In early July I moved my studio, temporarily, to a new city with a new view. Through an ongoing relationship with Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, that began in 2012, I found myself with the opportunity to share my work and expose my technique to a whole new audience. I had just finished a commissioned piece featuring the 11 inductees for The Hall's 2013 Induction ceremonies in Toronto, the second part was to paint a portrait of a past inductee and Hockey great, Paul Henderson, on site at The Hall in Calgary, Alberta. I packed my canvas, easel and paints and headed out to Calgary. It was a long planned trip, but it came at an emotional time, that none of us could have anticipated. Calgary, was just beginning to recover from the worst natural flooding event in their history, with the great Bow and Elbow rivers overflowing their banks and drowning sections of Alberta under deep, muddy, debris filled water. The 101st running of The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, the Calgary Stampede Rodeo, was set to kick-off just days after the tragic floods. Calgary's biggest celebration followed by Calgary's worst natural disaster. It was a sobering time for the city. Flying into Calgary I could see the path of destruction and a still swollen river, though much receded since the initial flooding days earlier. I was driven through a neighborhood that looked like a war zone. Pumps coming out of houses, piles of muddy debris and drowned household items lining the street, houses burned to the ground and soggy furniture on curbs. I had watched the video footage on YouTube and seen the many photos on the Internet, but it did not compare to seeing it live.
Arriving at the Stampede's home, it was staggering to see how quickly a fairground that had been completely underwater, just a week later, was filled with sounds of an enthusiastic midway - shoulder to shoulder with screaming, laughter, bells and whistles. Smells of popcorn, hotdogs and everything fried....even butter! It was one enthusiastic city and I kicked off my visit with a trip to the Stampede parade. I have never seen so many cowboy boots and cowboy hats, even the police looked like sheriff in an old Western town. The city was alive and I launched myself into the spirit.
I trekked to The Hall and set up my studio amongst the museum collection, filled with not only sports memorabilia, but sport art dating back to the early 1900's - a collection of over 100,000 artifacts, from vintage hand drawn posters to the first hockey puck...which was square. In three days of painting I took questions from dozens of children's groups, tour groups, tourists from Toronto to Germany and even a few fans. I signed an autograph or two, seemed surreal in a Hall celebrating athletes. It was a wonderful opportunity to share art in a venue that was built around 'inspiration' - what could be more inspiring to an artist? I painted for three days and made great progress, but not enough to finish the piece which is now on its way back to my Victoria studio, where I will finish it in the coming weeks. Inspiration is contagious, if you share your enthusiasm for whatever it is, that is your passion, it may inspire a new generation. As they say at Stampede, 'Yaaaahooooo!'