Having just hosted a historic 100th anniversary show in 2012, I don’t think anyone suspected that the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede of 2013 would end up being considered just as monumental. On June 20 of this year, Environment Canada issued a rainfall warning for southern Alberta. By the end of the day, almost four inches of rain had fallen. The situation went from bad to worse, and within the next 24 to 48 hours, Calgary and other regions in southern Alberta had experienced record flooding.
Stampede Park is located along the banks of the Elbow River, and much of the exhibition grounds were under water. The World Champion Six-Horse Hitch class, with background music provided by the Calgary
Philharmonic Orchestra, takes place every year in an arena known as the Saddledome. Media coverage of the flooding reported that this building had water and sludge as high as the eighth row of seats. With only 12 days until the Stampede was scheduled to begin, the outlook couldn’t have been any worse.
Bruce Roy, lifelong friend of the draft horse, has volunteered at the Stampede for over 50 years, and has announced the draft horse show for almost 40 of those years. Bruce attended a crisis meeting at the Blackfoot Inn a couple of days after the flood, where the announcement was made that the Calgary Stampede would go on. Considering the condition of Stampede Park at the time, Bruce couldn’t see how that was even a possibility.
One of the things Bruce was told early on was that the Haliburton Heavy Horse Show was considered to be one of the most popular attractions at the Stampede, and they were going to do everything possible to see that the show went ahead.
The exhibition’s adopted slogan of “Come Hell or High Water” held true, and almost unbelievably, Stampede Park opened its gates to the public on July 5, right on schedule. While the unicorn, four-horse hitch and breed divisions of the six-horse hitch classes were cancelled, the usual section of line classes, and a number of team classes were held in the tent known as The Big Top. Nine six-horse hitches competed in the interbreed World Champion Six-Horse Hitch class in front of the grandstand.
There is one more important draft horse-related highlight from this year’s Stampede. As Bruce tells it, on the second-to-last day of draft horse classes, he went up to the Volunteer’s Lounge for a few minutes. The official poster for the 2014 Stampede was on display, and Bruce could hardly believe it–it featured a draft horse!
“Pulling Together” is the painting of a Belgian mare by Calgary artist Adeline Halvorson. Not only did the official poster feature a draft horse, but on July 11, the original painting was sold by auction for $125,000.
I am very pleased to be able to pay tribute to Adeline, an unbelievably talented artist, who for the past 35 years has been an excellent ambassador for the heavy horse.
A Bit of Background
Adeline grew up near the little town of Kuroki, Saskatchewan, and from an early age possessed a keen interest in horses. She rode in parades in nearby Wadena and Kelvington, and also took part in the local fairs. The family's horses were used for hauling hay to the cattle, and for sleigh rides in the winter, and at the age of about 14, she was harnessing and driving the horses on her own.
Adeline began making a living as an artist following high school and has been painting ever since. She spent six years at the beginning of her career doing pastel portraits, live and from photographs, in shopping malls and at horse shows and dog shows. As time passed, she gradually phased out the pastels and began working more in acrylics or oils, and selling her work through galleries. Since 1994 she has marketed her work exclusively on her own, either at art shows or through her web site.
Adeline has done paintings as small as 2-3/4” x 3-3/4” and as large as 40” x 60”. She paints using a layered technique, sometimes using as many as 12 layers. This is a very time consuming process, and a painting can take anywhere from two weeks to three months to complete. Her main show of the year is the Calgary Stampede Western Art Show, and she paints all through the year in order to get ready for it.
Eighty percent of her paintings are acrylic on canvas, while the remainder are oil on canvas. Adeline says that, “Acrylics still fascinate and challenge me, even after more than 20 years of working with the medium. With a bit of practice, the paint happily translates into satin, leather, or the softest of fur. Horses are a passion of mine, but so is light, and so is texture. I love to combine the beauty and personality of an animal with the illusion of light and texture in a painting. My goal is to create a painting that not only captures the essence of my subject, but becomes a smorgasbord of textural surfaces for the viewer’s eye.
“When I was working in pastels, much of my work was from live models. Most animals will be surprisingly cooperative for an hour or so–often better models than people! In all my years of portraiture, I only had one horse that absolutely would not stand still. I moved the easel a bit, and as long as she could watch, she stood perfectly!”
Draft Horse Paintings
The first draft horse that Adeline painted was a pastel head portrait, in harness, which she completed in 1978. Since that time, with the help of photos which she takes to use as references, I think it would be quite safe to say that she has painted as many draft horses as anyone. Even more impressive is the excellence of her work. Whether it is the conformation of the horses, or the detail of the harness or surroundings, the realism of her paintings is nothing short of spectacular.
