Val Morhart’s paintings are a window into the past. He said he’s inspired by thinking about the way it used to be, farming life and the legacy of the pioneers in the area.
Morhart has been an artist almost his entire life, starting drawing when he was five and painting when he was eight, but for a long time it wasn’t his priority, as he worked on the farm and had other things to do. He got back into art around 2004, and said he’s been going strong since then.
He said what drives him is a desire to give a message to people viewing the painting, and give them an idea of what life used to be like.
“Instruct them in the way life used to be.”
Morhart doesn’t always use a conventional canvas, sometimes painting on saws. He said that started thanks to his sister-in-law, who had a big, round saw on her farm, and wanted a painting on it. After that, he decided to try painting on a handsaw, and it ‘mushroomed from there.’
In many cases, Morhart’s paintings show places that no longer exist, as time and disaster have claimed them over the years.
“I’ve done lot of paintings, where in a year or two, all of a sudden the barn is burned down or the house is burned down. Some paintings I’ve done off a photo that have totally disappeared.”
He started showing his work about eight years ago, encouraged by someone who was showing her work in Norquay. His first show was in Norquay, and said that he enjoyed talking to people about the art and what he was trying to accomplish, and listening to the stories that people came up with when viewing his work.
“I did a painting that showed four horses with a sleigh loaded down with grain on an ice road during the winter, which was a method that they used for hauling grain to the elevators. A lady, probably in her 80s, she kept looking at it and looking at it, and finally I had a chance to go and talk to her, so I asked her what she thought of it. She looked at me, and she said, ‘that’s me.’ I asked ‘what do you mean?’ She said ‘when I was young at home, I was the only family member other than my mom and dad on the farm who was able to help with the work. My dad would load down the sleigh with grain, and we would go into town and drop it off at the elevator.’ The memories it brought back for her were unreal.”
Morhart recommends everyone try their hand at painting, especially young people. He said his grandchildren are especially inspirational, as they pick up a pen and brushes and paint things that speak to their own interests.
“When I talk to the younger generation, I tell them to go ahead and start painting. There’s no such thing as bad painting, it’s all whoever looks at it, in their mind. You maybe think it’s not good, the next person thinks it’s the greatest piece. I’ve always tried to convince the younger kids, if you want to paint, go ahead and paint, and don’t worry about what it looks like, as long as you enjoy doing it.”
That’s true in his own family, with his grandchildren taking up pens and brushes of their own. He said one is really into painting Pokémon, to the point where he jokes that they are ‘coming out of his ears,’ and another grandson in Canora is showing talent.
“I just couldn’t believe it, how great it was, what he was doing. It was all in pencil.”
Morhart is glad that his art connects with people, and plans to keep painting.
“I think, from the comments I am getting, people are satisfied with what I’m doing.”