How Fogo Island is more than just a stunning backdrop for this artist

Adam Young in his Fogo Island studio: a place of daily connection with his art practice, his family and the island. (CBC)

For artist Adam Young, studio space is sacred.

His Fogo Island studio is a place of daily connection, with his art practice, his family and the island.

“I went so many years painting in my kitchen, and painting in the living room and destroying the house,” he said.

The studio is built onto his home. On the bottom, there’s a gallery space. The upstairs studio is filled with creation, every day, whether that’s drawing, painting, airbrushing or sculpting.

“Now, I get to actually contain my mess to one spot, which is wonderful,” he said. “And it saves my marriage.”

Young is inspired by the scenery and people of Fogo Island, N.L. (Submitted by Adam Young)

Young lives in Joe Batt’s Arm with his wife Jennifer, their daughters Bella and Scout, and their dog, Johnny Cash. 

Before Young became a full-time artist, he recalls teaching all day, and then painting at home until 3 a.m., and then repeating the process. 

WATCH: Adam Young takes you through his studio in Joe Batt’s Arm, a small community on Fogo Island, off Newfoundland’s northeast coast:

Now, his focus is solely on his artwork and his family. The studio is connected to their house for a reason.

“I wanted to be able to do my artwork … and also have a family life.”

Young’s studio is a portal to family, creativity and Fogo Island magic. ‘I’m kind of lucky, as an artist, to be living exactly in the middle of my inspiration.’ (CBC)

‘A magical place’

Young’s wife is from Fogo, and they moved to the island in 2008.

He was born in Halifax, grew up in Moncton, received his bachelor of fine arts and bachelor of education in New Brunswick (and taught art there), and a master’s in education in St. John’s in 2016. 

Young’s earlier illustration work landed in magazines and newspapers across the country — but Newfoundland took hold of him, in a different way.

“I’m kind of lucky as an artist, to be living exactly in the middle of my inspiration,” he said.

Young’s work is shaped by the landscape, the people and the architecture.

Harbour Moon, by artist Adam Young. (Submitted by Adam Young)

There’s a deck on the back of Young’s studio, so he can go outside and take in the view.

“Fogo Island is a very, kind of, magical place,” he said. “It’s an island off an island.”

A lot of his work is inspired by fishing stages.

Young said they show the “perseverance and the strength” of people on the island, in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the East Coast.

‘I pretty much have it all’

Young Studios has a large following on Instagram and Facebook, with buyers across Atlantic Canada and the country.

Last year, the Royal Canadian Mint turned one of his designs into a pure silver $50 coin.

Young also displays and sells art from his home gallery, located below the studio. The prestigious Fogo Island Inn attracts tourists from all over the world, and guests can learn about the island with Young acting as a community host, as his studio is on the route to the inn.

Gloria Wooldridge created this watercolour of Young and several pieces of his art. (Gloria Woolridge for CBC)

Young is thankful for the support he’s received on Fogo Island, in Atlantic Canada and across the country.

“I pretty much have it all,” he said. “I’m pretty spoiled now, as an artist.”

“But it took awhile to get here,” he added. “It never came overnight.”

This story is part of our East Coast Studios series, a CBC Creator Network project. The videos are an intimate look at how creatives shape their studios, and how their studios shape their work. Milliner Nicole McInnis pitched the series and was commissioned as an associate producer. This video was produced by Lian Morrison for CBC.

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Intrigued by Fogo Island? Watch the documentary below on the stunning architecture of the world-acclaimed Fogo Island Inn, available to stream for free on CBC Gem as part of the Absolutely Canadian series. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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