STUDIO VISIT: Aiden Haley


Aidan Haley invited us into his studio and spoke to us about his life long painting career and his love of travelling.

Tell us a little bit about your work. It seems that you like to focus on landscape painting?

A: Yes, when I was painting outdoors I was exclusively painting landscapes. Ill be 80 this year and I've come in from the cold. My subject matter has changed a bit but I still love landscape painting.

N: How has your subject matter changed?

A: I'm doing more portrait paintings. I have this interesting project with the Trent River Conservation, and it's about global warming. I call them statement paintings. No one is going to buy them, they are just not the sort of thing people buy. But every now and then you make a statement. Some people make them constantly. I'm an intuitive artist, I've never had a lesson.

E: You are completely self taught?

A: Yes!

Is a lot of your work is about where you have travelled?

A: Up until about 3 years ago all of my painting was done on location. And, you know, there is only one place I haven't been in Canada.

E: Where is that?

A: I knew you would ask! Manitoba, and I was supposed to go with a friend a few years ago and unfortunately he was up painting up in the Yukon and died. So we never got to go. But I've been everywhere else, Baffin Island, up to the Arctic twice, and I've seen a lot of Newfoundland, Mexico, and Algonquin Park.

N: What is it about painting outside that you love?

A: I love nature, nature is not found in the city. I like painting outside surrounded by nature.

Do you prefer looking at something in real life or working from a photo while you paint?

A: All my work starts out as a sketch, usually made outside because I camped, fished and hiked a lot of my life. I still hike a little bit, but I gave up hunting and took up painting. The other thing I love about painting outside is you meet some neat people, that’s the best part of it.

E: So you don’t do any painting from photos? Only from observation and sketches.

A: Quite frankly, I don’t need to go to Algonquin Park anymore to paint Algonquin Park. If you are there enough, you know what it looks like.

E: Do you think that travelling is important to your work? If you had never seen all of Canada do you think you would be painting what you do?

A: I guess when people ask what I am I tell them I'm a Canadian painter, so my travels within Canada have been most important to me. There are people I who want a painting of Canada and my work is often what they think of when they think of Canada. Sometimes it's winter scenes, but most of the time it's fall, often hockey, kids skating on a pond.

How much influence has the Group of Seven had on your Algonquin work, in particular?

A: I don’t think there is a Canadian artist that paints landscapes that hasn’t been inspired by the Group of Seven. That’s a two edge sword. It’s a good thing, it’s a complement when someone says that, but for a lot of Canadians, the only art they know is the Group of Seven. Consequently, they say "oh you're just like the Group of Seven." Well no, I paint in the same places, but I don’t think I paint like them .

Is your main goal for your viewer to be transported to the location of your paintings?

A: My main goal has always been to have people say "I would really like to go there." Which is why I started the painting group, The Algonquin Artists Expeditionary Force, to bring people who had never been. It started out with myself and another artist and within 3 years it had grown to 26 people. So my main goal is to share the landscape with people what the country looks like.

What is it about the County that makes it so appealing to you?

A: The price! (laughs) No, actually we moved here in 2000 and this was before the real estate market took off. We were very fortunate to buy a house for a reasonable price and sell it at a much higher price. I've been very active here in the county.

N: And where were you living before the County?

A: I was born in New Brunswick, I've lived in Newfoundland, both Corner Brook and St John's, then I moved to Montreal, then Burlington, Ontario, and then here.

If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?

A: I did my homework and saw that you ask this question a lot! Perhaps Robert Genn. He passed away a few years ago but I painted with him in Algonquin once and he was a lovely person. I'd love to paint with him again.

Do you have a studio routine? Do you paint at a certain time of day?

A: I definitely have a routine. There is no such thing as talent, it's hard work done continuously. My studio is open, Thursday through Sunday and no one can find me here in this little county which suits me just fine. If they do find me, they are more than welcome to check out what I'm up to. I work 32-36 hours a week at least.

Have you read a book or seen a movie you would recommend to our readers?

A: I saw Manchester most recently, it was good, more light than dark. A very good story. Another one is called West Wind and it’s the story of Tom Thompson and his early forays into the park and of course they mystery of his death and where he may be buried. I really like that one.

Thank you for speaking with us Aiden! You can check out more of his work at www.aidenhaleyart.com

#sparkboxstudio #interview