You know a painting is really good when you can lose yourself in it. Just like looking at a fire; you get hypnotized.
Faro artist Jay Hambleton’s paintings of mountains are like that. They will be on exhibit at the North End Gallery in Whitehorse until Feb. 1.
They’re impressionistic, rather than realistic, but the feeling they can evoke is realistic. You can feel the majesty of a mountain in his paintings.
But he doesn’t speak about his paintings in that kind of emotional, ethereal way. They guy is a pragmatist. He sees colour and light and shape – and mountains provide endless inspiration for him.
Hambleton says he could paint just mountains for the rest of his life – and it’s not because of the emotion of a mountain; it’s not the feeling of being tiny in the face of a rocky giant, millions of years old; it’s not the miracle of life that is sustained on that dirt-covered rock. As a matter of fact, sometimes he finds them dull.
“Sometimes you drive past a mountain and there’s nothing there,” he says. “And then the next day, it’s like, ‘Holy Smokes. Look at the shape and the light and the colour.'”
Despite the beauty of his paintings — his pink skies and purple snow — he is logical and grounded. He comes from a working career in industrial construction and ice profiling for road construction, and currently works as a safety consultant for a company that repairs and builds railway track. So there are two distinct sides to Hambleton — the rough, rugged, and engineering side, and the side that can interpret a mountain with strokes of a brush dipped into a rainbow of colours.
His ability with light and shape and colour may come through his blood; he was surrounded by art growing up. His grandfather was a picture framer, and his father, the late Jack Hambleton, was also an artist.
“My dad could paint 30 paintings a month if he wanted to,” Hambleton says. “They poured off his easel. It was unbelievable. By contrast, I do 30 paintings per year.”
Hambleton’s father was also an art dealer and started The Hambleton Gallery in Kelowna — which has seen three owners since Jack, and is still operating today. The family lived above the gallery, and being around all that art and the culture of selling art soaked in, eventually.
Hambleton’s working career dates back to 1976 when he headed to Inuvik to work for the Hudson Bay Company, and got a taste for the North. It wasn’t until 2000 that he started focusing on painting as a serious side project.
Having lived in the Yukon for 10 years, and in Faro for the last eight, he’s had mountains all around him for a decade. He’ll head out on the highway to spend a few hours taking photos to bring home and paint.
In his studio at home he uses Genesis heat-set oils, which stay wet until he bakes the canvas or board in the oven.
“It has all the qualities of oils, but there’s no odour to it,” he says. “And I use low-odour cleaning materials with it, too. So it’s wonderful.”
Jay Hambleton’s show, called Mother Mountains, is on exhibit at the North End Gallery in Horwood’s Mall until Feb. 1. For more information about his artwork go to www.JayHambleton.com.