By Jennifer Deacon
Since he retired in 2006, William Langley has become one of Nova Scotia’s best-known landscape artists.
In a recent interview, Langley sketched out a career that began at a very young age. "My aunt gave me a set of Reeve's oil paints about 60 years ago,” Langley said. “There was a whole collection of colours in a wooden box. I taught myself. It was all experimental. It was always scenery. I always had a sketch pad with me."
Langley got accepted into the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1967. "That first year of art college really helped me. I learned perspective in drawing to get the sense of distance and I got the magic of how you mix colours and use different mediums. They also taught me photography there. And once I got those three things under my belt, I knew I could do it."
Langley did portraits while in college. “When I was twenty-three, I got first prize at the Halifax County Fair for a portrait in pencil. I was still at the art college at the time. That gave me the inspiration to go forward."
Langley's love of painting turned into a source of income during his time at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. "One summer I got a job painting houses and they went bankrupt. It looked like there was going to be a whole summer where I never got paid. I did a real push on going to Peggy's Cove and painting the scenery there. I put a fish net on a wooden frame, hung the paintings on it and tourists coming through bought them. That put me through the next year of school. I did really good on it. I got so sick of Peggy's Cove!"
Langley earned his degree, but when he graduated in 1972, he couldn’t find work in the arts. Instead he joined the railroad, followed by working in National Defense.
In 2006, he got back into painting when he retired. Starting from his home in Head of Chezzetcook, Langley spends a lot of time in his car looking for beautiful scenery to paint.
"I usually go around with a camera sitting on the passenger seat beside me and I capture an awful wicked load of photographs." Martinique, Clam Harbour, Seaforth, West Chezzetcook, Gaetz Brook, Langley has painted them all and more along the Eastern Shore. "I download the photographs on my computer and that is what I work off of. My brother gave me this big screen. The photographs are larger so you can see the detail."
Langley said he was inspired by the landscapes of the early 20th century group of Canadian artists known as the Group of Seven, especially Tom Thompson. “I love their style. You look at it and say that is definitely Canadian."
Langley's work can be found at the Eastern Shores Gallery and the Teichert Gallery.