New exhibit features Petrolia artist’s childhood home


When Diane Nelles mother was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, she knew she would have many more chances to go home again.

So the Petrolia watercolour artist began to capture pieces of her hometown of Nikina, north of Thunder Bay, during her visits home.

Now, she’s sharing those visual memories in a show called No Place Like Home at Victoria Hall in Petrolia which opened Tuesday.

Nelles first discovered her love of painting in high school growing up in Nikina. But raising a family and running a business took priority in her life and the painting was set aside. Then in 2003, “I picked up a paint brush and decided to paint a picture.”

Six years later, when her mom was diagnosed with cancer, painting had become her passion and she decided to use her talent. “Northern Ontario has always been my favourite topic, but I thought ‘I have to capture these little mementos from her house and her yard and the lake…because you always have the feeling I won’t see this again.’”

Nelles first takes photographs of the scene she wants to paint, so she happily snapped away taking pictures of simple things; bread coming out of the oven, a spice rack on the wall and her mother’s book shelf always neatly arranged with her beloved Canadian authors in the appropriate place. “I look at that and it will always remind me of her,” she says.

The Petrolia is the first time the majority of these paintings will be scene. But one, a small painting of blueberries, holds a special place in her heart. Nelles gave it as a gift to her mother before her death last year to let her see what she was doing.

“Painting memories of my home, the nearby lake, and personal memories of home have been my therapy these past five years, as well as the inspiration for this show.”