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Island of inspiration: Artist Adam Young paints vibrant scenes of East Coast

Artist Adam Young is often inspired by fishing stages.
Artist Adam Young is often inspired by fishing stages. - Contributed

In 2008, Adam Young made a decision that would shape his art and career. Young, who was born in Halifax, N.S., and studied and worked in Moncton, N.B., moved to Fogo Island. This new home would inspire the art of an at-first reluctant Young. 

“I never regret my move to Newfoundland and doing this,” Young says. “At the time, I thought I was making the worst decision of my life.” Young, who’s 39, paints the scenes and life of Newfoundland and Labrador and other parts of Eastern Canada. He uses acrylics and inks to draw icebergs, the ocean, the skies of Twillingate and saltbox houses. He likes the way the light reflects off the sea on dark, crisp nights. He’s especially inspired by the fishing stages that dot the province’s rugged coastline.  

Recipes, traditions and more in our Holidays section
Recipes, traditions and more in our Holidays section

His paintings take anywhere from one to two days to a couple of months to finish. The work starts with a composition of lines or he works from a photograph. His work has evolved over the last 10 years. The first paintings he did when he moved to Fogo Island were darker and investigated contours. Now, his paintings are rich with colour, including reds, blues, greens and yellows.  

Young started taking drawing seriously when he was in high school in New Brunswick. His art teacher, Dave Brooks, encouraged him to create and taught Young about various mediums, as well as art history and how art has evolved over the years. “He really nurtured that passion in me,” Young says. “He really fostered that idea I could take this further. He gave us a solid understanding at a young age.” 

The use of rich colours and East Coast scenery in Adam Young’s work capture the attention of art lovers near and far. - Contributed
The use of rich colours and East Coast scenery in Adam Young’s work capture the attention of art lovers near and far. - Contributed

Young received his bachelor of fine arts degree at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. He focused on painting and printmaking while there. Then, he spent years creating illustrations for newspapers and magazines across Canada. “That kept me going through the years and it kept me interested in drawing,” Young says.  

He followed in the footsteps of his mentor Brooks, and studied to become a teacher, getting bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. He met his now wife, Jennifer, while studying to become a teacher. Young went on to become an art teacher himself. It was his dream job. “The idea that I would be painting and people would purchase it never even came to mind,” Young says.  

Artist Adam Young has been living on Fogo Island since 2008. - Contributed
Artist Adam Young has been living on Fogo Island since 2008. - Contributed

His wife wanted to go home to Fogo Island. The couple would visit every summer and Young would draw scenes of the province even then, but his wife wanted to move back permanently. Young was less enthusiastic about the idea. By then, the couple already had one daughter, Bella. “It was a hard decision for me,” Young says. “I struggled with it for a while. I chose family over career, but it turned out even better.” 

Young came to Fogo Island at just the right time. The former fishing community was undergoing a revival led by Zita Cobb, a businesswoman and social entrepreneur who grew up there and returned to the community and started Shorefast with her brothers, Anthony and Alan Cobb. Shorefast’s goal is to bring economic and cultural resilience to Fogo Island. The community is now a hub for artists. Young says Cobb is an advocate for the arts, bringing artists to the community who, like Young, are inspired by the scenes there. “It was the ideal situation for me,” Young says. 

Young got a teaching job on the island and, in his spare time, drew and painted. He started a Facebook page to promote his work. He started exhibiting around Newfoundland. “My artwork spread organically and unintentionally, really,” Young says. “When I started to paint and draw, it was just for the love of it.” 

Young paired up with fellow artist Robbie Craig. They’d host art shows together on the island and in Halifax. Social media and the internet gave Young a chance to stay and work on Fogo Island, but also sell his work anywhere he’d like. “These shows allow me to get to talk to people face to face,” Young says. “It’s a nice balance between interacting in person and being online.”  

He tells young artists to create every day. “Eventually, it’s a habit,” Young says. “If you get out of it, you’re out of it.” He remembers some of the best advice he received was from the parents of a friend who were having breakfast at Cora, a restaurant in downtown Halifax, where Young worked. “They said if you’re creating it and it comes from the heart, everything else will come,” Young says. “You have to continue to create it.”  

Young continues to look ahead. He and his wife have another daughter, Scout. The couple is working on a children’s book about a little red fishing stage that goes on an adventure. The book is set to be published in 2020. He wants to host more art shows, including in Ottawa, Edmonton and Fort McMurray.  

When he exhibits off the island or visits family elsewhere and heads back to Newfoundland, he feels he’s finally going home. “You can live in a place where you gather your artistic passion and not be at the mercy of a gallery,” Young says. “You can stay where you enjoy working and I can look out the window and love what I’m looking at. I’m more of a country mouse now.” 

To learn more about Young’s art, visit or look for Young Studios on Facebook.  

This content originally appeared in YULETIDE PREPARATIONS, a SaltWire custom publishing title. 

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