Calgary artist reaches professional milestone in Western art

Halvorson estimates she now commits about 25 hours a week to painting in her home studio. A crowd of about 700 excited art lovers gathered near the Calgary Stampede grounds at the BMO Centre on July 11, 2013 to celebrate and bid on Western art.

Unlike some auctions, where the best is often saved for last, this one got things rolling with the painting everyone came to see: Adeline Halvorson’s painting of a heavy horse titled “Pulling Together”, which will be the poster for the 2014 Calgary Stampede.

The room grew silent, as the auctioneer got things rolling with an opening bid of $50,000 by a gentleman in the back of the room.

Over the next few minutes bidding grew frantically before Grant Bartlett and his wife Dawn McDonald reached the winning bid of $125,000 and took Halvorson’s painting home.

And it was at that moment that the self-taught painter from small town Saskatchewan became a part of Stampede history.

Halvorson’s art career began with humble roots on her family’s farm, where she learned to draw with her sisters during rainy days. She still remembers her first sale of a pencil-sketched horse team that she drew in Grade 10.

“Women called the school and asked how much I’d sell the sketch for. I said $10, which was a lot of money when your allowance was only 25 cents a week,” laughed Halvorson, recalling her first big sale.

But it wasn’t until after graduating high school that she figured out that art was going to be her career.

“I found some pastels and decided it was more fun than a real job,” recalled Halvorson on quitting her job to pursue an art career.

Soon after that decision, she would become part of a group of student artists and spend the next six years travelling around, painting portraits of people, dogs and horses to make ends meet.

“Back then, I had to paint. Because if I didn’t paint, I didn’t eat.”

And even to this day, she still jokes about one of the tougher times she had while working in a Fort McMurray mall, and having to make the decision of toast or coffee due to her minimal finances.

“The coffee won.”

Her inspiration and drive to succeed at art even during those hard times came from her now 80-year-old mother.

- Halvorson, poses with her painting “Pulling Together”, which sold for $125,000 at auction on July 11, 2013. The painting took her more than two months to finish.Halvorson poses with her painting “Pulling Together”,  which sold for $125,000 at auction on July 11, 2013. The painting took her more than two months to finish.

Photo courtesy of the Calgary Stampede, Char G Photography
“She could do anything. She gave me the idea that there was no stop. Still, to this day she makes horse harnesses and rides horses. I still have trouble keeping up with her and my father when they come to visit.”

In the early 1980s after bouncing around Canada and settling in Ontario, Halvorson would get an invite to share a booth at the Calgary Stampede’s Western Showcase with friend and fellow artist Diane Anderson.

However one small problem arose. Halvorson couldn’t really participate in the show because she had sold nearly all her artwork before the show and only had three pieces to sell.

Halvorson still wonders whether her art career may have taken off a little faster, had she been able to share her work at the show roughly 15 years sooner.

In 2001, Halvorson – living in Calgary since the late ’80s – obtained her own booth at the Stampede Western Showcase and never looked back.

Because of her Stampede booth, she has sold her artwork all over the world to places as far away as England and Africa and makes a large amount of her yearly income from sales at the show.

This past year, Bob Thompson, Calgary Stampede president and chairman, approached her with the opportunity to paint the 2014 Stampede poster – an opportunity that she considers the highlight of a career, which includes countless awards and other special projects.

“The Stampede is the Stampede. More people than my work has ever seen before will see the painting.”

And now that Adeline Halvorson is near the top of the Western art world after designing the next Stampede poster, she has a new challenge: trying to keep pace with her parents when they go horseback riding.

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