefers to concentrate on what’s right in front of him.
“I seem to visualize things as they are.”
A white farmhouse sits on his property with two old barns to each side. Trees are placed on the rolling hill, fall colours contrasting against the emerald grass.
The window in his barn-turned-studio frames a wild garden, a scene gracing one of his canvases.
“Each pane is a picture in itself,” he says of the image.
He finds beauty outside his yard too. He says he often goes down to the dock and the railway for inspiration.
Roff’s painting is truly a creative process. It can start from photographs and end up as a drawing all before he picks up a paintbrush.
His current work is a mixture of two photographs from an overgrown trail.
Branches and fallen trees litter the walking path, captured in a watercolour painting of Roff’s.
He has begun to make an oil painting version as well, but he doesn’t rush his work.
He needs to look at an image for a long time before starting. He says he produces a few pieces a year. He loves it, but it’s not how he makes a living. It’s always been an extracurricular activity.
Roff was born just before the Second World War in the south of England. He was too young to remember the beginning of the war, but can recall everyone’s happiness when it was over in 1945.
He has been drawing since he was a child and remembers his mother keeping a collection. His focus then was on insects and trees.
He took a class on painting and began creating figures with soft edges. His work went from just barely defined to the detailed pieces he produces now.
He went to Cambridge University and studied to become a professor. He taught in England until he was offered a position at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. He moved to Canada and worked there for 16 years.
He says he taught a variety of basic subjects as well as upper year courses focusing on plants and nature.
Roff met his wife, Nancy, while in Kingston. She was from Pictou County and brought Roff to the province in the 1970s.
He was only at their farmhouse off Little Harbour Road during the winter for several years.
Roff has been drawing and painting for most of his life, but he’s always changing his style.
“I don’t like the idea of repeating something.”
His focus now is on realistic portrayals of the environment.
“The more accurate you are, the more likely people will criticize it and say it’s wrong.”
He also does landscape design as a side business.
He says he needs to be able to visualize in three dimensions as well as understand plant life.
“Those two parts of my career mesh,” he says about his artistry and career teaching botany.
His work was shown at Celtic Circle recently as part of a multi-artist exhibition for the first time in several years, he says.
Before that, his last exhibit was in the former Maritime Building on Provost Street.
He says he mostly shows his work to people who visit him at his home.
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