Cowboys and Their Art

Posted by Sarah Mackey on 13 July 2017

Cowboys and fine art have had a relationship since the buffalo roamed the plains. Although the role of the cowboy artist has become more professionalized through the years, the goal of this genre has remained consistent. These artists paint to reflect the lifestyle of those people who live the life we'll never know.

Traditionally, when a cowboy took up painting, it was for the purpose of sharing something about his life, while collecting a little extra cash. Gainsborough Galleries is proud to represent artists who's work reflects this early tradition, including Richard Freeman and Jack King.


Jack King worked at a stable during the Great Depression. His primary duties included mucking stalls and feeding the horses. Until he became a full-time artist in 1972, King held several jobs including a role with the U.S. Marines, and work as a professional engineer. His work features the natural beauty of Alberta, B.C., and the Western United States. The influence of his early years working at the stable can be seen throughout his paintings.

In edition to his exquisite oil paintings, we have also included a selection of King's ink and charcoal sketches featuring livestock and ranchers. The lose, gestural lines employed in these works display a familiarity and care for subject matter. The oil paintings we are exhibiting, with their delicate shadows and precise composition, are examples of a singular talent. However, these sketches offer a different lens to see King's process through. They seem to represent King's attempt to chronicle a certain type of life, one that runs parallel to but never quite intersects with the experience of many Calgarians. All of King's work is masterfully done, but these sketches offer a sense of urgency and intimacy that demand a connection from the viewer.

Although Jack King's talent is undeniable, it is important to mention that the Western fine art genre has changed since his death in 1998. Contemporary artists have used the foundations artists like King built, and adapted its tenets to say something reflective of the modern experience. Shannon Ford is a good example of an artist whose work strives to make bold choices while respecting the tradition she comes out of.

Ford was born in Regina, and raised on a farm just west of Calgary. This upbringing exposed her to western culture. Ford's work reflects the sense of change in the western way of life, while pushing the standards of the genre in a way that makes her pieces feel fresh and unfamiliar. By combining metals and gemstones into her pigments, Ford is able to capture the intensity and wildness of the beasts she paints. This, coupled with the immense size of many of her canvases, makes it impossible not to stop and take notice of her work. Western motifs are a constant, particularly in the Alberta art market. Ford's work strives to manipulate the tropes viewers are familiar with and bend them to achieve a new end.

Particularly during these two weeks in July, it can feel as though Calgary is saturated with images of people riding horses. It is therefore useful to take a moment and reflect on those canvases that constitute truly honest reflections of the traditions we celebrate this time of year. We are lucky at Gainsborough Galleries to have a broad selection of diverse artists who achieve that very thing.  In addition to Jack King and Shannon Ford, our Stampede Showcase features Harold Lyon, Michelle Grant, Randy Hayashi, Miri, and Carl Schlademan. Until July 24th we invite you to come by the gallery and explore how the artists we represent tell their experience of the Wild West.

Posted in: art Canadian artwork Oil Paintings Acrylic Paintings  

Casting History

Posted by Sarah Mackey on 7 July 2017
In a province where cattle outnumber citizens, it isn't hard to see why so much of Western Art focuses on the men and women who have dedicated their lives to the ranching profession. Gainsborough Galleries is lucky to boast a unique collection of fine art that represents the difficulty and dynamism of the cowboy experience. In the spirit of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, Gainsborough is taking a moment to reflect on the stories behind the cowboy life, as well as the process behind the creation of the art that reflects this particular community.

Alberta has been home to ranchers for centuries. The arid land, combined with consistent Chinook conditions in the winter create a climate that is singularly perfect for raising cattle. Over the years, Americans and English gentleman made their way west to take advantage of the "beef bonanza" that was happening in the colonies. The Bar U Ranch, situated near Longview, was one of the first corporate ranching outfits. In addition to shaping the modern ranching industry, Bar U is where bandit Harry Longabaugh worked as a horse breaker before joining up with Butch Cassidy and taking on his now infamous moniker as the Sundance Kid.


Outside of the ten days of Stampede, it can be difficult to catch a glimpse of a real cowboy. However, Gainsborough represents a suite of sculptors who immaculately capture the realities of that life, down to the dirt on their boots. There are a few different methods an artist can use to create their pieces, the most common being the Lost Wax technique.

