“A Grand Entrance.” Painted November 2022. 20”x16”. Acrylic on stretched Canvas.
About a ten minute drive South of the family ranch is a small gem of a national park. Hugging the border with Montana and British Columbia, Waterton Lakes National Park is a beautiful slice of the Alberta Rocky Mountains and (until recently) a quieter, less touristy version of Banff.
I came across a beautiful photo by Alan Majchrowicz that encapsulated so many of my memories growing up. The smell of freshly bailed hay, a view of Vimy Mountain framing the park entrance and just across the border, soaring above all the other peaks, the top of Mount Cleveland. Alan was kind enough to grant me permission to use his photograph as a refence for this painting.
Summer is a busy time on a cattle ranch and most of August is spent haying. While I never enjoyed haying itself (an exhausting, itchy job made worse by constant hay fever), I do love the look of a field with the hay bales dotting the landscape. There is poetry in the placement of hay bales. What appears to be random at first glance is as regular as items dropping off a factory conveyor belt. The undulation of the field and the amount of hay needed to complete a large bale, places them in what appears a totally random pattern.
Not only does this painting hold some warm childhood memories for me, but I love the contrast between the linear nature of a hay field, up through grazing pastures into the ruggedness of the Rocky mountains. I like how the eye is led around and through this painting. I painted over one of my early, unsuccessful paintingts, which always gives me the freedom to experiment. I worked quickly on this painting, using large brushes and blocking in dark colors. I set the sky first and then worked from the bottom of the painting upwards, which is unusual for me as I tend to work top down. Using the dark layer as a background, I was able to define the hay field by leaving negative space to identify contours of the field and shadow lines from the hay bales. I’m still struggling with the palette a bit, but the painting has an overall light and summery feel that I was aiming for.