The prairies have long had the reputation of flatness, nothingness, emptiness. If anyone had the right to claim this, it was the first settlers who, in certain areas, were definitely besieged by the land and isolated by its vastness.
The reputation was such that some early settlers and visitors were as surprised by the variety of prairie landscape as are visitors of today, who have been deceived by hyperbolized accounts of a monotonous landscape.
My recent beeswax transfer monoprint was inspired by just such an account of an early visitor to the Saskatchewan prairie.
Ms Hardy came to “The Ranche” at Eastend, Saskatchewan from Edinburgh, Scotland in April 1928 to visit for six months. In her diary entry of April 22, 1928, she says:
I had no idea there were hills here. Hills to the door. It’s like living on the bed of the sea. They have been formed by that – each ridge an enormous exaggerated rib of sand. Eastend Museum Archives: Evelyn C. Hardy diary A782 (Photo transfer in the monoprint is of an unidentified woman, possibly Mrs. Ah Sing, from the collection of the Provincial Archives of Alberta, B8492)
The landscape in my monoprint is from a watercolour that I created at my artist’s residency at the Wallace Stegner House in 2013.
Entries from the same day in Evelyn C. Hardy’s Diary further describe the land:
From the train the brown prairie land looked bare: [but] we were stooping to find something new each minute, green lichen, lined with black, brilliant red lichen crusted on granite of all colours, stones smoothed by the sea, juniper berries, a buffalo skull (with immense driving power in the forehead), scampering gophers, teeming ant heaps, & pasque flowers, threefold soft mauve & yellow with a covering of soft downy grey hairs.
The prairies are so much more than the undeserved reputation of monotony. As Ms Hardy describes, there is a subtle beauty in many prairie landscapes that can be missed by the unperceptive eye.
I take my sketchbook and watercolours with me whenever I travel, and the prairie landscape has never failed to inspire.
Posted by Marlena Wyman