CS: How did you get to be the 2014 poster artist?
AH: Artists are invited to submit. Bob (Bob Thompson, Calgary Stampede president and chairman of the board) liked my work and so we sat down to discuss what I might do. Bob knew he wanted heavy horses to be the subject, and working horses are a favourite subject of mine. We saw eye to eye from the very beginning.
CS: Tell us more about the process of developing the painting.
AH: Bob wanted a black background, something different than the horse paintings you typically see. We both wanted it to be more modern given that the Stampede is beginning a new century. I really wanted this painting to be one of my best pieces.
CS: Do you think you succeeded? And if so, what makes it one of your best pieces?
AH: Yes. I truly feel it’s one of my best. It took me years to learn how make my paintings look realistic. Once I got that down, I starting pushing the blacks and colours to where the animals fade into the shadows, and your eye has to fill in what’s missing.
The scale of this work is another component. It’s larger than life, so it’s a challenge to get the proportions right. It took more than three months working long, hard hours to complete it.
I love painting draft horses. It’s a subject that resonates with me and I think that comes through in the painting.
And lastly, I knew from the beginning that this painting would be shared with the world. I think that simple fact created an energy in itself that’s visible in the completed piece.
CS: Why do you love painting draft horses?
AH: I grew up on a farm. We begged our dad to get a couple of horses until he finally did. He said, if they’re going to eat as much as a cow, they’re going to do their work. So we harnessed them up, and they became both workers and companions on the farm.
CS: Can you tell us a little bit about the process of painting this piece?
AH: I started as soon as I finished talking with Bob. I work from photographs I take myself and then rework and interpret the photo. So, I began to draw it out. Bob gave me total freedom, which I really appreciated.
CS: Have you always known you wanted to be an artist? What has the journey been like?
AH: I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I sold my first painting in high school. Later in my career I heard that around the time I started virtually no Canadian artists were making a living on their craft. I guess it’s good I didn’t know that. There’s no road map to being an artist and there are no guarantees. But I can’t imagine doing anything else. Being chosen for the 2014 poster is like winning an Academy Award. It’s a real honour.