Adeline has gotten to know several draft horse breeders and owners over the years. One of the first owners was the late Ralph Loosmore of Three Hills, Alberta. I often tell the story of a draft horse newsletter I had printed a few years back. Adeline had kindly given me permission to use one of her paintings on the cover, and a few days after I had mailed the newsletter, I received a call from Ralph. I don’t think he even remembered to say hello. He was so happy to see that painting that his first words were, “that painting that you have of Adeline Halvorson’s on the cover of your newsletter, those are my horses!”
The mare which was the basis for the Calgary Stampede poster is owned by Joe Jeffray of Airdrie, Alberta. Fred McDiarmid of Veteran, Alberta, is featured in “Familiar Hands.”
Awards & Notable Accomplishments
Considering the quality of her work, it's no surprise that the list of awards which Adeline has won is a long and extensive one. Listed below are just a few select highlights:
• At the 2009 and 2012 Calgary Stampede, Best of Show in the Flatwork category. Adeline also won the Artist’s Choice award at the 2009 Stampede Art Auction.
• First place in the Acrylics category at the 2003 Draft Horse Classic Art Show in Grass Valley, California.
• Awarded the 2001 Equine Artist of Distinction by the North American Horseman’s Association.
• In 1997, “Willing and Able,” a painting of a Belgian team, was first place in the Animal Art category at the Artists Magazine Annual Art Competition–this in a field of over 11,000 international entries.
In addition to the awards mentioned above, Adeline has achieved a number of other accomplishments. Following are just a few of the most notable ones:
• When Grant MacEwan’s book, Heavy Horses–Highlights of their History, was reprinted as a soft cover, Adeline’s painting, "Digging In," was used on the front cover.
• In 2009, Ian Tyson, well known singer, published LaPrimera–The Story of Wild Mustangs. In addition to the cover, 13 of Adeline’s paintings appear throughout the book.
•The 1998 Silver Dollar, commissioned by the Royal Canadian Mint, and commemorating the 125th anniversary of the founding of the
North West Mounted Police (later the Royal Canadian Mounted Police), was designed by Adeline.
• She was also chosen to paint the official Canadian Olympic Equestrian poster for the Los Angeles Summer Olympics in 1984.
Adeline has also painted a number of other topics, and has won a number of awards relating to them.
Calgary Stampede Poster
Adeline was approached about doing the commission for the 2014 Calgary Stampede poster this past November (2012). She started sketching it out in December, and by April the painting, which measures 42” x 56”, was completed. It was unveiled on July 3, and as mentioned earlier, was sold by auction on July 11 for $125,000. This is the seventh piece that was commissioned by the Stampede, and is the second highest selling one.
It will be printed in the form of 25,000 posters which will be used to advertise the 2014 edition of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede.
Bob Thompson, Calgary Stampede president and chairman of the board, observes, “While the painting celebrates all horses, it specifically pays tribute to the grace, nobility, and striking beauty of the heavy horse and all that the gentle giants have contributed throughout history, both at the Calgary Stampede and (to) the world.”
A Family Connection
In the summer of 1990, my Mom and brothers and I moved to an acreage a few miles north of the little town of Kuroki, Saskatchewan. Our nearest neighbors to the south were a couple by the name of Donald and Peggy Halvorson. Donald and Peggy farmed, and raised a family of six children–four daughters and two sons. One of their daughters, Roseanne, married Joe Denomie, and they farm just a mile or two to the northeast. The more we got to know them, the more that we liked them, and 23 years later, we still consider Joe and Roseanne to be some of our best friends.
We think very highly of all of the family for that matter, and since Peggy was a harness maker, we’ve always had common interests. In addition to making and repairing harness, Peggy has also built a few saddles, and is a talented seamstress, making everything from bridesmaids dresses to drapes. The Halvorson girls all seemed to inherit their Mom’s talent, being very handy at singing, painting, sewing or a combination of the three.
One of the first things you would notice when you visited Donald and Peggy’s house at that time was the six graduation pictures hanging above the kitchen table. These weren’t just your average pictures. Instead of the usual photographs, they had been painted by their daughter, Adeline.
Although the Halvorsons are quite modest in nature, Peggy was understandably pleased to show me a photo album with some of Adeline’s paintings. I became an instant fan. Although I haven’t gotten to know Adeline as well as some of the rest of her family, it is easy to see that she possesses those same characteristics, all of which make her an excellent person to present the draft horse to the public.
Draft horse owners and enthusiasts everywhere can find something to appreciate in Adeline’s paintings. Her work is available in a price to fit every budget, and includes prints, canvas transfers (framed or unframed), giclees, bookmarks, note cards and her book, Special Moments–A Collection of Paintings by Adeline Halvorson, which includes at least 10 draft horse paintings.