Landscape painting is exploring nature in a special way. To stand or sit in a landscape is an experience we cannot always express in words. The inability to say it in words has led me to painting. The process of painting allows me to understand that special moment in a new way. Painting is a way of knowing, of exploring, a new way of seeing what at first was ordinary and commonplace. To reach beyond the appearance of the physical and search for the invisible elements of nature has been my challenge.
In 1993 I received my third sabbatical leave and contacted a group of artist in Lethbridge, Alberta to develop a unique collaborative project, which we called “Prairievisions.” Martin Oordt, poet; Carl Granzow, sculptor; and installation artist; and Ken Hicken, composer; joined me in this project. All were professors at the University of Lethbridge. They invited me to work and study the Prairie as a landscape painter. We worked and studied in the Gushul Studio in the small mining town of Blairmore, which is part of the Crowsnest pass in south-west Alberta for a period of two months making drawings watercolors and oil studies. We have returned many times since 1993 for the studio has been, over the years, a place of inspiration and meditation for me. The entire north wall is a two-story high glass wall and half the ceiling is glass as well, making the light a very special feature in this space.
Alberta is the place of spectacular triumphs as well as defeats of the forces of nature battling against each other. In the west the massive ranges of the Rockies thrust up from below sea level to heights of over 12,000 feet. In between valleys of up to 6000 feet cut across these mountains ranges. Eastward are the plains with the wide-open spaces of the prairie. Here the struggle is less dramatic although erosion by water, wind, frost, and ice has reshaped the land for 60 million years. In the south the Old Man River cuts through the Livingstone Range before entering the foothills. It was in this area that I explored making drawings on the spot and recording it digitally. The ridges of the foothills typically run in a northwesterly direction. It is rugged country with steep valleys in which heavy forests are interspersed with grasslands. Sparse trees often define the crest of the hills.
The sky has always been important to me as a landscape painter, so too the special light of the sky has played an important role in my work. The cloud formations are almost unbelievable as they form against the dome of the sky; sometimes, they are sculpted by the winds coming off the mountains. Light and space play with each other here. Light for me is also symbolic, for it reminds me of God the creator who is still at work in His creation. To be able to respond visually is a gift and seeing the show is sharing of that gift. Enjoy.
Reference: W.G. Hardy, Alberta, A Natural History