About Art Interview with Anna Horsnell Wade

On February 2nd, at 7pm, The Truro Art Society will host the opening of artist Anna Horsnell Wade’s exhibit of The Sarah Diaries at the McCarthy Gallery. The series of paintings and the accompanying book tell of her experience at sea aboard the tanker, the Sarah Desgagnés. The artist will speak about her project and answer questions, as well as do book signings. Everyone is welcome.

What’s your background?

Looking back, I can’t believe I’ve been painting for well over 35 years. Nova Scotia has always been home, but I’ve worked and studied in various parts of Canada. When I returned to Halifax 16 years ago, I wanted to become active in the local arts community which has been a very rewarding experience. Certainly these years in Halifax have been my most productive, creating and exhibiting my work while continuing to learn and challenging myself to make a difference through my art.

What inspired your new exhibit, The Sarah Diaries?

My husband goes to sea as Chief Engineer on a marine tanker for half of each year. In 2014, I had the opportunity to join him for two voyages aboard his ship, the Sarah Desgagnés. I was immediately inspired by the ship, the environment, and the men and women who work on board. I wanted to share my experience by paying tribute to the world of the merchant mariner. Our province has been shaped to a great extent by the ocean that surrounds us and our busy commercial shipping ports.

How did you determine what you wanted to paint?

I was very fortunate to enjoy relative freedom on board allowing me to explore the ship from the Bridge to the Engine Room. I wanted to share a bit of that intimacy amidst the day-to-day operation of a working vessel of that size. My goal was to focus on the details that are the essence of the ship from anchor chains to radar screens. That approach led me to group individual panels into larger pieces highlighting the various areas on the ship and the landscape.

When did you decide to also include a book in this project?

The book grew from a diary I decided to keep while on board mainly as something to occupy my time, but after the first few days at sea, I became obsessed with writing down all that I was seeing and feeling. I felt very privileged to be able to watch the officers and crew at work, to hear their stories, and to experience life on board. As a mariner’s wife, I knew not every family member has the chance to see what their wife or husband, son or daughter do when they go to sea and I thought it was important to share the story with them, as well as the general public.

What else would you like to tell people about The Sarah Diaries?

The Sarah Diaries project is unique in that it allowed me to merge what I do with my husband’s career at sea. The paintings and book have also served to inform many people about the merchant marine and the career opportunities available in this worldwide industry. Most importantly, I am very proud of the new Marine Officer’s Scholarship established by The Sarah Diaries project at the Nautical Institute of the Nova Scotia Community College in Port Hawkesbury. Half of all proceeds go to this fund.


Janice Guinan is a local artist who passionately believes in the importance of visual art. Her About Art column appears each week in the Truro Daily News. Guinan also writes a weekly column for the Colchester Weekly News. Both can be viewed online at www.trurodaily.com. Contact her at janice@janiceguinan.com.