I remember meeting her at a rural development conference many years ago and thinking, “there’s something different about this lady.”
Maybe it was her enthusiasm for her small town? Maybe it was her ability to make those around her feel like they’d been friends and neighbours for years? Maybe it was her unique capacity to see the amazing potential in rural Saskatchewan at a time when “rural potential” and “Saskatchewan” weren’t spoken in the same sentence?
Eight years later, I still have the same feeling about Janet Blackstock — “there’s something different about this lady.” But now I know what it is. It’s her ability to follow her rare passions and share them with those around her.
Blackstock’s passions are enormous — literally. One of her loves comes in the form of towering horses that have hooves the size of turkey platters and heads the height of house ceilings. Clydesdale horses
are Blackstock’s passion and she’s driven in competitions throughout North America.
And while the amazing opportunity to show this majestic breed in arenas throughout Canada and the U.S. might be enough for many, it is not enough for Blackstock. This Whitewood, Sask. farmer also has an ability to paint, so her beloved Clydesdales and her love of everything rural have become the focal points for her stunning works of art.
Whether it is Clydesdale colts curiously checking out a rusty truck in the middle of a Prairie pasture, or a group of baseball-capped farmers at an auction sale, Blackstock has the ability to capture the essence of rural life in a way that no other artist can.
“What I do is try to take an image and sift out all of the unnecessary things so all that is left is one thought or image for people to take in,” says Blackstock. “We often breeze through our lives not realizing what we’re surrounded by, so my paintings tend to take a moment, freeze it in a frame and give people time to look at it and realize what it is.”
Blackstock’s art can be seen across Saskatchewan, as she has created murals in many communities, including Moosomin, Kipling, Whitewood and Gravelbourg. And while her long-term dream was always to have her own gallery in Whitewood, that dream became a reality sooner than expected when a historic home came up for sale.
“I really didn’t plan on starting a gallery just yet, but life is what happens when you’re making other plans,” says Blackstock, explaining that she’s always loved to share her art, but her farm home wasn’t the best venue. “I look at my house after the spring rush and it looks like a hurricane hit it, so it’s nice to have the house in Whitewood where I can display all of the work that has built up over time.”
Blackstock’s Westwind Gallery is a work of art itself, with murals painted on the closet doors, and art covering unexpected surfaces. Paintings of her watercolour Clydesdales adorn the walls, as do her Prairie portraits and landscape works in acrylic. Whatever her medium, Blackstock’s works of realism always leave one with the feeling that you’ve just taken time to stop and smell life’s rural roses.
To see Blackstock’s work for yourself, stop by Whitewood in June during her open house at the Westwind Gallery. The week-long celebration features Clydesdale rides, a different rhubarb recipe every day and art demonstrations.
For more information or to book an appointment to visit the Westwind Gallery, call Janet Blackstock at (306) 735-2800.
“I really didn’t plan on starting a gallery just yet, but life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”