An artist will start with a full-size model of their piece, sculpted out of clay. A wax mould is made from this clay sculpture. The artist will then go to a foundry, where liquid bronze is conducted into the mould. The sculpture is then placed in a kiln to melt the remaining wax, and remove any residual moisture. After the artist has a chance to polish the resulting sculpture, corrosive chemicals are applied to form a patina. This is the process that allows the artist some control over he colour and finish of the final piece.


the process of bronze casting dates back long before ranchers roamed the plains, and although the basic tenents of the art form remain the same, the process has also seen dramatic changes with advances in technology. Today the process is more accessible to amateurs, bur the technical aspects of the art make it challenging to master. Karl Lansing, Vilem Zach, and Reg Parsons are all masters of their craft. Each have different interpretations on the western theme and representations of heritage. This Calgary Stampede season, come down to Gainsborough Galleries and engage with the craftsmanship that goes into each one of these sculptures.

Posted in: art Canadian artwork Sculpture Calgary Alberta  

Painting the Canadian Experience

Posted by Sarah Mackey on 30 June 2017
Canadian identity can be hard to define. Our nation sprawls across six time zones, and is home to 200 distinct languages. This can make it difficult to identify one single thing that brings us together. We have the most polar bears, maple syrup, and doughnut shops per capita, but do any of those things really represent what it means to be a part of this great nation?

Starting on June 24th, Gainsborough Galleries has been exploring these themes in our Canada 150 show. We have curated a selection of works from twenty-seven artists, all of whose work showcases a unique aspect of the Canadian experience. From rugged landscapes to bustling city sidewalks, and a good old-fashioned game of road hockey, this show has everything.

The Canadian artists on display are as diverse as their subjects, hailing from New Brunswick to Vancouver Island, and all the way up to the Arctic Circle. Some of the featured artists, including Ron Hedrick, Fred Cameron, and Robert E. Wood have been with Gainsborough for nearly 30 years, while others, including Christine Nadeau and Ray Ward, are recent additions to our gallery family.

Ted Raftery first showed with Gainsborough in the 1970s, and is an example of an artist who is Canadian by choice. In 1974, he immigrated to Canada from England. He landed in the east and continued moving west until he arrived in Alberta, where he found the perfect location for his art. Raftery's work is a visual love letter to the vistas he spent so long searching out, from his iconic winter mountain to his big-sky prairie paintings, in which he depicts and heightens the drama one can only find in an Alberta prairie thunderstorm.

Artists like Vilem Zach and Harold Lyon explore the roots of our nation, depicting awe-inspiring scenery and the men and women who conquered it. The show also features more contemporary representations of our nation, with artists like Jennifer Sparacino and Miri employing techniques that provide a different lens through which we can develop a deeper understanding of their subject matter. By including materials from the habitat of the animals she paints, Miri's work enhances the feeling of wildness and nobility that accompany the beasts, as well as emphasizes the interconnectedness of humans and nature.


Canada strives to be welcoming to all who live here. Above all else, it is that spirit which links the paintings in this show. Viewers will definitely see some part of their experience of Canada reflected in the images we've selected.

Visitors can experience the complete show until July 7th, and a curtailed selection of the show until July 15th.

Posted in: art Canadian artwork Calgary Alberta  

Finding Our Sea Legs

Posted by Sarah Mackey on 2 June 2017
We've reached that time of year when Calgarians pack up their sunscreen and leave the city in search of adventure. If you're one of the lucky individuals who has a boat, or if you're simply nautically inclined, you're sure to enjoy the new show presented by Gainsborough Galleries.

Starting June 3, "Coast to Coast" is a selection of works that showcase the aquatic pleasures that can be found all across our great nation. Water is simultaneously transparent and reflective, absorbing and altering everything it comes in contact with. In Coast to Coast, you will see a collection of artists explore the challenge of representing the turmoil of ocean waves, the depth of lakes, or the force of waterfalls.

In his piece "Harbour Front Lights," Rick Bond blurs the line between representational and abstract; using bold, blocky brushstrokes to highlight the ephemerality and vibrancy that accompanies such locales. The bright yellow against the mostly muted backdrop both suggests a liveliness in the city behind the harbour, and add compositional depth. You can see these stylistic choices repeated in the works of Tinyan and Robert E. Wood, both artists who allow loose brushwork to shape the majority of their works and then complete the piece with carefully placed, meticulous details.

The loose style of these artists is contrasted with the precision in line and colour seen in the work of artists like Tiffany Hastie, Merv Brandel, and Jean Pilch. All three of these artists work with exactitude, translating the subject in front of them in such detail that the viewer can practically feel a breeze on their face.

The show also seeks to represent artists whose styles represent their local landscapes. From the east coast vibrant simplicity of Suzanne Dallaire to the west coast impressionism of Ron Hedrick, and all points in between we've assembled a collection of refreshingly unique pieces for you to enjoy.

All of the artists we've selected for this show are not only able to capture the complexities of a water scene, their pieces also speak to the diversity present in the Canadian landscape. We hope you will slip on a pair of boat shoes and stop by the gallery between June 3rd and 17th to take a dive into some of these pieces.


Posted in: Canadian artwork  

Rod Charlesworth and the Canadian Landscape

Posted on 16 May 2017

Deep in the wilderness of British Columbia or perched on an ice flow in the Northwest Territories, lucky visitors might catch a glimpse of an artist blocking out his latest work. If a trip to the wilds of Canada is not in your future however, come by Gainsborough Galleries to see these stunning locales represented in the work of Rod Charlesworth.

Each painting reads like a love letter to Canada. Between the colourful portrayals of the wilds of the north to the lyrical images celebrating urban life in our nation's cities, Charlesworth strives to celebrate the rugged subtleties of life in Canada.

Rod paints with confidence and flair, addressing complex scenes with broken colour and bold composition reminiscent of Canadian icon, Tom Thompson. His paintings are imbued with the kind of warmth that accompanies long days at a favourite cabin, or a mug of hot chocolate after a long day on the skating pond. His works also seek to capture the inherent ephemerality that inevitably partners such precious moments.

We at Gainsborough Galleries are excited to present a solo show of Rod's work. We encourage you to come by and revel in his vivid colour palette and examine his unique manner of manipulating his materials. These outstanding new paintings showcase the best of modern Canadian master Rod Charlesworth's work. A limited selection of his show pieces will be on display for the remainder of the month.

We sat down with Rod to discuss his process and life along the Okanagon. You can read the transcription of the interview below.

Gainsborough: Can you describe the feeling you have when you see a large collection of your work on exhibit at one time?

Rod Charlesworth: Accomplishment, it's nice to see my work outside of the studio environment.

G: Could you speak to the paintings in this show? Do you find yourself gravitating toward a favourite subject recently?

R.C: I see things more in terms of subtle changes that take place. The Okanagan landscape where I live speaks to me in an artistic sense.

G: Can you tell us some (one or more) of your personal favourite paintings in this exhibition? 

R.C: "Red Sky at Night" and "The Newfoundland Coast" are two of my favourites because of their dramatic sunsets.

"Red Sky at Night" by Rod Charlesworth

G: Your work features a combination of paint applications: brush, knife, spatula (have we missed any?) do you have a favourite?

R.C: All of the above. They are just tools used to communicated imagery. Fingerpainting is a part of my way of painting as well.

G: Is there any difference for you between painting a more urban scene, or a painting of children playing, as compared with a landscape?

R.C: The fact that they are different from each other makes it more enjoyable for me to paint because I have to think differently with each genre.

G: Can you describe the language you use to portray the Canadian landscape?

R.C: My creative language consists of mark making, texture building and the use of colour vibrancy.

G: Are there any places or subjects that you haven't yet painted, but would like to?

R.C: I would like to paint the eastern Arctic and other unique areas of Canada such as PEI.

G: What's your favourite piece of advice you've received pertaining to your career, art, and inspirations?

R.C: It's not all about talent drive and desire are just as important.

G: What do you hope the people who visit the show will take away from your images?

R.C: I hope that they have had a visually and aesthetically interesting experience.

G: What is something that's essential for you to have in your studio, other than art supplies?

R.C: Music, good music, in all it's forms. It creates an atmospheric vibe.

We'd like to thank Rod for taking the time to answer our questions, and hope that you can stop by to see his work! A limited display of his pieces will be on display for the remainder of the month.
Posted in: art Canadian artwork Oil Paintings  
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