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The story of Shelley Mansel’s painting career could be told in chapters that flow from one study of subject matter to the next.

For Nova Scotia artist, getting lost is all part of the adventure

The story of Shelley Mansel’s painting career could be told in chapters that flow from one study of subject matter to the next.

The era of her serene rural landscapes would precede a series on the contemporary line of urban structure, followed by a focus on ripples in water and then by her many paintings of campfires.

Now the Nova Scotia-based artist is infatuated with waterfalls and her home studio brims with paintings of water rushing over rocks in idyllic forest settings. The powerful works capture majestic nature in a clean and modern style that is poetic but still informed by direct experience.

Shelley Mansel in her studio at her home in Upper Musquodoboit, northeast of Halifax.Riley Smith / The Globe and Mail

“I’ve been searching out our local waterfalls,” says Mansel. “You wouldn’t think Nova Scotia, in particular, would be a place where you have these amazing waterfalls,” but there are hundreds, likely thousands, to discover.

From her rural home in Upper Musquodoboit, about an hour northeast of Halifax, Mansel has embarked on many excursions that “cover a couple of waterfalls in one day.”

“You can do this starting from virtually any place in the province,” suggests Mansel. With a stop at different, local lunch spots, scouting waterfalls, she says, has become a favourite travel experience. “Traveling doesn’t have to be far-flung. You can find adventure and be out of your element just a couple of hours away.”

More Canadians are enjoying local travel experiences this summer, says Andrew Wakefield, Director, Aventura Product Management at CIBC. He says the bank has polling that indicates “people are increasingly interested to travel again – but they also want to be careful, and test the waters out a little bit, before going too far.”

As a landscape artist, Mansel is compelled to explore, whether close to home or while visiting family in British Columbia.Riley Smith / The Globe and Mail

Wakefield points out that, whether Canadians want to discover waterfalls while on a three-hour adventure or on a cross-Canada holiday, a CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card credit card “fits the bill, even for the most seasoned travelers, to find those escapes within Canada that they haven’t been able to reach yet.”

“Our country has so many wonders to discover from coast to coast. Our goal is definitely to help Canadians take advantage of those opportunities, while finding added value along the way,” says Wakefield.

The waterfall cascading over boulders in the mossy forest setting of a recent painting is partly inspired by Butcher Hill Falls, a favourite local watering hole, in central Nova Scotia. “It’s still ice cold in the late summer but, oh, so refreshing! Take-your-breath-away refreshing!”

As the latest focus for the painting, the waterfall’s allure is “all about good, strong composition and lighting,” says Mansel. “I’m totally enthralled by light. You can go somewhere one day, and it wouldn’t be very inspiring, yet on another day, or at a different time, it’s just, ‘Wow!’”

Mansel, whose work is represented by three galleries in North America, has painted full-time since graduating from NSCAD University (also called Nova Scotia College of Art and Design), in 1998. The artist grew up in B.C., however, and that’s the next place she plans to visit.

“I miss the hug of the mountains!” she says.

Wakefield says that the CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card “can play a really strong role in helping our clients get across the country.” Redeeming points for airline tickets offers the maximum value for points, he says. And travel-related purchases, such as car rentals and hotels, booked via the CIBC Reward Centre, provide double the points for every dollar spent. “Anything found on third-party [travel websites] should be at our agents’ disposal,” he adds.

Elridge FallsRiley Smith / The Globe and Mail

Mansel says a B.C. vacation usually inspires what she calls “photo-op day trips.” For example, during family visits in Chilliwack or Nelson, “if it’s a beautiful day, my husband and I will hop in the car, and just go, and see where it takes us. Being spontaneous has made some of the best trips,” and resulted in spectacular photographs – the catalyst for nearly all her paintings. “But he will laugh about this because I will see something and yell, ‘Stop! Right here!’ And to get the perfect shot, he will have to backup.”

With ubiquitous GPS, getting lost may become a bygone experience, but it does happen. “I once got lost with my nieces. They’d never taken the bus before, and they didn’t know where they were. We got off at the wrong stop trying to get to the pool. So, I said to them, ‘We are on an adventure!’ And as soon as I framed it like that, everything was an adventure. This was eight years ago, and the girls still talk about it. “Remember our adventure, Auntie?’ And really, we were just in the outskirts of Chilliwack.”

‘Traveling doesn’t have to be far-flung. You can find adventure and be out of your element just a couple of hours away’

Shelley Mansel

Mansel can attribute her openness to the unknown road to her parents, who drove motorcycles. “I remember holding onto my step-dad on the back of his bike. My little sister would be on my mom’s, and we’d ride up and down the coast of Vancouver Island and all through the interior,” she says.

Being spontaneous has led to many unforgettable adventures for Mansel. “I will hop in the car, and just go, and see where it takes us,” she saysRiley Smith / The Globe and Mail

The painter’s choice rides these days cruises at a much slower pace. While speaking of a key artistic influence, the iconic Canadian painter Tom Thomson, Mansel mentions, he too, sought inspiration by traveling. In his case, he explored northern Ontario, and much of it, by canoe.

“If I could get everywhere I wanted, I would go by canoe,” says Mansel. “It’s slow enough for you to fully embrace your surroundings. When you’re gliding, quiet as anything, that’s when the creatures come out. We did a trip down the Sissiboo River, in Nova Scotia. We saw herons and eagles. You just seem to be part of the landscape when you’re in a canoe. You don’t stick out for the creatures. You just blend in.”

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with CIBC. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved