When Julianne Harnish stopped into Flipburger, she saw something troubling. Rather, it was what she didn't see at the Halifax burger joint that troubled her.
For years, one of Harnish's paintings — a colourful, psychedelic rendering of a chameleon perched atop a bottle — could be found on a wall of the downtown restaurant.
Now it was gone.
"I've never had anything stolen from me before," said Harnish.
"It feels like a violation."
When the daycare worker and artist saw her creation was no longer hanging in the restaurant, she emailed Flipburger to see if they had taken it down or sold it.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
Harnish said employees believe the painting was stolen around St. Patrick's Day.
Halifax Regional Police are investigating the theft.
Painting more than a metre tall
Harnish does not individually price her paintings, instead choosing to negotiate prices with a prospective buyer.
When asked to ballpark how much the stolen piece was worth, Harnish said the last painting she sold was priced at $800.
Not only is the painting expensive but at more than a metre tall, it's also quite large. That's only added to the mystery of exactly how it was taken without anyone noticing.
"If somebody walked out with it, it would be very obvious," said Harnish.
Displaying art 'has its risks'
Harnish said displaying artwork in restaurants or cafés is an easier way to get the public to see her art, rather than displaying it in an art gallery.
"I'm not a very well-known artist, I have a full-time job ... I don't really have a presence in galleries right now."
Displaying in restaurants or cafés "has its risks ... but I decided it was worth it to prevent the painting from collecting dust in my apartment," she added.
Harnish said there was a small sign next to the painting with her contact information if someone wanted to buy it, but she noticed the note was missing during a previous visit to the restaurant.
She said she doesn't hold Flipburger responsible for the theft.
"The staff work there really hard and it's not their job to make sure my property doesn't get taken."
Ha rnis h admitted the theft has shaken her trust when displaying her art in restaurants but feels hopeful the painting will be returned.
"There's more people who are upset that it was stolen and there's only one person who stole it," she said.
Harnish has received hundreds of shares on her Facebook post where she shared details about the stolen artwork.
She has also been posting other drawings and comics on Facebook, chronicling her mission to locate the stolen piece.
"I think my best chance of getting it back is just letting people know and hopefully the person who took it will see."
Harnish said the painting can be returned to Flipburger if found.