McKay’s paintings often depict Prairie landscapes, the simple beauty of nature and scenes from her childhood on the farm.
Art has always been a part of 88-year-old Frances McKay’s life. Her daughter Connie Haywood recalls her first memory of Frances in 1949, painting a picture of a collie dog barking over a lamb lying in the snow.
“As a fledgling artist, Mom had a limited supply of brushes,” Connie remembers, “so she borrowed Dad’s shaving brush to paint the dog’s coat. Afterward, she cleaned it carefully and put it back, but the secret was out the next morning when Dad emerged with a brown-lathered face.”
Haywood also remembers the time her mother decided to create an art collage. “She used an assortment of small metal objects — nails, nuts and bolts, and whatever else she could find. Mom glued them to a board and spray painted the whole thing. The next day when Dad passed the new artwork, he stopped in his tracks. There in the middle was a short piece of chain off the horses’ harness for which he had been searching everywhere.”
Despite a stroke in 1996 that ended Frances’ painting career, the Rosetown woman’s art has taken on a life of its own. A series of her paintings has been published in a softcover coffee table book entitled Memories of a Prairie Girl that is being used to raise money for reconstruction and upgrading of the hospital in Rosetown, including a much needed long-term care facility.
McKay’s paintings often depict Prairie landscapes, the simple beauty of nature and scenes from her childhood on the farm. The Memories series was painted in the late 1980s, and depict scenes from Frances’ childhood years and bear such memory-evoking titles as “Drowning Out Gophers,” “Cutting
and Stooking Oats,” “Collecting Crows’ Eggs,” “Picking Saskatoon Berries,” “Digging Potatoes” and “Feeding The Cattle.”
The Memories collection took on a new life when the Rosetown and District Health Centre Foundation began looking for ways to raise money for improvements to the hospital.
Pat Mutlow, a member of the
foundation fundraising committee, says, “The Memories collection, which Connie hung in the long-term hospital wing where Frances is now a resident, caught our eye. We began to look to see how we could use Frances’ artwork in some way to raise money.”
The committee considered several options, but when members learned that Frances had written poems to correspond with each Memories painting, the idea of putting poems and paintings together in a book seemed the clear choice.
The accompanying poems are warm and humorous, and bring the themes of the paintings to life. “Drowning Out Gophers,” for instance, is accompanied by “Our Bounty Money,” the first two lines of which read:
“A cent a piece for gopher tails — that seemed a pretty large sum
For in the Dirty Thirties it would buy a lot of gum…”
Four members of the Rosetown and District Health Centre Foundation, Ann Rice, Linda Jardine, Sharon Bell and Pat Mutlow, worked on the book, and had 1,000 printed in time for Rosetown’s centennial celebration last July.
“Everyone loved the book,” Pat says. “Copies have gone all across the country, but we still have some left.”
She says the books make an ideal gift, especially for people who enjoy a humorous and insightful look into life in the past.
The books sell for $25 each, with all proceeds going to the Rosetown and District Health Centre Foundation Building Fund. Copies can be obtained by calling (306) 882-3355, or emailing: memories [email protected]
Darlene Polachic writes from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan