You'll be forgiven for thinking it's been quiet around these pages lately.
Life has gotten interesting with the change over from Summer to Fall this year. As well as enjoying my absolute favourite time of year, I've been navigating through various obstacles associated with this kind of printmaking, namely, finding time to do it right, learning new techniques and sourcing quality supplies. It's been anything but quiet!
I've been keeping something under wraps for a while too, and I'm now delighted to report that I'm one of 5 selected artists chosen to represent the Western Stampede Showcase at next years Calgary Stampede & Exhibition. This is a unique privilege and rare opportunity for contemporary artists to bring their own perspective of western living as presented through their own craft, style and application. I'll be sharing this platform with some incredible local artists and I'm looking forward to telling you more about them in due course.
But first, let me give a shout of thanks to the marvelous Stampede Committee members who brought us all together. Last weekend I met the artists for the first time along with the organizing committee - what a terrific bunch they all are.
Artists: Carolyn Stanley, Jillaine Jurchuk, Geoff McKay, Cheryl O'Byrne, Lenny Lane
Artists Ranch Project Coordinator, Karen Storwick trying out her lasso skills.
As part of the group we were treated to a long weekend in the small town of Longview, Alberta - once known as Little New York. And that's a story for another time. From the proximity of Longview we visited the historical Bar U and OH Ranches, experienced the warmth of genuine western hospitality, gained valuable insights to the lives - and hardships - faced in everyday ranching life. They earned my respect. I learned a ton of interesting history and facts about ranchers as well as cattle and horses. I've never met more devoted people to a life like this. Farmers I'm sure will fall into a similar league. But I've never met them ;) Of course the interpretive tour involved taking in some amazing landscapes, buildings, places and hidden away gems you'd never see otherwise. We encountered drizzle and fog as well as blazing sunshine and blue sky ...all part and parcel of this fact finding and inspired kick off for the new printmaking project. We were well fed too!
Historic Bar U Ranch, Alberta
As intended, this opportunity really opened my eyes to what life on a ranch was all about. It's a tough one, that's beyond question. I won't go into detail here, but I would encourage you to go visit these places if you can. You won't be disappointed. I came away with a deeper sense of the beauty and pride that they take in the land. The genuine love they have for their livestock and respect they have for their working animals - despite the harsh reality that life sometimes throws at them (losing cattle, the unpredictable weather, nursing livestock, upkeep and maintenance of land - it's insanely costly, and cattle theft - yes, it still happens in this day and age.)
OH Ranchers explain the rota of moving cattle throughout the year, looking out for predators and managing the property near Whisky Ridge.
And then there's the history part ...these guys really had it hard. It's no movie set that's for sure! And yet, despite it all, you can't help falling for the natural beauty that surrounds it all. This just brightens my day. But then I'm a dreamer I suppose. We all have that nostalgic bug in us. And right at that point is where I take my inspiration from.
I have a lot of work and planning to get on with over the next several months. The fire has been stoked now and my Fall and Winter days and nights will be busy revisiting western dreamscapes filled with gently rolling hills, patchwork fields, trees scattered out to the horizon and sunlit forests on top of hilly outcrops. This and so much more to brighten the long ride through winter.
Cowboy Len. (copyright: Jillaine Jurchuk 2016)